25
Mar

EMail Marketing for Small to Medium Sized Businesses Shows Some Troubling Signs of Diminished Usefulness

My recent experience, on behalf of clients, tells me email marketing remains one of the most important online promotional tools available to Small to Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs), here in the US.

But I’ve noted some technical limitations, which lead me to recalibrate, upwards, the amount of effort required to put together a truly productive email marketing campaign for SMBs. It may be helpful to frame the obstacle as follows:

Email marketing is no more, no less than a method of engaging with market participants who, at some level, should be considered sales prospects. So the only meaningful performance metric I know of for this type of campaign is the number of responses received from recipients.

If an HTML email marketing campaign touches 1K recipients, but stimulates only 5 responses (1/2 of 1% response rate), then, it is surely safe to conclude the campaign required a considerable amount of effort vs. the return. An SMB with a 15K email address database can only run a campaign, like the above, 15 times. If the pool of responses at the conclusion of all 15 campaigns amounts to only 75 responses, and sales closes 5 – 7 $10K orders from all of the effort, then it may be safe to conclude the return on investment is marginal (of course all of this depends on the annual revenue produced by my hypothetical SMB, average sales price, etc.).

Usually, I will advise a client to then look to a tool like VisualVisitor, which can be configured to identify web site visits resulting from a click on a special hot link included in an HTML email message, to point out recipients who opted to visit a web site in lieu of actually responding to the email message. This method exposes additional opportunities for sales teams. The additional benefit from this approach can be considerable.

But HTML emails are required to obtain the added benefit from implementing links with VisualVisitor tags. In my opinion HTML emails contribute, substantially, to recent ineffectiveness of email marketing campaigns for my clients. Markets are looking for a personal email message, which is best achieved with plain text. I haven’t yet experimented with adding VisualVisitor tagged links to plain text email campaigns and have no plans to do so in the near future.

I do plan on speaking with the technical team at VisualVisitor to see if there is any precedent here. In other words, has anyone used the tags in plain text email messages? If you have an interest in this topic and would like to follow it, please contact me.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

12
Feb

Tagging Mass eMail Campaigns to Track Visits by Recipients to Target Web Sites and Pages

Online marketing is a big business, powering the efforts of large and small businesses, alike. The objective is to cash in on the potential benefit of a very low cost direct marketing campaign, light on the printing and mailing cost, but high on the return on investment. But for one reason or another these efforts often fail.

The missing piece is the otherwise anonymous nature of communications across the internet. The network powering web pages, Ethernet over TCP/IP, simply doesn’t support the handshaking, error checking, etc., which would be required of a data communications protocol capable of supporting the type of clear, point-to-point communications online marketers definitely need. Ideally, such a system would help consumers learn more about just who is responding to a mass email, etc.

Enter VisualVisitor and Salesforce.com. These two cloud solutions can be used, together, to provide any size business with a very effective method of sending targeted mass emails and tracking web site visits by specific campaign recipients.

Certainly some mass email management services can make similar claims. In other words, a service like iContact® offers subscribers the option of tagging campaigs to show:

  • eMail opens by recipient
  • and clicks on web page links by recipient

But what iContact, and comparable solutions, cannot do, is indicate visits by email recipients over time. Nor can these services provide web site visit information of email recipients clicking on embedded links who then proceed to look at other pages on a website. For any business marketing intangibles and complex solutions, this latter information is very important and highly useful.

I can personally attest to the usefulness of VisualVisitor and Salesforce.com for the purpose of closing the loop on 1) Who received my email campaign?, 2) Which campaign recipients came to my web site? and 3) What’s the historical record of visits to my web site by these recipients?

If you would like to learn more about how these two SaaS offers can be used together, please contact me.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

28
Jun

Early Stage ISVs Can Use email2lead from netFactor To Rapidly Add Business Information for Website Visitors Produced by eMail Campaigns

Emerging technology businesses, and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), in particular, often operate with a small group of staff members who are comfortable multi-tasking between administrative, sales and support requirements. Email campaigns are a popular promotional method for these businesses. But the multi-tasking nature of daily activity can make it difficult for these businesses to extract the full value from their campaigns. When two people are doing the work of twenty, how will they find the time to collect background information on campaign recipients who pay a visit to the company website?

