You’ve Got Mail (Again): Pro’s and Con’s of Increasing Mailing Frequency

In Email Marketing, achieving optimal mailing frequency is a hot topic. On the one hand, sending emails more often can increase up-selling and cross-selling of products and strengthen customer relationships. On the other hand, companies are likely to experience negative customer reactions and lose their customer base, especially if the increase in frequency was too rapid.

In this article, I will discuss what side effects increasing of mailing frequency may have. In the second part of the discussion, I will outline some examples where sending mailings more often will likely bring positive results.

Negative consequences of increasing mailing frequency

  • Increase of spam complaints. This negative effect is most likely caused by how the emails are designed, e.g. the unsubscribe link was not visible, subjects of the emails were similar or the same, etc. It is best to consider email design and regulation compliance first thing before setting up any email campaign.
  • Increase of unsubscribe rate. Customers who receive irrelevant or useless emails tend to unsubscribe. Thus, before increasing the mailing frequency, make sure that more emails mean more added value to the customer. In addition, segmenting your list and approaching each segment with customized offers will increase your chances of success.
  • Increase in bounce rate. The increase in bounces is probably due to poor revision of the mailing list in-between mailings. Ideally, mailing lists should be processed and hard bounces removed after each mailing. In case of repeated soft bounces, these must be removed as well.
  • Increase in costs. If the performance of additional email campaigns is poor, the cost factor plays a significant role. However, if you optimize the campaigns, it will keep constant or even improve the mailing performance when increasing mailing volume. Ideally, this should cause the cost-per-email to drop.

When raising mailing frequency is recommendable

  • You send the emails too seldom (e.g. less than monthly)
  • You sell a product that needs to be replenished or often replaced (e.g. food items)
  • You send mailings to heavy users and brand advocates
  • You send mailings to new users to take advantage of the recency factor (e.g. send mailings frequently within the first month of acquiring a new user)
  • You send promotional mailings for a certain period to latent users in order to activate them
  • You want to inform your customers more often (e.g. you often get new products in stock)
  • The character of your mailings is not strictly commercial, e.g. you offer interesting content
  • You have a special mailing campaign requiring high frequency (e.g. an Advent Calendar campaign)
  • Users actually chose to receive frequent emails (i.e. you offered them a choice of different email frequencies when they were subscribing)

How often you should contact your customers depends on a number of factors, such as the industry, the product, the customers, the sales funnel, etc.  The solution is probably to experiment with optimal mailing frequency by increasing it slightly over a longer period of time. Also, in this case, monitoring and adjusting campaigns accordingly is essential.

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Branding in E-Commerce: What to Consider

In one of my older posts I have already touched upon branding. This post will be based on the discussions in the e-commerce forum I recently attended and will cover examples of building up a brand in e-commerce.

Why is brand-building so important, especially in e-commerce?

  • For the company, a brand helps to differentiate its products from competitors and achieve a higher profit margin;
  • Branding is also orientation help for marketing and other departments, as it defines how the company wants to communicate itself internally and externally;
  • For the customer, branding makes choosing among a number of products easier and serves as a warranty of the quality associated with the brand.

As I had discussed before, a brand includes both “tangible” qualities such as logo, colors, design, etc. and “intangibles”, such as emotions and motives associated with the brand. Those motives play an extremely important role, as the majority of buying decisions are made on a subconscious level.

Two companies were invited to speak about how they built up their brand:  Haix (functional footwear) and Chrono24 (an online marketplace for watches).

In case of Haix, the following steps were taken to build up their brand:

  • Extensive market research to define the present (professionals) and the target (leisure) segments for their shoes;
  • Creating the main theme around the brand (thrill & adventure) and centering all communication around it;
  • Reaching out to consumers directly using branded shops;
  • Engaging in event marketing and social media marketing to establish a closer contact to the target customer.

Chrono24 uses a slightly different strategy:

  • Defining their brand archetype as “magician”- innovative and fulfilling wishes;
  • Developing the brand inside the company by educating employees about the brand;
  • Improving customer experience in line with the chosen brand-building strategy.
Archetypes-chart-poissy
Brand archetypes (Source: http://brandstradigi.com/)

 

However, as both speakers concluded, some of the most important things to consider in brand-building are: orientation towards the target segment, open dialog with the customer and consistency in the branding strategy.

 

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Don’t Dive Off the Shallow End: 7 Rules for Web Content Creation

7 rules to help making content creation within an organisation easier. Includes content framework and other advice.

Content Marketing is one of the biggest trends now. However, as with many fast-developing Internet trends (SEO or Social Media in the past), there is an urge to do something but little understanding of how it has to be done.

7 Rules for Web Content Creation

 

In this article I want to share 7 basic time-saving rules for crafting Web content.

