Bad Emails Are Worse Than None At All

I run across some bad emails in my inbox, but I have to give people an A for effort, so I have avoided using SMB emails as examples of WHAT NOT TO DO. In this case, the example below was so bad it borders on the “I really don’t care” level, so I decided they wouldn’t really care if I used them as an example (I’m not a complete idiot, so I blurred the logo and name throughout).

I just had to show how 10-15 minutes of some simple layout changes and editing make a HUGE difference in your business image.

See below how even with the same content, simple attention to eye-friendly tools can make all the difference in the chance your email will actually be read AND leave a good impression on your subscribers. At the bottom of this image are tips on what went wrong here…Email Before and After

Please, Please use these guidelines in your emails:

(Note how these guidelines were ignored in the example above)

  • Get AT LEAST ONE other person to proof for spelling and grammar.
  • Headings – A title should look like a title – create space around your title line and use appropriate font/size.
  • Image padding and placement – Use image alignment tools to allow text to wrap to the left or right or simply center your image. Add padding to ensure the image allows white space between the image and text for better viewing and reading.
  • WHITE SPACE in your body of text is imperative. NEVER have more than 2-3 lines in a paragraph. Remember, most people nowadays are reading their inbox on a mobile device. If they have trouble reading, they’ll exit out in a heartbeat.
  • If you use an Image URL instead of a jpg, png, gif, etc., the source for that image might move or be deleted (and you’ll never know when that happens), and as a result, it will also be deleted on your emails since that image lives at that URL. If you prefer using a URL because of storage limitations, use your own web page as a source or a photo storage site like Photobucket to give you complete control.
  • AND if you must copy and paste from a Word or other document, it MUST BE FREE OF FORMATTING. Your email service providers usually have a tool button in the Toolbar to paste from Word format free. You can also use your computer tools like Notepad to paste into first, then copy and paste from Notepad. This will remove all formatting to provide a clean paste.

These are just the basics, but look at the difference when applied…

What type of email would you rather your customers receive?

If you are ready to try email marketing – please click here for a free trial with Constant Contact.

A Cook is to Meals as a Salesperson is to Marketing

When those in marketing create new campaigns, sales personnel are often excluded. The logic behind this silo-ed process is that sales is perceived as not understanding marketing and therefore it is prohibiitve to include the sales department. From my experience, marketing doesn’t often understand sales.

If you are a small business owner, you should keep in mind that marketing efforts are not independent of your on-the-floor operations. Your marketing spend will go further with these important premises in mind:

  • your marketing consultant/agency must understand your business mission and store culture.
  • you must understand the marketing plans presented
  • your staff must understand the execution and strategy behind the marketing plan
  • you must provide easy to use results tracking tools for your staff
  • your staff must report results and customer feedback

I’ve heard the argument – “A good marketing plan doesn’t need sales involvement.”

That is the kind of bullshit rationale that comes from owners/managers who don’t respect their salespeople. (And then wonder why turnover is so high.)

Why must sales be involved in marketing?

Let’s use an analogy. Just as a meal is based on a cook’s skills, marketing success is based on a salesperson’s skills. For example, if you bring food to a cook without information on the desired meal, the cook is forced to focus on logistics rather than skills. S/he has to prioritize a) what the resulting meal is to be, and b) how to go about preparing it. Even then, the resulting meal may not be what was desired.

But, if you were to provide the cook with not only the food, but also the cooking tools, recipe, and clear instructions as to the desired result, not only will the cook prepare exactly what is desired, but will then be better able to focus on adding his/her unique cooking skills to the process for optimal results.

And so it goes with sales…

Using the analogy above, you can see how trying to implement a new marketing campaign with an uninformed, unequipped, and unprepared salesperson will sabotage your marketing goals.

As a small business owner, you have the advantage over large chains. Their corporate offices are distanced from actual business sites and must rely on strict guidelines to achieve minimal success. In a small business environment, one has far more ability to be hands on, communicate deeply to staff, and oversee execution. If you aren’t properly communicating your marketing plans with your sales staff, you cannot reap the benefits you truly seek.

Success vs Failure

Let’s look at two scenarios to illustrate how communication and cooperation between sales and marketing can enhance or sabotage results.

