The WhatCounts Blog
Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.
I’m a numbers guy. Always have been, always will be. In this particular case, an 89 – 91 mile-per-hour fastball in high school baseball got me scouted before my knee exploded, and I was really bummed about that … until I examined everything. I knew I did one thing really, really well … then after I took a look at my full statistics from my high school days, I realized that I sucked at pitching outside of throwing a ball really, really hard.
My curveball was getting golfed about half the time, and I didn’t really understand how to throw a change-up without “tipping” it with my delivery. As a result, my pitching repertoire was being limited — not by ability, but by myself.
I wasn’t looking at my blind spots, I wasn’t looking in the rear-view window, I was riding on one number that took me to success without considering the peripherals that were screaming that I was going to hit a very harsh wall of diminishing returns.
If you’re in marketing, you need to be willing to look at everything from a holistic perspective. Just because one number says you’re great at what you’re doing, that doesn’t mean you’re great at everything you’re doing.
Now, the great thing about both pitching and marketing is that if you totally whiff on something, or launch a meatball that your competition tees off upon … it’s only marketing, it’s not rocket surgery.
You can always hit your spot with your next fastball.
Inbound Marketing Manager, WhatCounts
It’s Monday morning and you might be wishing you were still in bed. So, take a couple of minutes while you get back in the swing of things to read through some of our favorite marketing articles from the past few weeks.
17 Insanely Actionable List Building Strategies That Will Generate More Subscribers Today (Backlinko)
Looking to boost your email subscribers? This article will give you 17 quick fixes to help build up your list with the right kinds of subscribers (hint: the kinds that are actually interested in what you have to say).
3 Myths About Duplicate Content (KISSmetrics)
Last week, WhatCounts was busting open some of the most famed email marketing myths (watch the webinar here). This week, check out KISSmetric bust some myths about duplicate content. There are numerous misleading stats and thoughts on this topic out there. Put the questions to rest by reading this article.
This article about building authoritative, useful content (and using your competitors as a valuable resource) is like that friend you have who just tells it like it is—no-holds-barred. Read this to pick up some extremely useful SEO & content tips and tricks.
Six Steps to Turn Jargon-Monoxide into Human Speak That Connects (Convince & Convert)
Jargon, gibberish, balderdash…: whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t belong in your marketing messaging. Often, though, that is easier said than done for marketers. Keep these six steps in mind next time you write to keep your message customer-friendly.
If you are an email marketer, you will appreciate this hilariously accurate blog post from HubSpot on the trials and tribulations we experience on the regular (PS- the gifs in this article are amazing).
Read a great marketing article in the last few weeks? Share it in the comments below, or tweet it to our handle:
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Does your company have multiple branches, entities or groups that each requires its own email marketing strategy?
Is it hard for you to set up workflows for different members of your marketing team?
Maybe you’re a media company that supports several radio stations, newspapers and other outlets. Maybe you are an agency or retailer with several individual clients or locations, and don’t want users from one group to see or access other group’s data. It’s a struggle to keep the lists, templates, reports and other email marketing items separate for each of these items in one account within an email marketing platform.
If these pain points sound familiar, you could benefit from the Subaccounts and User Permissions features, both of which can be found in the WhatCounts Publicaster platform.
A subaccount is a child account under a parent account that has completely separate data, including lists, creatives, reports and users. A subaccount is the same as having a brand new account, but email volume for all sub-accounts is aggregated. This means you can have multiple subaccounts and it won’t cost you a penny more in addition to the cost of your main account.
Creating a Subaccount only takes a few clicks in our Publicaster platform.
Once you’ve created your subaccounts, you can give different users different levels of access. Just as with creating a subaccount, adding a user is easy.
After giving the members of your team access to the platform, you can set up your workflows. With a simple click, decide what subaccounts and features each person has access to.
Each permission level represents a primary tab in the application. Granting a user access to a section gives them access to all the features and functionality found within that tab. Grant users different permissions based on their role in the organization. Users can be assigned to one or more accounts and have different permissions in each account.
If someone gets promoted or leaves the company, you can edit these permissions quickly.
The final item to note about these features is users can easily move from one subaccount to another from the account dropdown menu.
Subaccount and User Permission features allow you to easily house all of your different email marketing entities under one roof, while managing the different workflows for your team.
Instead of having to log out and then back in to a different account, you can easily move from account to account. The best part about this feature in the WhatCounts Publicaster platform is there’s no extra charge for up to 10 subaccounts. (Hint: If you have to use multiple accounts in your current provider, you’re probably overpaying.)
If this is a feature you think you can benefit from, contact email@example.com today!
If you’re regularly cleaning your email subscriber lists, you’ll probably come across email addresses such as webmaster@, sales@, support@, admin@. These are called role account email addresses, and they represent a role or department within a company instead of an individual person.