We’ve been using email2lead from netFactor. We think this product can fill the gap we’ve just described. The online report produced by this tool (which works very well with most email service providers, including MailChimp, iContact, Vertical Response and Jango Mail, just to name a few) provides a very rich set of information in one view, including:

  • Business Background Information for Website Visitors produced by email campaigns
  • The date and time of visits
  • the name of the campaign producing them
  • and the landing page for the visitor on your website

Business background information includes a link to the business’ website, the industry for the business, each geographical location for its facilities and the parent company name.

Exposing all of this helpful information online fuels a very rapid process of collecting important information on site visitors, responding to email campaigns, literally as they happen. Once the campaign is sent to recipients, the report starts to compile, and is ready for access. Sales teams can work with the results in optimum fashion, meaning as soon after a site visit occurs as possible.

Subscribers to the email2lead service can distribute accesss to online reports of campaign activity to all of the personnel who should have this access. This feature streamlines the process of notifying sales teams about prospect site visits. With email2lead there is no need to wait for one or two administrators sharing costly access rights to spread the word. Everyone with access to a web browser can get the same information simultaneously.

We’re keen on the product and also like the business information features, which smaller businesses can use in lieu of separate accounts with marketing lead services and likely save some substantial cash in the process. But the condensed report format is the biggest draw for us. Having all of the information available on one screen, with an option to click on a link to get further information, makes email2lead into a rapid response system, which can be used to capitalize on prospect interest with a perfectly timed sales call.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

13
Jun

More Often Than Not, Most eMail Marketing Content Fails To Motivate Recipients

We don’t think the vast majority of email content we receive is worth very much at all. As a preface to this post, our reader should note IMB Enterprises, Inc. markets online editorial content services. So we are in the business of producing this type of content for clients. But we do not, presently, do a lot of this work.

On the other hand, we do constantly study the activities of our competitors for these services, and have an email system with, literally, hundreds of folders, which we use to retain most of the marketing email collateral we receive. We retain this information to keep ourselves current with the latest editorial styles and approaches.

The missing piece in 90% of the email marketing campaigns we’ve reviewed is any effort, whatsoever, to determine the type of information, if any at all, of interest to specific email contacts.

Rather, the approach is as follows: the prospect registers on a website to receive some information. Once the registration has been received, the prospect email contact information is placed onto an opt-in email list to which an endless stream of follow on marketing content will be sent, presumably, unless or until the contact opts out of the list.

If our experience is indicative of the norm, then it’s apparent to us why truly effective online marketing methodology is, still, in its very early stages of development. The investment in long term email push marketing (meaning direct marketing email campaigns) will rarely, if ever, pay off. To fix this problem we recommend businesses use one of the following methods:

  1. Carefully design online registration forms to include a list of questions to qualify the appropriateness, near term, and, perhaps, over the long term, of assuming a contact may become a sales prospect.
  2. Follow up website registrations with either a telephone call or an email request for more information about the contact registering on your website
  3. Do not use spurious methods of obtaining contact registrations. Include requests for registration in offers you know will produce real sales prospects at some appropriate point in time

Let’s face it, most contacts will never become prospects, so why inundate them with email content of no interest to them?

If your business can use some help rethinking your email marketing strategy, and you have a large contact list, give us a call, or send us a message. We welcome opportunities to discuss this type of requirement.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

15
May

Lead Generation Systems for Smaller Business: A Sensible Approach to Outbound eMail Marketing

Direct marketing should be an ongoing activity for businesses of any size. But frequently smaller businesses either overemphasize this lead generation strategy, or complete ignore it. The familiar picture of a small consulting firm with two or three representatives placing lots and lots of unsolicited telephone calls usually lacks one or more smiling faces. This approach is very difficult and expensive when you factor in the amount of time required to identify targets, place calls and, hopefully, finally engage with a contact. As a client once explained to us, “when you do finally find someone who’ll listen to your story, you can bet they’ve got a real hard problem to solve”. So there ought to be a better way to implement a direct marketing strategy for a smaller business on a tight budget.

Let’s start by categorizing direct marketing efforts into “sensible” and “not so sensible” buckets. The picture of a consulting firm’s “boiler room” falls into our “not so sensible” bucket. Lots of work, lots of irate recipients of unsolicited telephone calls, burned out sales representatives and a miniscule contribution to the bottom line. But a plan to use direct marketing efforts to produce leads rather than sales makes more sense and is a worthy addition to the “sensible” bucket. Better yet: this type of program may not be very costly to implement.