Scenario 1 – Undesirable

A consumer walks into a store anxious to buy your advertised item. but the salesperson approached knows nothing about it. The search for information presents, and the consumer becomes annoyed at the delay and confusion. There is so much effort in the process of determining the sale item and pricing that any opportunity to establish a consumer relathionship is lost on the clarification process. Add-on or ad driven sales strategies and opportunities are lost. There is little room for conversation as to why the consumer wanted the item and a lost chance to determine whether the item truly fit their need. This situation increases the likelihood of a return, and for a lost chance for conversion or multiple sales per transaction since the anxiety around the confusion dominates. It is only a highly experienced salesperson who can segue such confusion into a new start with a consumer in this situation.

Scenario 2 – Desirable

A consumer walks into a store anxious to buy your advertised item. The salesperson has full knowledge of the campaign because s/he has attended a meeting (or was otherwise fully informed) as to the marketing campaign strategy for increased sales and customer relationship building from said campaign. The salesperson confidently guides the relaxed consumer to the product area while procuring information to help cement the sale, present an opportunity for a more appropriate item, or even launch an upsell. A relationship is created with the consumer enhancing repeat/referral business potential. Results are documented for future marketing efforts to build upon. Palpable information is procured for an understanding as to whether the marketing campaign was a strategic win or simply incidental.

How will you execute your next marketing campaign?

14 Reasons Social Media Marketing Beats Traditional Marketing

Traditional Marketing vs Social Media MarketingHe who refuses to learn deserves extinction. Rabbi Hillel

The conversation with those not engaged in Social Media is often limited to their perceptions… I’ve tried to condense the most common misperceptions through these comparisons.

  1. Traditional Marketing tells us how we should feel about product.
    Social Media Marketing tells others how we really do feel about product.
  2. Traditional Marketing interrupts our leisure time by forcing product messages upon us.
    Social Media Marketing leads us to company pages we can invite into our streams to browse at our leisure.
  3. Traditional Marketing deals with the familiar to spread the word generically.
    Social Media Marketing looks for the unfamiliar to spread the word virally.
  4. Traditional Marketing spreads a message to the masses in hopes of attracting a few loyal followers.
    Social Media Marketing spreads a message to a few loyal followers to attract the masses. 
  5. Traditional Marketing tells consumers what they may want.
    Social Media Marketing gives access to what we do want.
  6. Traditional Marketing messages have no direct accountability.
    Social Media Marketing publicizes accountability through viral messaging.
  7. Traditional Marketing uses long-term strategies developed through a fixed schedule of exposure.
    Social Media Marketing follows direct emotion, passion, and curiosities of the moment.
  8. Traditional Marketing messaging is for short-term profit.
    Social Media Marketing messaging is for long-term connection.
  9. Traditional Marketing asks questions and uses research to determine reaction.
    Social Media Marketing answers questions and uses instinct to create reaction.
  10. Traditional Marketing creates artificial messaging based on external research.
    Social Media Marketing spreads authentic messaging from internal reaction.
  11. Traditional Marketing helps products become successful regardless of quality.
    Social Media Marketing helps quality products get discovered and expose poor products.
  12. Traditional Marketing messaging can be stagnant or ineffective by the time they surface.
    Social Media Marketing messaging is ever evolving and always present.
  13. Traditional Marketing follows a predetermined path on a predetermined schedule.
    Social Media Marketing explores a multitude of highways on an ongoing basis.
  14. Traditional Marketing controls response to product via marketing professionals and accountants.
    Social Media Marketing controls product response via actual consumer word of mouth.

Agree? Disagree?

Boomer SMB Owners Tell Me S/He Can’t Do Social Media…

MS-DOS Command line
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-DOS

Nothing, and I mean nothing, including social media, is as hard to master as MS-DOS was. . .

Since my business demographic is primarily boomers, I know better. I’m a boomer, too. And I know full well that we boomers had to conquer and endure the pioneering stages of modern technology. Nothing, and I mean nothing, today is as hard to master as MS-DOS was. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials don’t have a clue what a nightmare it was to work on a black screen with green letters and no graphics, no mouse. They never had to learn commands or have ever seen “A:” , or had to save content on multiple floppy disks, and most never sat in front of a v e r y  s l o w CRT that emitted unhealthy rays!

So, Back to the Boomers

So when these boomers who cut their computer teeth on difficult, dinosaur technology are telling me that social media is just too hard to take the time to learn  – –  sorry, but I’m not biting!