1. Have a concept

Consider creating a content framework where you define your cornerstones:

  • Who are the readers of the content? What motivates them?
  • At what stage of the buying process are the readers?  How high is their level of awareness of the subject on which you are writing ?
  • What do you want to achieve by creating the content? Look at this from several angles: the customer (information needs), the company (e.g. customer retention), and additional benefits (e.g. SEO).
  • How would that content fit in the overall company strategy and the current marketing campaign?
  • Which format is the most appropriate? Do not just think in terms of blog posts: white papers, infographics, press releases, tweets, online tests, presentations — these are all valid and working formats of online content.

2. Have a plan

If you are writing within an organization, treat your content creation process like any other project. Define the roles, the responsibilities and the deadlines. Think about the stages the project will go through (briefing, planning, first draft, correction, second draft, etc), and how different roles are involved at each stage. Do not forget about the documentation of the process: either use a project management tool you have, or place your project schedule on a shared resource, Intranet or cloud-based.

3. Have a structure

This might remind you of the school times, but do create a detailed plan of what you want to write about. If there is limited space (e.g. on an infographic), note down the required length of text blocks.

If you are writing a white paper or a blog article, decide in how many smaller parts you will divide it and how to structure them. Generally, consistency is the keyword. The paragraph headings should be of the same format and the text parts of the same length.

Do not forget about the main idea that holds all of your text bits together and contributes to the strength of your argument. And even though users online are said to read diagonally, introduction and conclusion (or summary) are still the important parts of any text.

4. Be brief

“People online do not read”. It is, of course, an exaggeration, but keep it in mind when starting a writing task. What does it imply?

  • Add visuals and make your content as appealing as possible (use colors and highlighters where appropriate, but do not overdo).
  • Make sure your paragraphs and sentences are short and easily digestible. Use bullet lists to present a series of arguments.
  • Use paragraph headings as pivot points to keep the user reading by arousing his or her interest in what comes next.
  • Within your text, avoid unnecessary padding such as filler phrases and redundancies. In short, if you can say the same thing with fewer words, go for it.

5. Be precise

Because of the usual practice of skimming through Web pages, the information is often misinterpreted or badly understood. Highlight the most important points through moderate repetition and rewording. You may use the writing formula: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell it to them, and then tell them what you have just told them” for delivering your main message. Having a consistent structure and writing correctly will also help to improve the preciseness of your expression.

6. Be correct

Even though the Internet seems to accept rather causal style, your text has to be correct. Ask other project participants to proofread your text, and work with credible sources to polish your writing and achieve grammatical and stylistic correctness. I use the Associated Press Stylebook, but there are other style guides, as well as dictionaries, grammar checking software and content creation tools you can use. Be aware that the norms in the US and UK English are different, so choose one language variant and stick to it.

7. Be true

Apart from grammar, factual correctness is important. Even when producing marketing texts, observe the boundary between promoting a product and misinforming your readers.

  • Research. Have you done thorough research on the topic? Research may include field tests, talks to product experts or to the customers, or information from special literature or industry press.
  • Citations. Are the sources you quote trustworthy? Is the information you use still up-to-date?
  • Details. Does your text cover the topic well or does it leave a lot of open questions? Can the reader follow your line of argument without interruption?

In conclusion, there is no magic wand for creating marvelous content within minutes. Writing a good text takes a lot of time and (collaborative) effort. But having a plan and working through it consistently will make content creation easier and accelerate your learning curve.

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Six Reasons Why Some Companies Neglect Marketing (and Why They Shouldn’t)

A lot of SME companies still neglect marketing or consider some of its areas unimportant. In this post, I will explain why.

However important marketing seems to be, a large share of companies (especially start-ups and small or family-run companies) try to do without marketing. They normally have somebody responsible for the production/R&D, someone for the general management and back office, a specialist on accounting/finance and often a sales person. However, a marketing specialist is rarely on the team, and marketing tasks are split among other team members or crossed out altogether. Below are some misconceptions about marketing, regularly seen in practice, and unfortunately causing a lot of companies to struggle or even to exit the market.

1. Marketing is too expensive

Indeed, the expense-view of marketing seems to prevail. However, instead of looking at marketing as an expense, it must be seen as an investment (or cost of an asset). For example, investment into attracting leads and generating conversions (profit from a sales transaction), into CRM (customer lifetime value) or into building up a brand (company value expressed in intangibles).

2. Marketing only comes in when the product is there and needs to be sold

In fact, a large share of the work done on marketing must be completed BEFORE the product is even designed. This includes market research, market segmentation, finding out the needs of the target segment and working with R&D towards an optimal solution. Besides, strategic marketing is always on the lookout for opportunities in the segments not yet discovered and with business models not yet invented.

3. Sales is more important than marketing

The specifics of sales as a function consist mostly in direct selling, i.e. working with key accounts and large customers. In other words, closing every deal requires enormous time and effort, which should be justified by the size of the deal and the profit margin. If you want to target a number of smaller customers, or work with “pull” instead of “push” marketing (i.e. have customers actually ask for your product), a good marketing strategy is absolutely essential. Furthermore, marketing plays an important role in supporting and directing sales activities. For example, by generating leads in the sales funnel and by backing up sales efforts with a strong brand or positive company reputation.

