Six Ways Reading Fiction Makes Us Better Marketers

Six Ways Reading Fiction Makes Us Better Marketers

Business owners and entrepreneurs are always doing research behind the scenes to get a leg up on the marketing tools and strategies that will help them reach more people. We comb the internet for insights on the next big social media platform and what kinds of content are performing best. We have our favorite trade publications and podcasts to keep up with industry trends. We also fill our bookshelves with the newest thought leadership in sales and marketing, productivity, business strategy, leadership and whatever else is abuzz in our networking circles. While all of these resources get at important information we can use to make better decisions for our own projects, they have their limitations.

 

Pure storytelling, also known as fiction, often gets pushed down to the lowest priority in the TBR list. We wait for a literal rainy day or an airplane trip to “read for pleasure.” But diving into those made-up worlds of fantasy, romance, mystery and suspense (or a character-driven classic) will make more of an impact on your marketing skills than you might expect. In fact, we have a few readers on our team of marketing nerds!

 

Successful marketing is all about telling an interesting and relatable story through the various mediums at your disposal; reading more fiction will help you sharpen the communication tools in your marketing toolkit.

1. Growth Through Creativity

First of all, there are a ton of work performance and life benefits to be gained by simply letting our minds wander. But with the help of a well-written story, you can learn more about human interaction, visit faraway places and pick up turns of phrase you’ve never heard before. By seeing the world (even a made-up one) through someone else’s eyes, your subconscious mind gains a deeper understanding of how others outside of yourself interact with the world and each other.

2. Improved Communication

As you plow through a work of creative writing, your brain absorbs new ways to communicate more clearly. You may expand your vocabulary, discover more precise ways of stating ideas or create more connections between related concepts. Each of these benefits creates neural pathways that will improve your own written and verbal communication. As you develop an appetite for good books, you may notice your speech patterns shift and your written communications coming more easily, in a more concise fashion. 

3. Developed Cultural Awareness

You’ve probably noticed that empathy is becoming just as much of a hot topic in marketing as authenticity was just a few years ago. Reading works by authors of different backgrounds featuring characters with different identities and personalities is an effective way to socialize yourself with points of view that are different from your own. You may even catch glimpses into historical and cultural perspectives that still play a role in society today. If you’re more of a fantasy buff, that’s valuable too! Reading about dragons and wizards may not directly emulate reality, but allowing yourself to understand a completely different culture will open your mind to other possible experiences. With each read, your muscle memory for empathy will grow stronger..

4. Better Concentration and Focus

One of the first things we develop as young readers is a greater attention span for concentration and focus. That benefit still applies for adults! As a business owner, you are constantly bombarded by notifications and distractions that can keep you from working on the important things—like client work and your marketing materials. Regular reading will strengthen your defenses against the day-to-day noise so you can stay focused and do higher quality work in less time. The best stories will pull you in and keep you spellbound until the very last page; when you can work with that kind of dedication, your clients will notice a difference!

5. A Stronger Connection with Others

Reading brings us closer together with others who share similar interests and read the same books! No matter what genres or authors you gravitate to, chances are you will find others sooner or later who share that appreciation. Imagine kicking off a conversation with “I was just reading this great detective novel...have you read any good mysteries lately?” instead of the same old “What brings you to this networking event?” You will find yourself having more interesting conversations and getting to know people on a deeper level to ultimately build stronger relationships. Last, your new connections might be more likely to remember you for your insightful comments!

6. Becoming a Better Storyteller 

The bottom line is that reading more stories will help you become a better storyteller. As you read, you will experience different ways to be engaged as a reader and you’ll be able to emulate those strategies with your own storytelling. Just like watching presentations and going to conferences can inspire your own public speaking skills, reading fiction can help you create content that tells a more compelling story.

 

Marketing is all about telling a story that makes your audience feel something strongly enough to take action. So to be a successful marketer, you need to be able to tell your story in an appealing way, connect with your audience, focus on your clients, understand their point of view, communicate clearly and be creative at the same time. Reading books by master storytellers will teach you those things in a fun and interesting way, with all the benefits of relaxation and daydreaming. So, what’s the last book you read for fun?

 

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

 

BONUS Fiction Reading List for Entrepreneurs

Compiled by the @ revenue team

 

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Dune - Frank Herbert

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

Siddhartha - Herman Hesse

The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand

The Circle - Dave Eggers

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert M. Pirsig

The Old Man and the Sea (or really any Hemmingway) 

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

The Hobbit or LOTR - JRR Tolkien

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card

Watership Down - Richard Adams

The Taming of the Shrew - Shakespeare

Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

About A Boy - Nick Hornby

A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle

If On a Winter's Night A Traveler - Italo Calvino

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli

Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes

Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

Word Virus - William S. Burroughs

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L’Engle

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith


You might need to hire a marketing agency if…

Let’s face it-- not every business needs a marketing agency. I know, it may seem counter-intuitive because every business needs a marketing strategy, but not everyone needs to go out and hire a professional to do the work. Whether you are just starting out or have decades of experience, marketing professionals aren’t free and when investing your time and finances you need to be sure that your business is ready.