What I think happened to these otherwise savvy entrepreneurs, is when they began their businesses, technology was in an ever-changing mode. Obsolescence was the norm, and many were hesitant to invest in expensive technology that would most likely be outdated before it collected dust. Starting a new business means watching every nickel; technology avoidance and frugality became almost a badge of honor.

Culture Shock

Then, before these entrepreneurs knew what hit them, all of a sudden they were far, far behind others who had the time to keep up. In addition, any technology to be learned had to center around POS and bookkeeping. The learning curve on those was a bit time-consuming for owners, not to mention the time required to train staff. Who had time to jump into the social media craze while trying to run a business?

But now – da-da-DUM – there is no escaping social media for small business marketing. While it, too, experienced its versions of continuous obsolescence, social media has settled in as the most viable and affordable marketing vehicle for SMBs.

What I am finding is the biggest obstacle to success in social media, is that most successful entrepreneurs are classic introverts, even hermits. They live, eat, drink, and breathe their business to the point of no social life, but they like that! So of course they feel awkward trying to enter a SOCIAL medium that expects casual interaction.

So, yes, it is good to hire help, but it is also good to use that help to learn social media. WHY? Because social media is not successful unless the fans get to see what goes on behind the front doors. And if you don’t provide behind the scenes material (content, images, customer testimonials, etc.), then you are simply keeping a social media account alive with memes, quotes, product images – yawn……..

My best social media analogy?

Think of how many times you have driven by a small business and felt a tinge of apprehension about pulling in and checking it out. Why?

Because we don’t like to explore the unknown, especially when it has potential to waste our valuable time or money. Your social media fans are no different. They want some behind the scenes peeks at who you are, what you do, why you sell what you sell, what makes you different, and how will it FEEL to shop or do business with you!

Damn, you don’t have to marry these fans! Just like your customers, people just need to get to know each other! And that’s why social media works for those who do make the effort to put themselves out there for fans! Does that make sense?!

You’re Not from Around Here, Are You? Social Etiquette or Regional Bias?

Meme - Don't take offense if I call you Ma'am

There is a trend in Social Media that kind of pisses me off. I’m wondering if it pisses you off, too.

Lots of memes are dictating REGIONAL social etiquette (see image). WHY is that? Social Media lives online – a.k.a. WORLDWIDE!

The uppity tone is giving me agida. It is as if you are “less than” if you don’t use their regional vernacular. So here’s my rant.

What’s disrespectful in one region may be normal in another.

I grew up in Tampa, Florida and was taught to use Mr., Mrs., and Miss as respectful titles, and not ma’am or sir. My dad was Air Force and the only sirs and ma’ams I knew were in uniform. If you were close to a friend of the family or neighbors, you respectfully added an Aunt or Uncle to their first name. It wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta when I was in my late 20s that I learned of the ma’am and sir protocol. Yes, I had heard this practice on TV, like on the Andy Griffith Show, but I had never experienced it in my places of residence – until I moved to Atlanta.

Yes, it made me feel old to be called Ma’am.

I was only 27 when I moved to Atlanta.  And after decades here, it is still hard to hear someone call me ma’am. I didn’t raise my son with that practice because it is still foreign in its feeling to me. I am sure that is my military family history at fault for my discomfort, but to hear a little child say, “Yes, Sir” to an elder just seems strict and unnatural to me.  But, that’s me and my upbringing. But you won’t see me making a meme about that!

In business, too?

Another difficult adjustment in Atlanta was the custom of holding the first 2-5 minutes of business conversation focused on social exchange. How’s your spouse, is Johnny enjoying his new school, heard you went to Hilton Head… etc… So, I had to learn this practice or run the risk of alienating southern business associates. Big adjustment for me as, in Florida, we practiced simple greetings, then on to business as, in that region, it was considered rude to waste another business person’s valuable time with what we considered time-wasting chatter. Again, regional differences…

Yes, I understand the desire to maintain one’s cultural differences. BUT, in today’s mobile society, let’s consider that perhaps it is disrespectful to expect a newcomer to assimilate so quickly and additionally, chastise them for it. The average home sale frequency is every 4-7 years as opposed to the old days when one lived most of one’s life in one place, so life is not the same as the slow, old days.

SOCIAL MEDIA lives everywhere – and behavior can’t be observed as mutually exclusive to your cultural region.

