Caffeinated ideas and views on marketing communications

Email marketing

Legit or spam?

Not a week goes by that I don’t get several unsolicited emails from people/businesses who think I need financing, or a direct marketing list, or help with my website, or (just got this today)think I may want voice over talent (!).  Almost all these emails are personalized to me, or at least to my website (as in “Dear Deborahbrody.com”). Some get my name from my website (presumably after doing a search) and some from LinkedIn.  Others, I don’t have the foggiest idea of where or how they found me (or even why they are contacting me). Very few seem to know much about my business, and none are companies I have done business with in the past. In short, lots of businesses reach out via email to try to drum up sales or generate cash.

Is it legit, is it spam, or is it a scam?

But how many of these are legit, and how many are scammers/spammers? Where do we draw the line between an honest attempt to generate a lead based on internet research, and spam?  There are probably a few indicators of spam/scams:

1) Using the same pitch over and over and over, sometimes from different names within the “company.” In other words, more than one inquiry.

2) Adding, without permission, your name to an email marketing list, and putting the onus on you to unsubscribe (this is a direct violation of the CAN-SPAM rules and can/should be reported as such).

3) A sketchy sounding proposition (financing with no credit check, for example).

Is this company a legit spammer?

For the past several weeks, I have been getting emails from something called Imparture about social media marketing classes in Washington, DC.  I was getting about three emails a week, every week. They all had the unsubscribe feature, and finally, this week, I unsubscribed (not that I had subscribed in the first place). Then yesterday, I got a personalized email from “Elliot.:  Here it is:

Hi Deborah,

Did you get a chance to consider my last email?

Check out our upcoming Google Analytics training course taking place in Washington DC.

There are only a few spots left so sign up if you are interested.

All the best,

Elliot Jay
Client Relationship Manager
Imparture
London / New York / San Francisco

Now, I don’t know Elliot, and as I said, I had already unsubscribed from these emails. I wrote him and told him I would be reporting him for spam. Then, today, I got this email from “Noah”:

Hi Deborah,

I came across your profile and saw that your skill set contains Social Media Marketing, and wanted to reach out with an opportunity.

We have only a few spots remaining in our upcoming Social Media Marketing Immersive course in Washington DC.

This course will give you an advanced level of understanding regarding Social Media Marketing, and add significant value to your skillset – might this be something of interest?

You can find out more about the course, as well as sign up, here.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions.

 

All the best,

Noah Kelsey
Client Relationship Manager
Imparture

London / New York / San Francisco

I looked up Imparture and the company does have a website, a LinkedIn profile, and even a Twitter account (with only 500 or so followers), which look legit enough. On the other hand, I did find a review stating that the company had scheduled a class, cancelled it, and didn’t issue refunds (sketchy!).

This company may indeed be legitimate (albeit with questionable customer service), but its marketing practices are definitely spammy. As I said before, I have never signed up for a class or to get these emails. And I have “unsubscribed” and have since gotten two more emails. Any legitimate marketing effort would ask for permission to add you to a list, and would respect an unsubscribe request. This company has failed on both ends. It added me to an email list without my express consent (and again, I am not sure where/how they got my email address), and it has ignored my unsubscribe request, twice so far.

Do not be a spammer!

If you are a legitimate business, do not follow the scammer’s playbook. Sending unsolicited mail is against CAN-SPAM rules. Want to learn more? Check out the FTC’s  CAN-SPAM Act: A compliance guide for business.

Have you had a similar experience? What is your take on the legit versus spam discussion?

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

2 big digital marketing mistakes with easy fixes

It happened at least twice this week (and it’s only Thursday of a short work week): I came across two different digital marketing mistakes. One involves email marketing and the other involves content marketing. And I see different organizations making the same mistakes every single week.

These two digital marketing mistakes are common, and yet easily fixable. Take the time to make these fixes today, and I can promise you almost instant results.