That being said, there comes a point that professional support is what will take your business to the next level. Here are just a couple of signs that the time has come:

  1. If your parents don’t know what you do. You have no idea what your “brand” is and no idea how to talk about your business. You don’t need to be able to explain the intricacies of what you do, but you should be able to narrow it down to a couple of sentences. Marketing will help you to refine your message and give you crystal clear direction on how that gets expressed. Everything from colors and fonts to your voice and values needs to get expressed in a consistent manner that is easy for others to understand.
  2. If it gets pushed off your plate due to time or procrastination. You didn't open a business because you feel the joy of writing a good newsletter, or perhaps you avoid social media like the plague. Writing blogs, posting on social media and making website updates not only take valuable time but to do well it takes years of experience. Calculate your hourly rate by the number of hours you spend on marketing activities and see if you have some wiggle room to hire someone else to do it. Chances are when you leave it to an expert it will be done better than if you keep trying to do it yourself, and you may even save yourself some money & time along the way.
  3. You're ready for more business, but you don’t know how to ‘make’ it happen. If you've ever been asked "where do you get business from?" and your only answer is referrals, you are not in control of your sales... Let’s face it, hope isn’t the most effective strategy. If you are looking for more business, your marketing team should lay out a clear path to success and a pro will be able to recommend the right channels, strategies, and tools to get you there.

Agencies are great at providing the tools, resources, strategy, and implementation of marketing, but if you don't know your market, this is all a guess. Marketers work best when you know your business, and they help you communicate it. So go out there, talk to your customers, find out what they want more of and get clear on where your business is going. Then find a marketing firm that knows how to listen and provide great insight - they go hand in hand.

Although marketing might seem like the next step to growth, let’s not leave out it’s best friend: SALES! These two disciplines work hand in hand to drive more revenue. If you are out of balance, you will waste time and resources going down the wrong path. Schedule a complimentary consultation with our team @revenue to learn the best direction for your organization.


Personal Branding: 4 Rules to help you Rule

Personal branding - the term is everywhere in the marketing world and experts and owners alike are diving headlong into creating a magical personal brand of their very own. As part of a larger strategy, personal brands can be a powerful way to establish expertise and connect with new audiences, but on it’s own a personal brand is not a revenue generator. Turns out, people don’t want to give you cash for just being they you-iest of yous!  And at the @revenue office, the motto is: if it doesn’t help generate revenue, then it’s not for you.

One of the biggest questions you should be asking before you embark on creating a personal brand is: Do I know EXACTLY what I am going to be selling to the leads generated from this? If the answer feels ambiguous take a step back and map out what your offering will be. Even if the answer is products or services from within your current business, what it will take to fulfill them, and where you can create economies of scale to help you make more money in less time? (you get bonus points if it has a Monthly Recurring Revenue stream built into it). Know what success looks like before you start so you have a direction to go, because no matter how many likes, follows or watches you get, you are not going to be happy about the investment you make if it never pays you back.

As an expert, crafting and rolling out a personal brand will give you certain flexibilities that should happen outside of your business brand. Using your personal brand to reach out and create more one on one conversations, put you on stages, and increase your social media reach are all great goals to have. What then becomes important is how you will expect it to turn into income. Typically we will want to see a sales model with a personal brand that includes the following things:

  • Paid speaking engagements
  • Direct leads for your business
  • Digital courses or materials like books, podcasts, etc.
  • Advertising dollars for your YouTube Videos and podcasts
  • Partnerships that will boost your business

Personal brands also take a long time to take root - this is no quick win. And what’s worse, is that a back-fire in your personal brand will follow YOU around, not the name on the company. So…. how can a personal brand backfire? Oh, let’s share some stories, shall we?

1. It’s not you.

Personal brands are all about authenticity. If your goal in crafting a personal brand to make people think things about you that aren’t true. This is where those idiosyncracies will come crawling into the daylight. Allow me to present Exhibit A: the photoshop fail.

2. It’s all about you.

This sounds contradictory at first, but your personal brand should include your thoughts on other things besides yourself. If every image you post, a comment you make or video you produce is part of a conversation then make sure you are talking to and about the world around you. You will exhaust your audience if every image is a hyper-filtered shot at exposing how fabulous your every moment is.

3. That’s right. You tweeted it and it was dumb.

We don’t have to reach too far into our consciousness to pull out a news story or two about an ill-timed tweet or tone-deaf message. And thanks to that cool little screen grab gadget it can live forever! If you are combining your personal brand with your private life brand be sure that you know that what you say will reflect on you and could possibly damage your business. 

4. Repping Products

If you do have a personal brand that lends itself to promoting products, you must ask the question, are they aligned with MY brand? I shudder at the term ‘influencer’ because of how much it’s been abused, but the things you recommend will become part of your reputation. As an expert in your field, you do not need to hashtag every cute cupcake unless your personal brand aligns with supporting that business or eating cupcakes like it is your job. Which it may be - and if that is your real job please call us immediately, we want in. 

Building a personal brand should be purposeful, strategic and hopefully a lot of fun.