VisualVisitor is an example of a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud system designed to provide website owners with leads, in this case information about visits to their websites from businesses. At a monthly cost of $39.00 we think VisualVisitor is worth some investigation. By focusing direct marketing efforts on the smaller businesses identified by the VisualVisitor system, smaller consulting firms have a better chance of identifying specific individuals who may want to hear about what the firm has to offer. Keep in mind, the reason why the smaller firm is on your radar is a visit placed to your website by someone employed at the firm. So a genuine rationale for a call is available, which is important when placing unsolicited calls to businesses.

In the next post to this blog we’ll look further at this system.

If your business is struggling to identify a sensible lead generation system, please contact us. We’ve put together a package of service specifically for smaller businesses.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

15
Mar

Product Presentations Do Not Make Good Content for Drip eMail Campaigns

We receive a lot of emails with content designed for drip marketing. Most present product information. An invitation to a webinar on a product topic is a popular call to action for these unsolicited messages. Sometimes they offer white papers, case studies, etc. We don’t think these campaigns work. Here’s why:

One reason for implementing a drip email marketing campaign is to revive dormant leads. Recipients with minimal interest in products aren’t likely to warm up to presentations about them, or success stories, white papers, etc. In order to revive someone’s interest, first give them an opportunity to see themselves in a mirror. Acknowledging someone’s pain points, the likely day to day realities of their job, etc. will go much further to gain their interest.

As we noted earlier in this series, Marketo and Eloqua both take precisely this approach. They use editorial copy to focus on pain points and the challenges most mid level marketing managers at mid to large size businesses in 2013 face. Recipients who choose to read a message will be more likely to maintain an interest as emails later in these campaigns present other reasons to engage of a more substantive nature.

But the companies buying the services that Marketo and Eloqua offer somehow miss the need to communicate to recipients that their position is understood as a first step towards engagement. When we receive an email from VMware to attend an event on a highly sophisticated topic specific to enterprise class IT organizations considering virtualization as a solution to on premises hardware lifecycle challenges, our interest is not piqued. VMware hasn’t paid attention to who we are, or why we registered for their mailing list, so their whole campaign amounts to wasted effort.

There is certainly a better way to implement drip marketing campaigns. The actual first step, meaning before the first email is drafted, is to construct a registration form that collects the right information to ensure that the campaign is built on a truly useful theme for a recipient. More about the form in the next post to this blog.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

22
Mar

Recommended Activities to Support Social Engagement and eMail Messaging

Outbound eMail Messaging
Periodic announcements, including press releases, invitations to webinars/seminars/conferences, white papers, etc can be legitimately followed with unsolicited telephone calls to email recipients. These calls need to be scripted to either repeat the announcement, to solicit attendance, or to determine contact interest in receiving further email messages along the same vein. Don’t use the occasion of an outbound email message (crafted specifically along the lines of what we’ve just mentioned) to determine contact interest in an unrelated conversation. In fact, attempting to legitimize wholly disconnected telemarketing activity under the umbrella of following up on email announcements is a sure way to taint sales efforts as “overly aggressive”. It’s essential that email messaging and telephone outreach efforts be entirely coordinated if favorable results are to be captured.

On the other hand, using email messages as a reason to embark on a telephone outreach campaign makes very good sense. Further, with the email message on hand, and readily available for distribution to new recipients, a legitimate opportunity has been created to inform these contacts about what they’re missing as the result of not having opted into your email contact list. Of course, should an opportunity for a substantive discussion with one of these contacts emerge, from one of these calls, there is no problem pursuing the discussion and, potentially, a sales lead.

Social Media Conversations
We’re big on social media conversations. But we see scant opportunity for social media conversations to emerge from offsite media like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, etc. On the other hand, blogs on business domains provide an excellent venue for two way dialogue with website visitors. It’s been our experience that legitimate blogging on market relevant topics, with insightful prose, will stimulate a response from prospects; therefore, don’t overlook blogs.

With regard to blogging, and in direct contrast with our recommendations regarding email messaging, we think daily blogging makes very good sense. We’ve recent experience building blogs with upwards to 100 or more keyword rich posts. We’re just now beginning to engage in two way dialogue with site visitors, a phenomenon that, as we’ve just mentioned, we find quite elusive with Twitter, Facebook, etc. In these cases there is no need to jump into a teleprospecting conversation with a prospect, rather, the best benefit is to be realized from online dialogue which, admittedly, will be available to many more contacts than simply the one you’ve engaged in a discussion.