Big digital marketing mistake #1: Sending an all-image/graphics email

Even though email marketing is one of the oldest and most useful forms of digital marketing, there are still lots of organizations that make the mistake of sending out emails that are completely image/graphics-based. I just got one last night. It was made up of several images that provided information about promotions at different locations. And I couldn’t see any of the information.

The big problem with these emails is that in most email clients (Outlook, Gmail, etc.)  you have to download images in order to see them. So, if your email is made up exclusively of images, your recipients will not see anything unless they specifically click on “download images.”  And unless your email subject line is extremely compelling and/or descriptive, your recipients may not take that extra step, and your email marketing campaign will be a waste.

Easy fix: Use images in email sparingly, and make sure the important information (i.e., dates, costs, location, etc.) is text-based.

Big digital marketing mistake #2: Not having a sharing mechanism on your content

Just this week, a lawyer I know shared a link to a blog post his firm created regarding GDPR (the new European data regulation that went into effect on May 25). I checked it out, and thought it would be useful to my network, but when I went to share it, I found that there were no sharing buttons of any type. In 2018, more than ten years into Facebook and Twitter, and 15 years into LinkedIn, there is simply no excuse for not having sharing buttons. Sharing buttons allow your readers to easily share  your content to their preferred social media network (mine are at the very bottom of this post if you’d like to share this content).

Social sharing is key to content marketing because it amplifies the reach of your blog post or article or microsite.

Easy fix: Add sharing buttons to your blog and to any other page on your website that a reader may want to share (for example, your contact page). There are many different plug-ins available to do this work for you (ShareThis, AddThis, etc.). You can also read Hubspots’s useful cheat sheet: How to Create Social Media Buttons for All the Top Social Networks. Or simply search “social sharing buttons.”


Have you seen these digital marketing mistakes? Are you making these digital marketing mistakes? I am interested in your experiences. Please comment to let me know.

 

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

You do know you can segment your mailing list, right?

Today, I got an email about a six-week communications leadership seminar. It sounds interesting, except it takes place in Chicago and I live near Washington, D.C. The target audience for this seminar is business professionals who live in the greater Chicago are yet this email was probably sent to the whole list.

Email marketing is great because it is relatively inexpensive, and because it is highly customizable. Say you are a retailer with stores across the country. You could send emails to your customers in specific locations announcing the opening of a new store or a change in hours, or perhaps a change in location.

In other words, with email marketing you can send targeted email messages that are relevant to their recipients at a relatively low cost.

Yet the email I received about the Chicago seminar is not relevant. It is just clutter in my inbox. Why did I get this email? I’d venture to say it is because the list owner did not either a) segment the list, or b) gather enough information from the recipients to allow for segmentation, or c) both.

Most email marketing programs allow for list segmentation. If you are marketing to a diverse audience, you will have to gather some relevant information to be able to segment your list or to be able to personalize it. If you don’t gather information that will allow segmentation and/or you have an email provider that doesn’t allow for segmentation, you need to make some changes ASAP. That is, unless you are trying to get your email deleted or generate a few unsubscribes.

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

How to run your organization into oblivion

About a decade ago, I was on the board of a small nonprofit that provided educational programming. I lasted all of a few months since I was fighting a losing battle with the other board members and a spectacularly uninformed (and very young) executive director.

This nonprofit had very little money but insisted on a color brochure printed on heavy paper, listing their courses. The ED would then mail it first class (read, the expensive way) because it would take too long to prepare it for the cheaper, bulk/nonprofit rate.

Among the things I suggested was to print the brochure on cheaper paper (like newsprint), use the bulk rate, and to consider going all electronic instead. All these ideas were dismissed. One board member thought it was crucial to print the brochure on good paper because it made it seem more serious (?). The ED was balking at using the bulk rate because it meant pre-sorting the brochure. And another board member said that many people wanted the printed brochure and would never abide an electronic format.

Like I said, it was a losing battle and I believe that there’s no sense in discussing change with people who don’t want to change.