If you want to learn more about building your own brand and how @revenue can help you integrate it into your marketing strategy let’s have that chat. marie@atrevenue.com 

 


The Click to Purchase Myth.

When small brands roll out big dreams.

There are billions of marketing books, articles and gurus all claiming they have a silver bullet to generate leads while you sleep and get you that beach house in a matter of months. Like most things, what you read will rarely transform your life. Why is that? One word: execution. So, after a couple of attempts on your own, you hire a marketing agency, armed with the knowledge by experts and prepared to make an investment that will generate high returns.

This may seem like an exaggeration, but in reality, it isn’t too far from the truth. Businesses see the opportunity and desire a “click to purchase” product or service. This is where you build your digital marketing machine with paid ads to generate leads and a website to purchase. Sounds simple and the books will give you formula after formula to make it happen. And then they hit the wall- where are sales?

Assuming that marketing will be your sole driver for revenue is one of the biggest mistakes we see business owners make.

If you are ready to launch a product or a click to purchase service, here are a couple of things you should keep in mind and be prepared for. Consider this your reality check:

  1. If you want to build a digital empire be prepared to have deep pockets. It takes a lot of money to get enough traction and analytics to make a dent and even that first sale will take time and refinement. Know that you will learn lessons along the way, and they will be expensive.
  2. It will take time. Nothing worth having comes easily or instantaneously. It takes a lot of testing, refining and optimizing to get your targeting and message right. It takes at least 3 months to create baselines, understand the market and get a good feel for where you want to go. Even those digital marketing gurus had thousands of things that didn’t work out until they found their golden goose; even if that’s all they talk about. Know that it will take you time too.

If that sounds unappealing, know that there is another way to get your click to purchase solution launched. Take the uncertainty out of the equation and build a business that lasts, not just until the next Google algorithm change.

You are going to need to sell the first several solutions or products. Yes, it’s true. You will need to talk to people, understand what motivates them and how your digital solution solves their challenges. By skipping these early sales conversations you will need to invest much more time and money in marketing proving out different hypothesis. By having the conversations and connecting with these customers, you gain valuable insights and feedback that will help your business exponentially.

Let’s face it, a consultative sales process where you get to understand your customer, build a relationship and find solutions is at odds with a digital play. On the internet, you have to guess at what their challenges are,and feed them information, facts, proof that you are awesome. When you have a consultation you build connection and learn about your clients. This just can’t be done authentically digitally until you understand it in the real world.

What this boils down to is sales process. The more complex the offering, the more complex the sale. Make sure you aren’t just building a marketing machine, but a sales process that aligns with your values, your business, and your customers needs.

Depending on marketing to solely drive your revenue from the get-go is a risky business. We believe in creating sustainable programs that support elevate and grow businesses, not that ARE the business. If you would like to learn more about what a sales and marketing strategy looks like for you- it's time for us to talk! info@atrevenue.com


The difference between a marketing plan and a sales plan

Business plans often glaze over sales and marketing very quickly. They want to know what the overall revenue goals are sure but the HOW is grossly underrepresented. That’s the problem of setting targets, goals, and dreams without understanding what it will take to get there.

We often find that sales and marketing are still the wild west of strategic planning. They get some top-level attention to help define key principles such as your target audience or your core values, but rarely include any of the actionable items. So how do we blend the strategy and plan to achieve that ultimate goal: more revenue?

Before you make the goals, check to make sure that you are incorporating all of the below:

Your marketing plan should include:

- Your key messaging concepts: What are you going to say that will capture your audience’s attention? What problem do you solve, what are the motivating factors, why does your customer care Your marketing plan should clearly and concisely be able to articulate your core message.

- The channels you plan to use: Once you know what you are saying, where you will say it is the next step. Each platform, channel, and community might need a different message and a different way of expressing it.

- Your investments (financial, time and frequency): Marketing is going to cost you one way or another, even free channels on social media are becoming more of a pay to play platform. Your marketing plan needs to map out your commitment.

- Your goals and KPIs. For each channel: It is critical that your plan includes clear expectations so you can measure your ROI, make adjustments and improve.

Your sales plan should include:

- Prospecting: where are you going to find new prospects and leads? Where and how are you networking? How does your personal brand show up on social media?

- Strategic Partners: Who are your business friends who send you more business?  Building and developing great strategic partnerships is not only good business sense, but great for your pipeline.

- Your process. Creating a sales strategy takes careful process mapping. How do leads go through your pipeline? What are the critical steps that need to be taken? How can this process be repeatable across your entire team? If sales are the first ambassador of your brand, it is critical that you have a brand congruous process.

- Your KPIs and goals. You need to track your activity just as much as your results. As a sales professional, you need to put in the calls, work, and effort into finding your leads and building the business. Once you are able to hone in on those key metrics you will be able to calculate how much you make every time you pick up the phone.

Building both your sales and marketing muscles is critical to developing more revenue for your business. To help achieve maximum impact, many businesses are hiring a CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) to ensure both of these departments are achieving their shared goal, reducing processes and investments that aren’t paying off and holding the team accountable to growth. If it’s time to see more revenue come in your business we are here to get you there! Contact @revenue today and let’s create a plan for your next milestone.