4. A good product sells itself

Sadly enough, it doesn’t. We live in the times of a buyer’s market, where the competition in almost every segment is severe and the marketplace is extremely cluttered. Even if you have the best product in the world, without letting anyone know about it and explaining its advantages to the prospective customer, you are unlikely to sell any of it.

5. Marketing is something we can outsource to an agency

For a small company, outsourcing some marketing activities requiring specific knowledge (such as web design or SEO) can make sense. However, without a marketing specialist inside the company, who coordinates these activities and monitors them, the money spent on outsourcing activities is likely to be wasted. Besides, marketing strategy and tacit marketing knowledge often belong to the core competency of a company and are much too important to be shared with external providers.

6. Marketing is easy

This misconception actually results in the largest budgetary waste. Since many small company owners think “marketing equals advertising”, they are likely to splash out on one-time advertising activities (such as an advert in the national newspaper, an entry into the company listing, or a large batch of product flyers), without any particular strategy behind it or even an idea of a marketing campaign to bundle such activities. What normally happens, is that these measures bring no results, since they are spread across too many segments (often even leaving out the target segment), badly timed, confuse the end-customer with contradictory marketing messages, and are simply ineffective by nature.

Having looked at the six typical reasons for marketing disasters, the next step must be re-evaluating and re-thinking your company’s competitive strategy as well as considering taking up a marketing specialist on board if there is no one with this responsibility at present.

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Into Marketing and Away: the Changing Role of a Marketing Manager

marketing manager competencies“Non vitae sed scholae discimus”, said Seneca (“We learn for school, not for life”). His words truly reflect the situation at the majority of educational institutions preparing marketing professionals: the content of education is not matching real-life requirements. The traditional understanding of marketing as a function has been transformed in many ways, and new competencies are needed for the existing and ongoing marketing managers.

Competency #1: New Media

Indeed, modern marketing practice is almost impossible to imagine without extensive use of New Media, especially Social Media (Facebook, corporate blogs, etc). This includes not only one-way communication and maintaining social media accounts, but also being able to interact with users, even in case of negative comments or complaints. In addition, social media activity should help to sustain the brand values and product/service positioning.

Competency#2: Information Technology

Apart from managing and creating content and graphic material, a marketing manager should have an understanding of IT systems and processes within a company. Possible uses of IT knowledge include: managing customer or product databases, editing and optimizing websites, analyzing performance needs and writing specifications for programmers in the IT department.

Competency #3: Handling financial and accounting data

A marketing manager should understand and control implications of marketing policies on the operational data and end-of-the-year financial results of the company he/she is working for. Instead of thinking of marketing campaigns in terms of costs, a marketeer must be able to demonstrate the value of marketing activities in terms of brand equity accumulation or share price growth.

Competency#4: Corporate Social Responsibility

One of recently emerged functions of a marketing executive is responding to stakeholder expectations both externally (customers, suppliers and shareholders) and internally (employees). Marketeers have to make sure that the corporate values are being lived by and that these values are communicated in the right way across different channels. It is also a well-known fact that skillful use of marketing techniques in CSR context (e.g. fair trade products) helps to sustain higher margins and increase the overall profit.

Competency#5: Cross-functional knowledge

In addition to the above-mentioned IT and financial knowledge, a marketing manager often plays an integrative role between a number of departments. He/she has to communicate with R&D and Production when a new product is being developed, with Sales when the product is being launched, and not unusually, with the legal department, for example, when crafting advertising strategy. Thus, cross-functional and interdisciplinary knowledge is a must as well as the ability to talk to a number of specialists “in their language”.

Competency#6: International and intercultural thinking

Apart from classic cases of international marketing (launching a product abroad, designing marketing campaigns in a foreign language, adapting promotional activities to a different setting), cross-cultural competencies are often required for working inside the company. Two major reasons for this are the growing number of multinationals (including micro-multinationals) causing the necessity to work with branches and subsidiaries abroad; and skilled migration, due to which foreigners fill up vacancies in domestic firms.

Competency# 7: Team orientation

Resulting from the scope of cross-departmental or cross-country projects on which a marketing professional often works, team orientation and team building skills are essential to keep the projects going.

Competency#8: Creative skills

Though this is an obvious tool for a marketing manager, most universities cannot bridge the gap between the requirement for creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking in the working life and the rigid and mundane teaching methods preventing the students from developing creative skills. Another extreme, though, is creativity for the sake of creativity, when a marketing manager is reluctant to direct his/her efforts into solving a particular customer or organizational problem or to plan the details of putting the creative idea into practice.

Competency #9: Management skills

As more and more companies realize the strategic importance of marketing, a marketeer is faced with typical management tasks, namely planning (laying out campaigns and budgeting), organizing (distributing roles in a project, creating an action plan), directing (ensuring cross-departmental cooperation, motivating the project participants) and, finally, controlling (checking if the set goals are being met).

As can be seen from this list of competencies, both hard and soft skills are essential for a marketing manager of today. Therefore, the ability to respond to the changing conditions and the drive for self-improvement and self-development should be added to make up the full list of competencies required for marketing professionals.

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