Here we are a good ten years later, and I just got their latest brochure. Yes, I am still on the mailing list even though I have not signed up for a class or donated any money or shown any interest whatsoever. It is still printed on heavy paper, and has full color (which adds to the expense). They are now using the nonprofit/bulk rate. When you use use the bulk rate, you have to be aware that delivery will take longer than using first class postage. Apparently, it is not something that this nonprofit understands. I got the brochure yesterday (May 10). The front cover has a banner telling me spring classes begin on April 26, 2017.

This nonprofit continues to print an expensive brochure. However, it doesn’t print it out with enough lead time to be able to overcome the slower bulk delivery rate. In effect, this is a complete waste. If you are using a brochure as your only means to communicate your offering, then it better be timely.

And, it seems this organization does not review its database. It continues sending out brochures to people that have not indicated any interest in years. Of course, this adds to the cost of the printing and mailing.

Can you imagine if they had provided this brochure electronically? They would be able to send it out at precisely the right time. They would be able to gauge interest from the open and click rates. They would be able to scrub their lists of any bad addresses. They would increase their reach through the ability to share online. But why change?

Here’s how you run your organization to the ground: you waste your precious resources and keep doing it until you have nothing left. You keep doing things the way you always have even though it has never been cost-effective.  You don’t adapt.

Sigh.

 

 

 

 

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

5 Email Marketing Mistakes You Need To Fix Right Now

Email marketing is still an incredibly effective marketing tool, if you are doing it correctly. Sadly, that’s a big if. Often, marketers make the following five mistakes. Are you?

Here are five email marketing mistakes that may be affecting your campaign’s performance.

1. Not getting permission

Are you sending out your email marketing that haven’t signed up for it? Then not only are you making a crucial mistake, you are also running afoul of the CAN-SPAM law.  This is huge mistake that you must stop right away.

2. Sending image-only emails

Did you know that Outlook and many other email programs do not show images until the use authorizes their download? This means that if your email is all images, and no plain text, your recipients will not see anything except a bunch of red xes. Don’t make your recipients work so hard! Send both text and images.

3. Sending too frequently or too many emails

When people sign up for your email marketing, they are indicating interest in getting information from you. However, they are not indicating they want their email box to be flooded with your stuff. And yet, some marketing feel that reach is not enough to cut through the clutter, and frequency is needed. Excessive frequency will not cut through the clutter, instead it may get you cut off entirely.

 4. Not checking your analytics

How many people open your emails? How many click on links? How many bounces are you getting? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you aren’t checking your analytics. You are missing out on valuable information that can help guide your future email marketing efforts.

5. Not cleaning up your list

Periodically, you should go through your list. You should pay special attention to recipients that are not opening your email. If they’ve been on your list for a long time, keeping them on does not improve your email marketing. You could try sending them an email asking them if they wish to remain on your list or whether there is information that they need from you and aren’t getting. If you get no response, then delete them from your list. Getting rid of these users will actually help increase your open rate.

How many of these email marketing mistakes are you committing? Which mistakes would you add?

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

Use email, don’t abuse it

If you’re like me, you’ve been bombarded by email for the past several days. First, it was all about Black Friday deals. Then it was the Cyber Monday deals. And today, it’s about Giving Tuesday.

Now, I am not against getting deals or giving to good causes. And I think using email marketing is very effective given that people generally opt-in, and are willing to receive your stuff.

But I am against email marketing abuse.

Because it’s an absolute abuse of your list to send too many emails in too short a time span. It overwhelms people.

 

Enough said.

The bottom line with abusing your email marketing privileges is that it will be counterproductive. Too much email (especially from the same sender) makes people hit delete. And some may even unsubscribe.

Use email wisely. Don’t abuse it or your list’s good faith.

 

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

Always start with the reader in mind

 

Photo by Kaboompics.com
Photo by Kaboompics.com

It seems obvious that you should always write your marketing and communications materials with your readers in mind. After all, if you are trying to communicate with them, you have to understand what they need to know.

And yet, how many times have you received a letter that doesn’t say anything? Or an email that lacks crucial information? How many times have you had to call up a company because you didn’t understand something it sent you? I bet you’ve had many a moment like this, which left you frustrated.