Your Values, Your Business. Yes, You Can Build A Dream Business Based On What You Value Most.

When we begin a conversation with a client, we’ll typically ask: “What type of business do you think is right for you?”

Mind you, it’s not that we expect that individual to have everything figured out. Some people may know what they want, but may not look at the reality that accompanies that. Others aren’t sure at all but do know they want to control their own destiny. No matter where you’re coming in, we’ll typically take a more introspective approach and encourage you to ask deeper questions internally about your lifestyle before choosing a business.

Now, why do you think we would be so interested in what you value and the life you want to have? Yes, these are important but what does that have to do with owning a business?

Know The Business Behind The Business

Think about this: If you’re going to be a successful owner, you’re going to be heavily involved in that business for at least the next 10 years and probably more. If the organization doesn’t match up with your values and lifestyle, you may have some buyer’s remorse.

To illustrate how buyer’s remorse could happen, let’s say that you’re intensely passionate about a product or service – we’ll use dogs as an example. Since you have such a love of dogs, you figure that owning a pet store franchise is your true calling.

Sounds like a terrific fit, doesn’t it? Not so fast.

You may have a love of animals, but we still have to talk about what you will be doing as a business owner. In this case, you may be spending a great deal of time involved with inventory management, stocking shelves and a host of other responsibilities that take you away from playing with the puppies.

Doing what you love has to align with business responsibilities, which makes it crucial to take a hard look at each franchise opportunity to ensure your perception meets reality. This involves a series of deep questions that can force you to give careful consideration to why you want to become an owner and what you want out of the business. Because once you’ve addressed these questions, you’re ready to pursue an opportunity on your terms, based on what you value most.

4 Deep Questions Before You “Jump”

  • What are your strengths?
    When you think back to times in your career where you’ve been promoted, why was that? How did that happen? Was there something about that type of work that energized you?
  • What type of work environment and style do you prefer?
    Do you like working with people or independently? Are you a teacher? An organizer? Are you motivated by sales? Do you dread event planning? Do you believe you can thrive in a customer-facing role or do you see yourself as more of an operational leader behind the scenes?
  • What do you like to do most?
    Believe it or not, one of the areas we look to as evidence of what you enjoy is your prior education. What did you go to school for, even if it’s nothing to do with what you currently do today? That shows a degree of passion.
  • What does your family situation and schedule look like?
    Make no mistake – this is a big one. If you have a spouse and children, how would owning a business change your current situation at home? What are you willing to give up?
    Is your family on board with this commitment? There’s going to be a ramp up period to get the business running strong enough that you can pay yourself the salary that you want, including minimum expenses. It may take 12-24 months to turn a profit – are you comfortable with that? If so, is it because your spouse is working and can take some of the pressure off? Is it based on savings that you have or through an SBA loan?

You know your strengths, your work style, your greatest passion, and have a loving family that’s got your back for the next 12-24 months to pursue the next exciting chapter of your career in business ownership. That’s great – but there’s still one more vital component to your success that we can’t neglect – an outside perspective from a highly experienced franchise consultant who can help guide you to the right franchise opportunity that aligns just right with your values. That’s where organizations like On Pace and @revenue come in - we’re here for you!


Sales + Marketing: Finger pointing or handshaking

Most businesses divide their sales team and marketing team into two different groups. At one organization I worked with, they were physically in different buildings... in different parts of the city. But what really is the difference between these two departments? They share the same goals, but their tactics for achieving these goals are very, very different.

It’s easy to get caught up with definitions like, “marketing is from the brand and sales is from a salesperson”. If that’s how you want to differentiate, I’ve got news for you. That sales person IS your brand! To more clearly separate these two facets of your business, I look at it from the messaging perspective. Here is my simplified explanation of these two departments and where the lines start to blur.

Marketing is a message sent to the masses. Like yelling into a megaphone, you say it once and it’s received by many people. For example, think of a TV commercial or a Pay Per Click ad that’s impersonal and doesn’t have a person on the other end sending you that message.

Sales on the other hand, is a very direct message sent from just one person. The message is tailored and personalized for each specific audience. It’s also not as scalable (one salesperson can only talk to so many people).

Now, here’s where it starts to get a little fuzzy. If done right, your marketing can feel like it’s coming from a real person AND your sales team can reach a wider audience.

This is why big data and targeted marketing is so exciting; it crafts a message that is targeted to the individual… but sent to many individuals. When this happens, your efforts have exponential impact.

Don’t just take it from me, here are the facts:

  • Personalization reduces acquisition costs as much as 50%, lifts revenues by 5-15%, and increases the efficiency of marketing spend by 10-30%. (McKinsey & Company)
  • By 2020, 51% of consumers expect that companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact. (Salesforce)
  • Increasing personalization in more channels can increase overall consumer spending by up to 500%. (The E-Tailing Group)

Here’s a couple of great examples where your marketing and sales team needs to work in perfect harmony:

Email: An average office worker receives 121 emails a day and sends around 40 business emails daily (Source). So it’s fair to say that this would be a sales channel,. Right? But wait, what about MASS emails? Those newsletters, automations, promotions and drip campaigns need to incorporate best practices from both departments in order to be effective.