How does sending to these role account email addresses affect your email marketing?
These addresses are often distribution lists connected to multiple recipients, and these recipients will change over time as people are hired, promoted, re-organized, or leave a company. This means most of the people you send to via a role account address have never opted in for your messages. As a result, there will be a higher likelihood role account recipients will opt-out of your messages or complain about them. Read: not good.
What’s more, occasionally the person behind a role account isn’t a person at all. In some cases, a role account address is monitored by a computer software program looking for and reacting to certain types of messages. There’s no way to know who a role account is or form a relationship with role account recipients. Additionally, there’s no way to verify consent to receive emails.
The verdict: Role account email addresses should be scrubbed and removed from your email marketing subscriber lists.
One exception to this rule is if you’re sending B2B emails. There are many cases when you’re sending B2B communications and the only address you have on file for a location/affiliate/regional office is a role account, such as an office manager, or purchasing manager role account address. It’s okay to send to role accounts in a B2B email campaign because the email sent to these role accounts is expected and/or required B2B communications and not marketing related.
However, even in B2B situations, you never want to send to certain role account email addresses: abuse@, nospam@, noreply@, spam@.
When you’re ready to scrub your list of role account email addresses, in addition to the ones mentioned previously, look for emails that start with:
We have said, time and again, that your email list is your most valuable marketing asset. Those email addresses, as long as they have been collected via opt-in, are digital gold. But here’s a question for you:
How are you acquiring your subscribers?
I’m not talking about the traffic acquisition channels you see in Google Analytics (referral, direct, search), nor am I talking about getting addresses via a pop-up or a sign-up widget on your homepage or an opt-in box on a purchase page. I’m talking about something even more informative for you as you gather intelligence about your marketing efforts: How have people even found you in the first place?
Seven months ago, we implemented a progressive opt-in form for the WhatCounts Weekly newsletter. (Sign up today!)
The first few questions are pure demographic information: First and last name, industry, whether or not the subscriber is a current customer. We ask these questions to allow for more personalized and segmented messages – if we have news about a shift in the email marketing landscape that drastically affects travel and tourism marketers, then we have a segment of our list ready to go and we can communicate with them directly, as opposed to communicating to our entire list and making marketers in the sports marketing industry ask, “What the heck is in this for me?” But what I feel is the most important part of this form is the final question: “How did you hear about WhatCounts?”
Note that this question isn’t answered via a drop-down, or with pre-made radio buttons. Those can be useful for collapsing information into a few buckets, but it’s also artificially constraining, because the odds are that question can be answered in more ways than you can think of. That’s certainly been the case for us.
For example, one person signed up for the newsletter and said she did so because she used WhatCounts Publicaster Edition at her previous employer (which was great news for our sales team). Other people have said that they found us through industry partners we work with (which helps reinforce the mutual value of those partnerships). Some have found us through popular blog posts that have been re-published on other websites (which helps us refine and hone our content strategy). Some have been referred by friends, others have simply wanted to learn how to whitelist an email. The long and the short of it is that we would never have gotten that intelligence with a drop-down menu. As I have said time and again, we are not our audience … but our audience is our greatest source of intelligence and feedback regarding the health of our marketing efforts.
The most important takeaway from this, however, is that we never would have gotten this information, this intelligence, this feedback without, you guessed it, asking. But by asking, we get, on a daily basis, a better idea of how people are finding us on the Internet – and this is information that not only allows us to refine our processes, but also to proactively identify gaps in those processes before they become gaping chasms.
Just ask. The worst they can say is “no.”
Inbound Marketing Manager, WhatCounts
Let’s face it: There’s not a lot going on in August as far as holidays or celebrations. There are a few smaller observances, and you can certainly use these to create email messages. For example, August 21st celebrates Senior Citizens Day. This is an opportunity to segment your list by age and send a special offer to your older subscribers.
August may not have a lot of celebratory days to inspire email campaigns, but this slower business month is the perfect time to create smash-hit Labor Day emails. As you brainstorm ideas for your message’s design and copy, keep in mind these three tips.
#1 – Be creative with the subject line.
Subject lines of Labor Day email campaigns don’t vary much. “Labor Day” and “Sale” are almost always the main copy in the subject and body of the emails. Stand out in the inbox by writing a fun subject that still gets your point across.
In one of its Labor Day email subject lines, Wine Enthusiast said: 5 Simple Wine/Cheese Pairing Strategies and Sicilian Recipes For Your Labor Day Party.
It’s a little bit long for a subject line, but it doesn’t feel like a promotional punch in the face. Take the time to construct a creative, yet on-point subject line for your Labor Day campaign. Even something as simple as Happy Labor Day! works.
#2 – Be proactive – send in July.
