Category Archives: Email Marketing

3 reasons I love the three-question survey

1. It’s an easy ask. Who can say no to answering three questions, especially when it’s about a service you already use or a product you’ve purchased before? Some marketers like to use phrases like “take a brief survey” or even “a three-minute survey”, but brief is entirely subjective. After all, my cable company calls at least every other week to tell me they’d like to have a brief conversation about my TV habits in order to save me money, but what they consider “brief” I consider “too damn long to spend on something I neither need nor want”. Three questions, on the other hand, is three questions – period.
2. It forces you to focus on what matters. When you’re holding yourself to three questions, there’s no room for fluff. You’ve got to figure out what you really need to know from your clients and prospects. What information do you have to have in order to grow your business? I’m hardly the first writer to observe that writing a short piece can be far harder than writing a long one. Winnowing out the BS and the weasel words can be a real challenge. But when you’re creating the survey equivalent of a haiku, you’re forced to cut the fat and get right to what you really want to know.
3. It makes next steps easy to see. A survey is at heart a tool for gathering information. But in the information age, with all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips 24/7, too much information can be as big a problem as too little. With a three-question survey, you only ask for the information you have to have. That makes is crystal clear what steps you need to take next. Did you ask your clients where they first heard about you? Then focus more on those marketing channels. Did you ask what clients loved about your service? Then do more of that stuff, or make those benefits a bigger part of your advertising.

When you design a three-question survey, you’re giving yourself an immediate, actionable roadmap for the next steps your business should take. If you’ve been considering surveying your clients but balking at devising the questionnaire, now is the time. You’re just three questions away from your next marketing idea.

Target marketing: If you’re talking to everyone, then no one is listening

One of the first things I do with every new client is walk through a pre-project questionnaire, which gives me a lot of insight into their business in general and their goals for the specific project I’ll be working on. Most business owners love talking about their business and what they do well, and I love listening.

The problem arises when we get to talking about their target market. When I ask, “Who is the intended audience for this project? Who is the ideal customer?” The answer I get back is, almost invariably, “Everyone.”

It’s easy to see why this is a tempting answer. No one wants to feel like they’re turning away business or limiting their market. But if you think your target market is everyone, then you’re confusing “who you would accept money from” with “who you want to spend your time and money marketing to”.

Imagine you’re selling a line of skincare and cosmetics – something like Avon or Mary Kay. Both of these companies sell a huge range of products, from perfumes to lotions to lipsticks to aftershave. Because of that, independent resellers will often tell you that their ideal client is – you guessed it – “Anyone with skin!” In other words, everybody.

But is it really? Avon lipsticks range from $7 to $10; Mary Kay from $12 to $14. Both companies offer great products, but the teenager running into her local Walgreens to pick up a $2 tube of Wet N’ Wild lipstick is not likely to be a good customer for either one. And what about the woman who never wears makeup? Or the man who is currently using Dial soap to shave with? All of these people have skin, but does it make any sense to spend time and money trying to sell to them?

It’s a lot more effective to focus your efforts on marketing to your true ideal client – the person who is out there right now, desperate for your product or service (and able to afford it). Think of everything you can about the person who is the absolute best fit for what you’re offering. Is it a man or a woman? How old? What does he do? Where does she live? What keeps him up at night? Where does she go to find information about new products?

Let’s look at one more example of target marketing in action. Imagine you own a tutoring company, and you’re trying to market to local parents. With such a broad idea of your target market, you could have an ad that reads, “Do you want your kids to do better in school? We can help!” Or you could get a lot more focused: “Parents: Do you want your high school sophomore or junior to get into a good college? Our ACT tutoring is guaranteed to raise your child’s score by at least 2 points, boosting their admissions rate and likelihood of getting a scholarship.”

I’ll leave it to you to decide which ad offers prospects a more compelling reason to give you a call.

Curing advertising ADD: The power of single-message marketing

As a freelance copywriter, it’s my job to help companies turn leads into loyal customers. In the course of my networking activities, I meet a lot of small business owners who are going it alone, trying to act as a marketer, sales person, accountant, and CEO all in one. With limited time and budget for creating marketing pieces, they often commit the cardinal sin in advertising: trying to market to everyone at once.

It all starts out innocently enough. You decide to create a simple business brochure, maybe do a little bit of email marketing. You want to tell prospective customers about what you do and hopefully drum up some new business.

Unfortunately, it goes wrong quickly. You’ve only got the cash to create a single brochure this year, so you want to make sure it covers everything you do and everyone you want to market to. There’s so much material that you end up with nothing but a giant list of bullet points, with no elaboration or benefits in sight.

The key to creating more effective marketing materials and campaigns is market segmentation and message differentiation. That sounds far more complicated than it is: all it means is that people only care about what’s important to them. If you want to show prospective customers why they should do business with you, you have to focus on the benefits that they care about.

Let’s say you run a catering company. There are a ton of potential markets you could serve: weddings, corporate events, private parties, annual conventions. But if you create a single brochure to try to address all these markets, you’ll end up with something so broad that it won’t appeal to any of these audiences.

Instead, think about where the customers spend their time, and how you want to address them. Most young brides these days are doing the majority of their wedding planning and research online, so that’s where you should focus your efforts to market to that segment. Create a great Pinterest profile with lots of enticing wedding design and catering pictures, and link it to a blog filled with keyword-rich wedding content with a local focus, and you’ll draw who understand exactly what it is you do and why you’re a great fit for their wedding.