Social Media: With over 2.19 billion monthly active users on Facebook, this must be a mass audience channel, right? Think again. Sure, you can have your marketing team create a bunch of posts, but without a sales perspective and communication style, your engagement and conversation ends there. To be successful, you need to build a relationship with your following, and who is better at building relationships than your sales team? By bringing together your marketing and sales minds, you’re able to attract, engage and even convert a dedicated community.

Sales and marketing are very clearly differentiated in our minds. But aren't they really doing the same thing? Connecting, convincing, and communicating. Any good salesperson or marketer knows that is the key to success.

If you are having challenges connecting with your clients, leads and audience, contact Marie at marie@atrevenue.com


Demystifying Marketing Myths

In a world with “alternative facts” and the ability to make your own truth, there is a lot of miss-information out there. @revenue is here to shed light and truth on some of the most common marketing myths and why they just aren’t facts. These misconceptions are dangerous and can seriously impact your business.

Marketing Myth #1: My business is so incredibly unique, it is too complex for anyone outside of our firm to communicate.

Why it’s false: Look, no marketer will ever be able to know your business better than you,  but do you know what they are experts at? Communicating with your audience. How you translate that expertise and unique offering to the masses to best connect and engage is critical for generating sales.

Marketing Myth #2: I received an email from someone who says he can get my site to page 1 on Google.  For just $99!

Why it’s false: Really? Are you going to fall for that one? SEO takes time and is a long-term strategy. Don't fall for some cheap tricks that may work today, but will leave you burned in the long run.

Marketing Myth #2.5: My cousin is an insta-star.

This goes right next to “the millennial on the team will do social media.” Leaving your brand, reputation, and marketing strategy to someone that knows how to use a tool is not enough. They need to have a strategy, plan and know how to generate ROI, not “likes”, from their efforts.

Marketing Myth #3: It doesn't need any marketing, really. It sells itself.

Why it’s false: Nothing sells itself. Even Apple's greatest products require the right placement at the right time communicated by the right people to the right audience.

Marketing Myth #4: The client is always right.

Why it’s false: I get it, we are in the service industry, but really? How does this develop trust and good recommendations? If the client was always right, why are they asking for help? Because they tried something one way and it didn't work perhaps? So, let's stop putting them on high platforms as always right and work with them as partners.

Marketing Myth #5: I don't need marketing to target my offering. Anybody and everybody can use my services.

Why it’s false: Because if anybody and everybody actually showed up at your doorstep tomorrow, you couldn't possibly service them anyway.

Marketing Myth #6: Word of mouth and a website is enough -

Why it’s false: Delivering quality, targeted and convertible traffic to your website takes a strategy, a budget, execution and some time. Don't wait for the pipeline to inevitably dry up. You need to be proactive instead of waiting by your inbox for a lead to come in.

Marketing Myth #7: Facebook is the only valid way to get your message across to people anymore.

Why it’s false: HA! That’s like saying, “The only way to get protein is to eat a lot of eggs.” There are TONS of channels, groups, mediums and tools to get your message across. If you believe this, you might be a little narrow-minded. Let an experienced marketer show you some solutions.

We all know first hand how annoying it can be to get the same assumption and miss-information driving networking conversations and sales calls. For many experienced professionals, they never had the opportunity to learn about marketing, so they get bad information from the internet, sleazy marketers pumping out misinformation that they take as truth. If you have a question or assumption about marketing, contact @revenue to explain more.


How to Do Email Marketing Effectively When You’re a Small Marketing Department

 

If you want to learn how to do email marketing effectively, then understand there is no one thing that will ensure success. It’s a balance of strategy, techniques and execution. Here is an overview specifically designed for 1- to 3-person marketing departments.

Email is such an ubiquitous part of our lives that it’s often overlooked by marketers. There are bigger, shinier strategies and tactics that always seem to command the lion’s share of attention.

But email marketing should be an integral part of your approach — the numbers say it’s the most important.  Let’s shed some light on why email is so critical, and the steps a small marketing department can take to make your approach effective.

For this post, I received some great insights from folks who really know their email marketing (listed in order of appearance):

Jessica Best, Director of Data-Driven Marketing, Barkley
Gini Dietrich, Founder and author of Spin Sucks
Megan Robinson, VP Marketing of @revenue

How effective is email marketing?

Throughout this post, we’re going to use the word “effective.”  That’s because “effective” is defined as “successful at producing a desired or intended result.”  And that’s what this stuff called marketing is all about — results, right?

Consider some of the industry statistics that reveal how widespread email usage is, and how effective email marketing can be:

  • According to Statista, a total of 96% of agencies were going to either increase (48%) or maintain (48%) their spending on email in 2017.
  • The number of email users worldwide is expected to rise to 2.9 billion users by 2019, according to Statisa.  (In comparison, there are 2 billion Facebook users as of Q3 2017.)