Missing information

I had such a moment last week. I had signed up for an editing workshop from the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) being given on November 5 in Washington, DC.  Here’s the email I received a few days before the event (note that I blocked out the names of presenters and a phone number for privacy):

This message is to confirm that you are registered for the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) Boot Camp from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 5, at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The workshop will take place in the Funger Hall auditorium, room 103, located on the Foggy Bottom campus.

Lunch will be provided by the local chapter of ACES.

Presenters XX, XX and XX look forward to welcoming you on Saturday.

If you have any questions or find yourself lost on Nov. 5, please feel free to call 571-xxx-xxxx for assistance.

Notice anything missing from this email? How about the address for the building? Or how about directions and parking information (or links to those)? How about an agenda and/or schedule for the day? Is there any information about what you need to bring with you?

Trying again

The next day, ACES sent another email, regarding parking information. It is basically the same email as before, except for the addition of parking and Metro information, which I bolded for you to see more clearly.

We look forward to seeing you at the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) Boot Camp from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The workshop will take place in the Funger Hall auditorium, room 103, located on the Foggy Bottom campus.

Lunch will be provided by the local chapter of ACES.

Parking

The closest garage to Funger Hall is the University Parking Garage/G Street Garage, located at 2028 G Street, NW Washington, DC 20052. There is access from both 20th Street and 21st Street between F and G Streets. The self-service garage is open 24/7, accepting MasterCard, Visa and American Express for payments (no cash). The full day rate is $12.

The closest Metro stop is Foggy Bottom-GWU, with service on the  Blue, Orange and Silver lines.

If you find yourself lost on Nov. 5, please feel free to call 571-XXX-XXXX for assistance.

This attempt was a better than the prior email, but still, no address for Funger Hall. It’s as if ACES thinks that everyone is intimately familiar with GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus. For those of you who aren’t in the DC area, GW’s campus is a city campus. Buildings have street addresses–they are not in quads as in traditional colleges.

I looked up Funger Hall on Google, but  I forgot to note the address, and when I got to the parking garage on Saturday, I didn’t know where to go. I looked it up on my phone and the address I got did not correspond to the building. I called the number on the email, but there was no response.  I was able to get directions from a student I saw on the street, and I then got to the workshop several minutes late.

How helpful are you being to your reader?

If ACES had started with the reader’s needs in mind when writing this email, it would have realized that providing an address and links to maps and directions would have helped recipients of this email.

It’s about the 5 Ws

When you write a press release, you should think like a journalist and answer the five Ws: what, why, where, who and when. You should also answer the how.  This advice is also applicable to most any communications material you create.

If you need help creating effective communications materials, contact me!

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

How to undermine your credibility

An important message for Deborah

That was the exact subject line of an email I got this morning from AT&T.

Since I have my cell phone service through AT&T, and the email clearly was designed to sound official, and I thought it was service-related news about my usage or bill. But no, it wasn’t about my cell phone service at all. Instead, the email was an advertisement for a “flash sale” on AT&T’s home security services.

Let’s review: A company with which I have an established (and may I add, quite long) customer relationship sends me an email that claims it’s important. The subject line is personalized, but the purpose of the email is to sell me other, unrelated services.

A case of misdirection

In other words, the subject line of this email was misleading. The email was neither important nor specifically for me. It was a promotion that required a subject line that would hook me into opening it.

Entering the realm of unintended consequences

Today’s misleading email from AT&T had two unintended consequences:

  • it eroded my trust in AT&T, undermining the company’s credibility
  • it caused me to unsubscribe from their promotional emails (all of them)

Raise interest but not at the expense of your credibility

Yes, companies and organizations need to have email subject lines that will raise interest and make people open the email. That’s the purpose of email marketing after all. But when the subject lines are misleading–designed specifically as click-bait–the organization’s credibility takes a hit. No longer will readers believe emails with words such as important, or urgent. Down the road, this can have negative consequences.

Bottom line

Cultivate your credibility, even at the expense of potential sales. Once you’ve destroyed your credibility, you will have a very hard time getting it back.