Sending your Labor Day emails before the holiday hits is critical. It’s especially important for travel and hospitality companies. People want to plan their Labor Day trips at least two weeks before they travel. Sending them information about deals for the extra-long weekend a few weeks before the day is ideal. Or better yet…
#3 – Send a series of emails.
With the extra time in August, it’s worth the effort to set up two or three emails to send as a part of your Labor Day marketing strategy. If you’re hosting a sale or special deal running from a day in July up until September 1, promoting it several times via email will help grow conversions.
A great example of a Labor Day email campaign featuring all three of these elements is one from Hershey Park. On August 18, the brand sent this email with the subject line Make plans to visit Hershey Labor Day Weekend.
The first line of copy is actually a call-to-action, and it’s in a bold color that stands out from the rest of the copy. It also lists the reasons why you should visit the attraction: The special boardwalk feature isn’t open much longer and it’s a fun place to have a mini family vacation.
A discount is included, as well as upcoming park events and places to stay if you’re planning to enjoy the park for more than a day.
Hershey Park sends its second email in the series the day before the Labor Day holiday weekend. The subject line reads The Forecast in Hershey for Labor Day is SWEET!
My favorite part about this email is the simplicity of the weather graphic and the significant impact it has on subscribers. For those in farther parts of Pennsylvania or the tri-state area that may be experiencing less-then-perfect weather, the weather forecast at this theme park looks tempting.
Again, Hershey Park lists all the reasons why subscribers shouldn’t miss out on the park’s attractions. Answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” is an essential part of every email marketer’s job. Subscribers want to know the time they spend opening and reading an email will be well spent, and in this case, Hershey Park certainly delivers on the promise.
Let’s talk about one of the easiest ways you can tell your subscribers you love them: Sending them a birthday email.
Recently having celebrated a birthday, I was curious to see how many brands whose emails I’m subscribed to would send me a celebratory message. Out of the 30 or more marketing emails I get, I received just two happy birthday messages, one the day before my birthday and the other five days after.
Why am I shocked by the lack of birthday messages? Some marketers only ask for birthday month information when a person opts in. However, to sign up for many of these emails, I’ve had to enter my month and date of birth information, in addition to my name and email address. Marketers, if you’re asking me for this information, then use it to send me personalized, relevant messages. Not one day early, not five days late; on the correct day with an appropriate offer.
For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
Have fun with the content of a birthday email. This isn’t a regularly sent campaign, so you can scribble outside the lines a little. And don’t forget the most important part of the message – the present!
ESPN gives the gift of a laugh and free shipping to its birthday subscribers. Subject: Happy Birthday from ESPN!
Urban Outfitters goes festive with some doodles and a percent-off discount in the birthday email it sends. Subject: You Say It’s Your Birthday…
Virgin Atlantic adds mystery and suspense to its members’ birthday emails with a fun message and a surprise gift. Subject: On your Birthday, the Sky’s the Limit
Number one rule for a birthday email’s content? Include the person’s first name in the subject line or content of the email. You have the data, it’s easy for you to include, and if there’s any time when personalization hits home with a subscriber, it’s on his or her birthday.
What Day Is It?
There’s no way you or I could remember every single subscriber’s birthdays. This is where automation helps us out as marketers. Set up auto-response campaigns to send your birthday emails out to the right person on the right day. Trigger your birthday email to send to subscribers when their birthday rolls around. Need help setting up an auto-response campaign? Just ask us – we can walk you through the steps.
Got the Monday morning marketing blues? Fear not—we’ve hand-picked some of the best articles on the web from the last week or so to fire up your Monday morning.
Everyone likes a good surprise, right? Well, turns out most people like the surprise factor when it comes to headlines, too. This article by KISSmetrics reviews eight ways (including the surprise tactic) you can grab readers’ attention by way of your email or article headline.
Business2Community: 3 Tactics to Graduate Your Email Marketing to the Next Level
You know the expression, “Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery?” Well, that kind of applies to email marketing—it’s constantly evolving. If what worked for your email strategy in the past isn’t working quite as well for you presently, it’s time to graduate your email marketing strategy. This helpful article offers three tactics to upgrade your email marketing today.
The increase in authority of mobile and social technologies effectively means everything you do as a marketer needs to be focused on engagement. In other words, it’s time to get familiar with personalization and value-driven content. This article serves up some great ideas to incorporate into your marketing strategy.
How much is too much? If you’ve ever found yourself wondering where and when to draw the line on personalization in your emails, this blog post is a must read.
Don’t forget to join WhatCounts’ Inbound Marketing Manager, Tim Brechlin, and Director of Strategic Services, Lauren Bell, next week on Wednesday, July 23 at 2 p.m. ET as they bust some of the most common email marketing myths, explore test cases, and answer some of your most burning questions. Register today!
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Follow these three steps to overhaul your content and jumpstart your marketing.