When agencies increase spending, you know it's working.

What do the numbers tell me?  When 96% of agencies increase or maintain their spending on email marketing, you know it’s working.  And when a medium is 2.9 times bigger than Facebook, that tells you that it is still the biggest game in town.

Effective strategies, tips and techniques for email marketing

In creating a post about how to do email marketing effectively, you can’t possibly include everything. What we’ve attempted to do in this post is focus on the critical elements a small marketing department should focus on; you can build on this to refine your approach.

1. Don’t buy a list — EVER

Let’s cross off the first thing that comes to many marketers’ minds:  Should I buy a list of email addresses and email them?

According to Jessica Best, the answer is quite simple: NO. Besides this being ridiculously intrusive for the end user, you also run a big risk of being labeled a spammer by email service providers, which means you could be blacklisted and your emails will go NOWHERE.

The spammer threshold is .1%

(Read more from Jessica in What Email Marketers (Still) Don’t Know They Don’t Know.)

If you really want to build a list, provide content and information that is of value to the customer.  Share with them how you’ll solve their problems. People want answers, not SPAM.

2. Don’t just say “subscribe” or “get updates”

How many websites have you seen that ask for your email for “updates,” but don’t tell you what you’ll get in return?

Be sure you give them a solid reason to sign up, especially telling them the frequency of the emails. People like to get their Sunday morning paper on Sunday, after all. (I’m referring to newspapers – do people get newspapers anymore?)

Give them a reason to subscribe

3. If you automate, use “value forward” content to aid in the buying decision and stay in front of prospects

If someone signed up for an email, it’s likely that they are in the early stages of the buying process.  You can use automation to set up a string of emails that will go out right after someone signs up for a download.

However, these emails need to be “value forward,” as Jessica Best puts it. Sure you can sell product, but think about your customer and their buying process.  What would add value to their decision?  Knowing more about you?  Seeing customer reviews, or comparisons to your competition?

Any types of follow-ups should lead them through their Customer Journey, ultimately to a purchase. But you have to present something of value each step of the way.

You also can’t wait to follow up, as Gini Dietrich tells us:

A good majority of organizations have an email sign-up on their site without a single email that follows. Sure, you may send a monthly email, but what if that’s 29 days from now? Will the person remember who you are 29 days from now? It’s doubtful. Create a 7- or 10-day email campaign for your new subscribers. The first one should be delivered immediately after they subscribe.

Create a new subscriber email campaign.

4. Segment your list and personalize your messages

Different offers on your website can mean different things.  Create different email lists based on the reason why people signed up.  Do they just want to read your new blog posts?  Are they interested in buying your product or service?

If you have different segments, you can tailor your emails to those segments.  For a small marketing department, this is the first step toward speaking directly to what your target needs.

Segmentation is different than personalization, as noted in this great post by Jason Grunberg, who explains the difference between personalization and segmentation.

True personalization, beyond just inserting a contact’s name, involves delivering email content based on a client’s past actions, as explained by Active Campaign’s Brian Gadu in this post. Ultimately, this improves your deliverability and your standing in the eyes of email providers.

Grunberg and Gadu both indicate that personalized emails (one version for one person) are going to overtake grouped segmented emails.

For a small marketing department, this granularity should be the ultimate goal, but it won’t happen overnight. Start by segmenting your list, then work toward personalization.

(Check out more examples in Jessica’s post on 6 Steps to Putting Data to Work in Email Marketing.)

5. Let unsubscribe rates dictate how much you should send

A common question among marketers: How much email is too much?  We’re all inundated with email, and you want to be sure your email gets opened and that you’re not annoying.

Whatever you do, don’t make your decision based on what YOU think is too much.  Let your prospects make the decision.

Reevaluate if unsubscribes get too high.

You can do this by focusing on your unsubscribe rate.  You want your unsubscribe rates to be below 1% of your list. If your rates creep north of that number, it’s time to reevaluate your content and the rate at which you’re emailing.

6. Use your blog content to make an eNewsletter

Creating a monthly eNewsletter can produce numerous benefits.  As Megan Robinson of @revenue details in this post (with stats to back up her point), those benefits include:

  • Keeps your business top of mind
  • Engages your audience
  • Deepens your relationship with customers

But sending out regular emails — at the very least, once a month — can seem tedious if you’re trying to create new content all the time.

One method that’s effective is to turn off the auto notification from your blog, and instead route sign-ups to a special list on your email service.  Then, once a month, compile your blog posts into a newsletter and send it to prospects.

It’s a great way to share content for prospects just entering the sales funnel, or add in some new product promos to keep them posted on new sales.

An eNewsletter is a great way to share content.

7. Deliver your downloadable offer via email

Let’s say you’re providing a piece of content for a visitor to download, like a PDF guide. Should you make that available on a thank you page, after the person signs up for the offer?

Jessica recommends sending it out via your follow-up email.  The recipient is very likely to open and engage with your email, and that helps Google recognize that the recipient wants your content. They’ll more likely “green light” your future emails, so always deliver your offers by email!