 

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

It’s not always about the money (customer feedback part 1)

Going by the emails I receive, some companies think that I don’t do business with them solely because I can’t afford to.

money-9-1238441-1279x850Every few weeks, a yoga studio I used to attend until my favorite teacher left sends me a dollars-off promotion. Come back, they say, here’s an $8 discount.

Then there’s the company that is always sending me discounts for handyman services.

 

And there’s a cosmetics company that sends emails telling me how I can get a free something or other with purchase (Only today! Only friends and family!).

It’s not about money.

None of these companies has any idea why I am not a return customer. They’ve never asked me, but I’ll tell you my reasons.

I haven’t been back to the yoga studio because I don’t like the teacher that is currently teaching during the time slot that is convenient for me. Additionally, I hurt my shoulder and I can’t do yoga right now.

I haven’t used the handyman company because I don’t have a current need. That’s not to say I won’t in the future, but there’s nothing (knocking on wood here) that needs fixing right now.

The cosmetics company just yesterday was offering me a free lash-extender mascara. I wear contact lenses and I never use mascaras that extend because it bothers my eyes, so even a free mascara is not an enticement.

But at least they are tracking.

To their credit, these companies have noticed that I haven’t been a customer for a while and they want me back. But they err in thinking that doing business is simply about money.

Here’s the thing: Getting customers back is not as easy as offering a discount or a gift with purchase. You have to understand what motivates your customer.

The decision to buy something or do business with a company is often about more than just price. There are other factors, both tangible (e.g., need, convenience, timing) and intangible (e.g., trust, satisfaction, appreciation) that affect whether you shop somewhere or buy a certain product.

Sometimes, you have to ask.

If you’ve lost business or aren’t getting repeat business, you have to ask why. Don’t assume that everything can be fixed with a dollars-off promotion. Companies are collecting emails to do marketing or to send reminders. Well, they can also send a survey or even a personalized email.

Imagine how much more effective it would be if the yoga studio owner sent me an email saying she’s noticed I haven’t been there in several months and she’d like to know if I am still living in town or doing yoga.

How do you track your clients or customers? How do you entice them to come back? Let me know what works for you in the comments.

 

 

 

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

Do this one thing!

You have to do PR if you want to get new clients!

You have to have an optimized website if you want to get new customers!

number 1 by Jon Jordan on Flickr
number 1 by Jon Jordan on Flickr

You have to do content marketing if you want to get new leads!

And most recently,

You have to try Periscope to get some exposure!


 

In the new world of marketing communications, there is a growing array of standard and innovative possibilities for getting the word out about your business.

From the pre-Internet era we have good old advertising/public relations/marketing, including the use of print materials, broadcast, outdoor, direct mail, etc.

From the Internet-era, we have websites and email marketing.

From the social media-era, we have content marketing, and a seemingly endless stream of networks (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and so forth) and video in short format (Vine) and in long format (Periscope). And I am sure as I write this, something else is bubbling up to capture our short-attention span.

Here’s the thing: all of these work. They work differently, with different audiences and with different levels of “engagement.”  But the uncomfortable truth is that no one thing will get you leads/customers.

Back in the old days, we had a concept called “integrated marketing communications.” It posited that in order to be successful, you had to use a variety of marcomm tools and make sure they were playing nice with each other.  For example, if you were using sponsorship and public relations, the PR folks would know what you were sponsoring and the sponsorship folks might in turn get a bit of PR for the sponsorship. You know, everybody working together toward a common goal.

Now it seems that people want a shortcut. They want to try the one thing that will “guarantee” results. Everybody seems to be lurching from one platform to the next, one tactic to another.

If you want to achieve results from your marketing communications efforts you are going to have to stop being tactical and start being strategic. Stop thinking in terms of doing one thing to get audiences interested today and start thinking in terms of objectives and actions you want from said audience.

You can’t do just one thing.


 

If you need help figuring out what your communications efforts should be, contact me today! Let’s talk.

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

image_pdfimage_print

Contact us today to learn how to improve your marketing and communications.