1. Consistently consider your campaign numbers.
Just as a pilot trusts the instruments on his control panel to navigate the plane, so marketers should trust their metrics to help them steer campaigns. The first step to overhaul your content is identifying what’s working and what’s not working by looking at the numbers.
Gather metrics from all your channels. Look at the email metrics for every message you send, including opens, clicks, CTOR and unsubscribes. What types of Tweets and LinkedIn posts are seeing the most engagement, comments and likes? Dig into Google Analytics to understand what landing pages are performing well and which ones aren’t.
Frequency matters. When should you be looking at your channels to see how well your content is doing? Weekly, to find any immediate areas you need to improve. Monthly, to view recent trends. Yearly, to understand the overall performance of your content on a larger scale.
Make necessary changes. It’s pointless to spend time measuring all these channels if you’re not going to apply changes where they’re needed. Watch the upward trends in metrics to see what articles, offers, and calls-to-action your readers respond to the most. Insert this type of content into your editorial calendar so you use it often.
2. Do something different.
Don’t think you have time to try something new? Commit to implementing one small change a week: One A/B test, one email design change, one landing page optimization. On the other hand, don’t make more than one change on one channel at one time. For example, don’t change the layout and copy of your email at the same time. If your click-to-open-rate improves, you won’t know which part to give credit to.
You don’t have to be married to these changes, but you must be committed to analyzing the results of them. Just because you like including pictures of the family pet in your email campaigns doesn’t mean your audience does and vice versa. Stick with the changes that show a positive reaction from your readers; ditch the ones that don’t.
3. Ask your audience what they want.
The worst they could say is no. There are countless tools available for gathering feedback from your audience. Send an email asking subscribers to take a survey. Ask for feedback via your most popular social media site. Create a contest or drawing for those who offer responses. Most importantly, be willing to accept honest – and sometimes harsh – feedback. Use what you learn from these responses to overhaul your content.
There’s no shame in asking an outside expert step in and help with the overhaul of content. In fact, because this person isn’t laser-focused on your campaigns every day, he or she will be able to offer a fresh perspective. If you don’t have an expert on hand, our strategy team can help you with all the steps to overhaul your content.
It may seem as if summer just started, but before you know it, vacations will be over, school will be starting again, and the fall and winter holidays will be here. Don’t want to rush into things like you have in the past? Use the lazy days of summer (hint: now) to strategize, plan content, and sync your marketing channels with your email campaigns.
Start by looking at last year’s numbers. Figure out what email campaigns did the best last year. Compare opens, clicks and click-to-open metrics. Ponder what made the most successful email campaigns popular with subscribers. Contests, colors, calls-to-action – whatever floated the boat for your readers last year may be a great idea to pursue this year.
Take the ideas you’ve gathered from the numbers and translate it to your editorial calendar. Yes, click all the way down to the last months of Q4 and punch in what email campaigns you’re going to send, what content those emails will contain, and what segments of your list are going to receive each one.
And while you’re poking around in there, add the frequency of when you’ll send each campaign. If there are campaigns you want to A/B test (do it!), make sure you schedule enough time for those tests to run. Mapping out the date and times of when each email needs to send will keep your team on the same page and help you stay in control during the busy holiday season.
The slow summer months are a perfect time to optimize your email templates for mobile. With mobile email opens surpassing desktop, it’s essential email marketers use responsive design in order to see the most ROI on their campaigns. If people can’t view your offer on their mobile devices, they’re most likely going to abandon your message. Stop waving good-bye to more money, and re-design your templates for mobile. Make your messages even smarter by using time-based, location-based, and device-based personalization. Our partner Movable Ink rocks this stuff.
Since you’re in the optimizing mode, make your preference center shine. Are you gathering all the information from subscribers you need for holiday-season segmentations? Collecting date of birth and gender information helps you pool people into categories of young, old, male and female. Even these basic groups can boost your holiday email targeting.
Most importantly, ensure your email deliverability is up to snuff. There’s no use sending a message if it’s not going to be delivered. If you’re not already, make sure your emails are CAN-SPAM compliant, with a physical address and obvious opt-out link. Only send to people who signed up to receive your emails, as this will give you the highest engagement numbers and build your credibility with ISPs. Hard work on the deliverability front now will pay off when you send those ROI-producing holiday campaigns later.
Final tip: Don’t procrastinate. It’s easy to let the slow days of summer roll by, but don’t jeopardize the impact of your holiday campaigns by waiting to think about them.
Happy Christmas in July!
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From the Blog
Learn digital marketing tips, tricks and strategies from some of our top blog posts:
The ABCs of Email Testing: Learn about top strategies for testing your emails.
5 Easy Tips to Make Your Subject Lines Stand Out: Get noticed in the inbox with these subject line tips.
The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do: Keep your email marketing program healthy by following this one, easy-to-do tip.