8. Build your list using different techniques

There are a million ways to build your list, but here are a few that have proven effective for us:

Feature a downloadable offer with a sign-up form as well: Many will argue that all your content should be ungated, but Jessica believes that you still should have lead forms in front of a valuable piece.  “As long as it’s valuable, it doesn’t cost that person a whole lot to give up their email in exchange for the content,” she said.

Co-Op/Ad Swap: Partner with a relevant/complementary business or product. Create an email for a partner or complementary business. They will mail your message to their email list, then you respond in-kind.

These are just foundational suggestions.  To really drive email sign-ups, check out this amazing post from Robbie Richards.

9. Feature an email sign-up in your website’s footer

We get a surprising amount of sign-ups with our email subscriber box in the footer, and it’s pretty logical when you think about it. A person reads the page, likes the content, and when they scroll to the bottom, BLAM, you’ve got the sign-up form.

Because it’s in the footer, you also have an automatic guarantee it’s on every page of your site.

Feature email sign-up in your site's footer

10. Include an opt-in checkbox on your contact form

Besides the sign-up forms on your site, you can also add an opt-in checkbox to your contact forms. You may think these people want info. right away, but this gives you a method to follow up with them and keep them on the list. It also puts them in control of whether or not they want to receive more information.

opt-in form

(Opt-in form courtesy of Pinpointe.com.)

11. Control when notifications are sent out about a new blog post

When your developer sets up your blog subscription form, don’t use a plug-in from the content management system. Keep all of your subscribers in your email marketing platform so you can control when and how they see your latest.

Auto-notification plug-ins just grab the headline of your post and make it the headline of the article. But your article headline might not make for a good email headline, and you may also want to include a teaser message to your readers to get them to check it out.

Andy Crestodina does a great job with this. Notice his email has a headline written specifically for email. His blog post title, which likely includes very specific keywords and structure, probably would not be as effective.

Article headline may not match email headline

12. Avoid getting labeled a SPAMMER

It’s very easy for someone to label you a SPAMMER, and as we touched on earlier, that’s someplace you definitely don’t want to go.

So how do you do it?  First of all, play nice. Use common sense tactics not to SPAM. If someone gives you a business card at a lunch, that’s not an automatic OK to add them to your eNewsletter list.  Send them the link to subscribe, and let them take it from there.

Some other tactics include:

Always include an unsubscribe link and a physical mailing address with your emails. Most email services will build this into your template, in compliance with CAN-SPAM law.

Be sure you’re sending from a professional SMTP server. Any email marketing platform like Active Campaign, MailChimp, Constant Contact will be compliant.

Easy on the images: Include enough text that a spam filter can “read” what your email is about. Too many images can get a can of SPAM thrown at you.

Avoid the SPAMMY words:  Using these words in moderation won’t get you labeled a spammer, but too many can land you in trouble.  Here’s a great list from Karen Rubin of HubSpot.

13. Ensure it’s mobile-friendly

Litmus’ Email Analytics tracks open emails from over 1.4 billion sent emails. They reported that emails opened on mobile devices was 56% of all emails sent.  Make sure your emails, and the service you’re sending them from, are mobile-friendly!

Megan Robinson, @revenue

Check out Megan’s article on Google’s Mobile First Initiative:

14. Create a great email – include excellent content

Oh yeah!  That stuff.  What you want to, you know, say to people. I guess that matters too, right?

Back in the days of direct mail, there was a 40-40-20 rule. Your success was determined by: 40% by the list; 40% by the offer; and 20% by the creative. Here’s a great post by Eunice Brownlee that refines that formula for email marketing today, but essentially the idea remains the same.

So what makes for an effective email?

Focus on the subject line:  If you want people to get into your email, you need to open that front door. So create an excellent subject line. Check out insights from Charlie Meyerson on how to do it right!

Keep it short and focused: You want a clear intent with your email, and you want someone to take an action as a result of it. Keep your content skimmable; 1-3 lines of copy, and avoid the bulky paragraphs.

These shorter segments can then link out to longer content.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make with email is sending all of the content in the email. Don’t do that! It doesn’t encourage engagement, nor can you track effectiveness,” says Gini Dietrich.

“And always remember: Your email content is about THEM, not you. No one cares about your new hires, your new contracts, or your awards. What they do care about is how you can help them.”

15. Make Call-To-Action prominent

You want to take them somewhere, give them a big, bold CTA.  And use a contrasting color, so it really stands out.

Make the CTA button big and bold

16. Metrics: How do you measure email marketing success

Here are the big ones we really keep an eye on:

Click-through rates: Really, at the end of the day, it’s all about sales, right?  So you’d ultimately want to see how many people are clicking through to your site.  Open rates are great and could potentially generate some brand equity, but you want people to get to your site.

If you can track the email traffic all the way to a conversion in the form of a lead or purchase, that’s the ultimate goal!

Unsubscribe rates:  You definitely don’t want that number to incline. It’s a good indication you’re either sending out too frequently, or your content quality is off.  According to Jessica Best, the average unsubscribe rate is .5%, and just make sure you don’t creep north of 1%.