For your business customers, a piece of printed collateral like a brochure or sales letter is a better bet. Focus on why you’re a great fit for their events (good value, flexible menus, simple ordering system, available on short notice, etc.). Send it to prospects within a company who will make the actual purchasing decision on caterers for business events, and you’ll be able to follow up in person or by phone with a prospect who already has a solid grasp of what you can offer their company.

No business, small, medium, or large, has an unlimited marketing budget. We all want to do the most we can with what we have. So make the most of your advertising dollars by creating a focused message for a clearly defined audience. And if you need help figuring out what to say or who to say it to, give me a call. I’d be happy to help.

4 email subject lines that will drive customers to your site – and 5 that will drive them away

How many email accounts do you have? If you’re like most people, you’ve got several set up, with different kinds of mail coming to each account. I myself have three: a custom account through my domain host for business emails; a gmail account for important family emails and newsletters I actually want to read on a regular basis; and a hotmail account for spam, junk, and company newsletters I might check occasionally.

Even if you don’t have a separate email account for your electronic “junk mail”, I’m willing to bet you have a separate folder or filter set up to pull them out of the stream of your regular emails. It’s human nature – these emails are from companies who haven’t yet earned your trust, and unless or until they do, you can’t afford to spend your valuable time checking through each one.

As a business owner, you need to be aware of this apect of consumer behavior. We all like to believe that every communication and marketing piece we send out is eagerly anticipated by our customers and prospects, but the reality is that we’re adding more information to an already overloaded email inbox. If you want to improve your open rate, you have to show readers that you’re going to offer them something valuable in return for their time – and then follow through on that promise in the body of your email.

So to follow through on the promise I made you in the headline, here are 9 email subject lines culled from my personal email inbox that show you how to draw readers in – or drive them away.

First the bad:

  • Nook: “Enjoy the Long Weekend with New NOOK Books & Newsstand Titles”. What’s wrong? Why should I? There’s no urgency here. They’re not offering to save me any money – just telling me that, hey, some new books exist. And given that Barnes & Noble boasts over 2.5 million ebooks for sale, and my 1st-gen nook can hold over a thousand, the fact that new books exist is not exactly a compelling offer.
  • Chief Marketer Magazine: “Discover People’s United Bank’s Cross Channel Online Strategy”. What’s wrong? This is word salad. Someone or something has an online strategy. I can’t tell from this subject line whether it’s a particularly good strategy, or if it’s something I could apply to my business, or really anything at all other than the fact that it exists. Why would I waste my time reading when I have no reason to think I’ll learn anything of value or gain a benefit?
  • LinkedIn Ads: “Only a few days left to try LinkedIn Ads with a free credit”. What’s wrong? This wouldn’t be bad if I was already interested in/ convinced of the value of LinkedIn Ads, but it doesn’t work if your prospect doesn’t yet know the benefit of what you’re offering. If that explanation of value is inside, there’s no hint to the reader that it’s there. The email’s body heading, “Your customers are on LinkedIn. Find them today.” would have been somewhat better, combined with a free advertising message. Also, “only a few days” is pretty weak in the urgency department.
  • Multichannel Merchant: “Last chance to participate in this”. What’s wrong? What is “this”? And why would I want to participate in it? And while we’re at it, “participate” is a weak, uncompelling verb. I’d much rather “be a part of” something that “participate” in it. Again, without a clear benefit to your reader in the subject line, your email is going directly to the trash folder.
  • Think Traffic: “Think Traffic – One Blog Post Formula Proven to Get Traffic and Subscribers Time and Ti…” What’s wrong? This is far from terrible – it just needed some more thought and editing. First, if your email is already coming from “Think Traffic”, you don’t need to repeat that in the subject line. You’re just wasting valuable space. Which leads us to the second problem – the subject line here is clearly way too long. Most people are skimming in their email inbox, and this lengthy title just doesn’t cut to the chase quickly enough. Had they cut the “Think Traffic” from the beginning of the subject, and moved the benefit (“Get traffic and subscribers”) to the front, they would have had a much stronger offering.

And now the good:

  • Techlicious: “How to Save Money at the Pump”. Why it works: Here’s an email I definitely want to read. It offers a simple, direct benefit, one that’s obviously valuable to a lot of readers, and the email itself follows through on the promise the subject line offers.
  • Amazon: “Terry Pratchett’s new book”. Why it works: This one should be a no-brainer for Amazon. I own just about everything Terry Pratchett has written, and what I don’t own I have on my wishlist. The subject line is short and sweet and great for skimming, because all I needed to see was the author’s name to know I wanted to read that email. If you have a way to point customers toward content you know they’ll like, then your email is automatically much more valuable.
  • Panera Bread: “Shelby, Here’s a Flower You’ll Want to Pick…” Why it works: This subject line piqued my curiosity, plain and simple. I wanted to see how a bakery would incorporate flowers into their offerings. The newsletter inside the email was fun and brief, and offered a deal on a flower-decorated cookie for $0.99.
  • Fisher Price: “Are you ready to bring baby home?” Why it works: Asking a question is a great way to inspire curiosity in your reader. And Fisher Price is using a clearly defined target audience (expectant parents) to ask a question that their readers really want to know the answer to.
  • Jon Morrow: “How to Write a Report That Goes Viral and Gets You an Avalanche of Traffic”. Why it works: It’s not surprising that the author of “52 Headline Hacks” knows how to write a subject line that you can’t help but click on. This subject line offers a clear benefit with some great action words – who doesn’t want an “avalanche of traffic” coming to their site?

Always remember: your customer base is made up of real live human beings, just like you. Thinking about the email subject lines that get you to click is a great exercise in putting yourself in the shoes of your readers. And of course, the better you know your target market, the more specific and effective you can make your subject lines.