The only cultural differences in Social Media are in the different platforms – LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. and that difference is a matter of tone, not language. Social Media has brought the world closer together in a shorter time than any time in history. Why would you try to enforce a cultural divide online?

So . . . Don’t take offense if I DON’T call you Ma’am or Sir, and I won’t take offense when you DO.

Thanks for listening!

Note: I just got a tweet from @supplies3D recommending I include N. Florida in the “Southern” way. He’s right. From Central Florida to South Florida you have mostly Northern U.S. transplants and their influence is deeply set. North Florida is very much like the old south.

 

Email Marketing Width and Formatting Issues in Outlook

[This post applies to Constant Contact eMail Templates]

Constant Contact   Emails   Customize Your Campaign.jpegIn a community forum for Constant Contact users, a question about issues regarding the appearance of emails when opened in Microsoft Outlook. Outlook is a strange little animal that taunts and teases you with seemingly arbitrary changes in email appearance of text, blank spaces, and more. Here is the advice I gave and maybe it may help you no matter what email service provider you use.

In a nutshell, you can’t change how Outlook displays your emails, but you can change how you do your email to make it appear more like you want it in Outlook or any other email server.

What you should concern yourself with, first and foremost, is how does your email appear on mobile devices? The numbers are growing exponentially of email recipients using mobile devices (SmartPhones, Tablets, etc.) to open their emails. And, if you use a mobile-friendly template, you will also find many of your Outlook issues will minimize as well.

Image padding can also be an issue in creating blank spaces that didn’t appear on your preview. Rest on your image, click on the gear and choose padding/decrease. You may have to do this several times. Or you could resize the image to push the text where you prefer.

Another quick tip to eliminate blank spaces is to use more blocks. Place an image and text in separate blocks one over the other and you won’t have to worry where the text will land in reference to the image. You can use as many blocks as you wish and the recipient can’t tell the difference.

I guarantee you will begin to have a new perspective on your final outcome when you are vigilant in testing previews on your mobile devices. I can’t stress enough how importance mobile appearance is.

Also, with more and more emails read on mobile, not everyone is displaying their images, so your open rate may decline. Browsers do not register an opened email unless the recipient opts to display images.

I recognize that you cannot switch templates and expect the content to carry over. So in the interest of speed, you can stick to adjusting the padding, creating more blocks to separate content for more control (easy to do by copying the blocks and deleting text from one and image from the other), and checking the results. Tedious, but once you do it, you’ll learn what to avoid in the future.

On the text size issue, that is most likely you trying to change the size without changing the chosen font style. You can make a change stick by choosing “colors and fonts” (see image at top) instead of one of your preset font styles (like main text, title, etc).

It’s a battle no matter what since people use different browsers, have different size monitors,devices, etc… but you can get closer to uniformity with these tips.

Here’s a screenshot of how to find mobile friendly templates. The option does not appear unless you click show more.

Constant Contact   Emails   Template Selection.jpeg

If You Can Sell, You Can Market.-

What does customer service have to do with marketing?

Customer satisfaction is the basis of marketingJust everything!

Traditional marketing ads get your attention how?

      • Good advertising addresses a need.
      • Good advertising peaks curiosity.
      • Good advertising elicits an emotional response.

So, what is marketing, really?

Experts must talk about stats, but all will admit it is impossible to accurately measure the effectiveness of a highway billboard. Unfortunately for the statisticians, social media marketing is akin to billboard advertising. While posts do have a calculated “lifetime” of visibility, it’s still a matter of catching the eye of whoever sees the post at whatever time they happen to “drive” by your message.

Marketing is no mystery

Marketing is not some mysterious phenomenon understood only by marketers. Marketing professionals are just like you. They eat, drink and breathe customer behavior – for the same reasons as you – to successfully sell product. So… Marketing is “selling, ” just from a different approach. Strategize via your methods of enticing and catering to your customers needs, and you will soon “get” at least the basics of marketing.

Who is your best salesperson and why?

Whether it’s your ace hire, or yourself, recognize selling stems from the ability to satisfy customer needs. That IS the bottom line of customer service and subsequent business success. It’s about meeting the right needs to ensure there is no buyer’s remorse. Reflect this approach in all your marketing content – traditional or social media.

What you need to learn about marketing is what you mostly already know.