Track through UTM tagging:  This isn’t a metric, but a methodology to track your email visits from Google analytics. If you don’t use UTM tagging on your links, then GA will count the visit as “Direct” and not an email.

17. Test, test and test some more

Hate to date myself (someone’s got to), but when I was writing direct mail copy for a big insurance company, we would roll out $10,000 tests on a changed headline.  That’s still done today, but with email, you can make instant changes and improve your open rate.

Megan Robinson digs deeper into the subject for us:

Most email service providers have subject line testing already built in and can be one of the best ways to immediately improve your email. A/B Testing is when you send a percentage of your audience 2 different subject lines. After a predetermined time (~4 hours) the subject line that received the highest open rate within the test group will be sent automatically to the remaining audience.

Subject line testing is powerful.

Subject line testing allows for instant optimization, but can also teach a lot about your audience. Try testing with a specific hypothesis in mind. Does your audience like it when you use emojis? Are they more offer- or relationship-focused?”

Email marketing is a journey

Like everything in this digital marketing game, your success rate will be a function of time. No one expects you to hit it right out of the park, right from the start.

Use these foundations as your launchpad, then tap into the experts in this article to learn more and improve your efforts.  Effective emails are all about results — follow these tips, techniques and strategies and you’ll be on your way.

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For the original blog, click here.


Ensure 2018 Measures Up: What to watch, do and look for in your marketing

 

With all the time, energy and money that goes into marketing, it’s critical you know what you are getting out of it. The team at @revenue put together our top tips and notes to ensure your 2018 marketing plan is measuring up.

Social Media

Successful social media is so much more than how many people like or follow you. The success is in building a community who interacts, shares and ultimately, buys. How do you know you're building a community?

  1. Go beyond vanity metrics (page views, number of followers). They may feel great, but the point of social media is to be SOCIAL!
  2. Carve out time in your calendar to engage and connect with those in your community. The more you engage, the more engagement you can expect from them.
  3. Monitor the actions people take on your content and the conversations people are having with you and one another. Leverage free tools like Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Instagram for Business and LinkedIn post analytics to find more meaning in your measurement.

You can't just post articles and content, you have to connect and engage to be the most effective on social media. Connect with Sue Koch to identify the best ways to build your audience, respect your tribe and make sure to have fun with it for your needs!

 

Email

Email metrics are widely available through your email service provider, but there are a couple of key things to keep your eye on. Ensure your email is as effective as possible by measuring, optimizing and improving key elements.

  1. Make sure your emails are getting read by monitoring your open rate. Try testing subject lines and your from line to optimize visibility. It doesn’t hurt to throw in an emoji here and there! ????
  2. Your next level of engagement are your clickers. All of your emails should have very specific calls to action that will engage your audience brings them that much closer to a sale. Be sure to make your email clickable by linking images, headlines and large buttons. The more options they have to click, the more clicks you get.
  3. Less common than clicking, some recipients will actually reply to your marketing email! This is much less frequent than just clicking but provides the highest level of engagement. Be sure to respond quickly and take advantage of the outreach.

You don't need the fanciest, most advanced email servicer to make a big impact in your marketing campaign. Talk with Megan Robinson today to effectively engage, connect, and rank your email list!

 

Search Engine Optimization  

Getting on Google search's first page is the name of the game. We measure SEO success by our keyword rankings (the higher the better), volume of targeted traffic (the more the better), and the number of conversions on the site.  

  1. SEO success is ultimately measured by how well your website ranks for specific keywords. Make sure you are looking for consistent improvement month over month and maintain your position.
  2. Although ranking well is important, we do it to get more website traffic. Be sure to monitor the traffic you receive and the quality of it. Is your bounce rate increasing? Is your time on the site getting shorter? Make sure that the traffic you are getting is of high quality.
  3. We not only want to rank well and get quality traffic to the site, but we also want to make sure that traffic is converting. Whether making a purchase, filling out a contact form or picking up the phone and making a call, visitor conversion is the ultimate goal and indicator of SEO success.

 

Networking

Effective networking is every bit as critical to your success as a solid digital presence. If you are sitting in your office relying solely on your website to fill your pipeline you will have a lot of really good opportunities to organize your office supplies! But how do you quantify effective networking? It takes some elbow grease but when you have an additional 30-50% of your leads coming from the relationships that you've built, you will be singing a different tune!

  1. Identify organizations that cater to your specific verticals or sizes of business. Associations should be a part of your research, not just Chambers of Commerce or high priced networking opportunities.
  2. Try it, track it, change it. You must have a system (CRM, spreadsheet or other) that allows you to track what your investment in the networking is. This includes travel time, time at events, follow up time, etc. Use your hourly rate to calculate your total investment and after 6 months compare that to the anticipated value of leads received. Check this number every six months.
  3. Keep in mind that Strategic Partners (those that can refer you LOTS of business) are often as valuable if not more than just one lead. These are the folks that you build deeper, long-term relationships with, invest your time and track the results. You will get a stronger ROI and create a more significant network than just hoping to get leads from events.

If you aren't tracking your results from networking, you are simply socializing. Make sure that you give your effort the proper value!