If you’re looking for valuable leads from online marketing, we’d like speak with you. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

21
Mar

Social, Search Engine and eMail Marketing Strategies to Develop Valuable Sales Leads

Incoming eMail Inquiries
Where online public branding is correctly aligned with marketing strategy, incoming email inquiries about products and/or services constitute highly valuable leads. The catch, obviously, is to ensure that the planned transparency has been achieved, the right message is being received. A useful mechanism for gaining assurance that “what you see is what you get” is in place is to utilize surveys and sample audience response while online medium are optimized. A survey can be nothing more than a series of open questions (heavy on “who” “what” where” “how” information gathering and very light on “yes” or “no” statement validation). A sample audience can be built from a series of once or twice removed contacts culled from a management team, or a circle of contacts.

We have worked recently with clients who have collected extremely high quality leads from a substantially transparent online brand message. In this case, product branding was successfully clarified through methodical, repetitive, authentic efforts to highlight targeted online search keywords through content creation — specifically blog posts, together with an ongoing, simultaneous effort to include “call to action” messaging within the client’s core web site, itself.

Receiving inquiries about products that are offered and available and, further, at published prices, by contacts who claim to make decisions at prospect businesses can be a dream come true. If pricing has been correctly established, then it should not take a high volume of these leads to result in meaningful revenue.

Outbound eMail Messaging
We do not endorse carpet bombing contacts with daily unsolicited email messages regardless of whether or not contacts have opted into email mailing lists. We see this phenomenon as a dangerous activity that will actually produce the opposite effect than the outcome intended for this activity. We like to refer to this opposite effect as stimulating prospects to cover sensitivity with information “callouses.” Obviously, on the day that you publish and send a potentially valuable piece of information to a prospect, it will be very unfortunate if that prospect has already set a rule to move any/all correspondence from you to a trash bin somewhere.

What we do endorse is highly targeted email messaging, to be sent occasionally, on topics where you have determined some interest on the part of your email contact list. Generally we recommend using invitations to webinars, white papers, slide shows, etc. as the right reason to engage in this type of messaging. Another reason for legitimate outreach to prospects via email messaging can be the publication of a press release.

Social Engagement
We like to present the rationale for participation in social media as a twofold effort to open opportunities to engage with contacts and to optimize web sites with search engines through the creation of inbound links from high ranked external, authoritative websites. Beyond these two reasons we see little value in habituating on facebook business pages, etc.

We appreciate any opportunity to expand on these points through one to one discussions. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

22
Feb

No Magic Elixir for a Failing eMail Marketing Program

Opt-in mailing list members are a fickle lot, with little brand loyalty. Burn them several times with email campaigns that fail to meet important criteria at your peril. There is slim to no likelihood at all that these readers will retrieve your future messages from spam filters or trash. But what are the most important criteria?

First, it is important for us to note that we are not proponents of habituating on email marketing. At best, we think that this tactic can deliver some useful leads, but the effort/reward ratio will be no better than is the typical proportion of any other type of passive marketing method. Lots of messages will need to be sent out to glean a small number of leads. With that said, we need to note that businesses have exhibited a substantial level of interest in email marketing; therefore, we want to add our two cents to the discussion.

The important criteria, as we see it, is that you send your email campaign messages to a list of contacts that you have assembled yourself and never to a so-called “opt-in” list that you have purchased. We think the members on these paid lists will be largely disinterested in the type of specific, targeted message that we advocate be developed for an audience of readers that promises to give some attention to what is sent to them.

You should carefully sample your audience through your teleprospecting efforts to determine whatever common themes of interest you can unearth. The editorial content of your email campaign should be restricted to these themes. Better to segment the themes, treating them individually over a series of messages within your campaign than to attempt to include them all in one broad covering email message.

You should provide your readers with ample opportunities to voice an opinion about your message; therefore, it is a good idea to spread the campaign over some time period that affords you the ability to collect responses before embarking on subsequent mailings. By no means does it make sense to bombard your audience with lots of messages. In fact such a bombardment can lead to audience insensitivity whereby your future messages will be ignored.

Where possible it makes sense to sample audience reaction via telemarketing calls. Let’s face it, most recipients of unsolicited email messages will have little interest to reply to messages. Better to reach back out to recipients, individually, to determine whatever opinions may be at hand before advancing a campaign to subsequent mailings.

We are interested in working with customers who would like a coordinated campaign of email marketing in conjunction with a telemarketing lead generation program. We welcome opportunities to elaborate on our experience, not to mention to learn further about your objectives. Please call Ira Michael Blonder, IMB Enterprises, Inc at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved