Tag Archives: Email

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How lazy retail marketers are disrespecting the consumer

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Without doubt email is still one of the most effective methods to directly connect with prospects and customers. Emerging from the pre-digital ‘direct marketing’ discipline, the humble email has evolved from basically a promotional and loyalty tactic to being a cornerstone of the ‘engagement marketing’ suite.

However it raises a serious question: has email created the ‘lazy marketer’ who simply builds an email database to ‘blast’ their messages to an unsuspecting consumer?

Given the refinement of data that can be collected from each interaction (online and offline), it is more than assumption that marketers are likely to have a useful understanding of purchase behaviour (what, where, when, price, etc.). For the most part consumers in Australia are still bombarded with a never-ending series of unrelated messages from brands ‘spraying’ a message in the hope that someone will respond.

This is lazy marketing, pure and simple.

Take this recent experience as a Country Road customer. After purchasing from their Trenery-branded store, a customer signed up to their loyalty program on the promise of priority offers and various other benefits. Wow – the reality is totally different!

The number of emails received from both Trenery and Country Road over a one month period was a staggering 33! Almost daily they sent an email offering specials on products this customer will never buy because they don’t match her taste. Country Road is the laziest fashion brand landing in this Inbox.

The purpose of engagement marketing for Country Road is to tailor its emails to the attributes they know about their customer, ask for more information (usually in exchange for something), and only send relevant information and offers based on this known data. When a brand knows a customer’s buying habits and preferences, it has a powerful segmentation tool for them to “best guess” their next purchase and then use that data in the next communication.

Digital-based engagement marketing requires genuine leadership and planning. Gone are the days where an email address alone is the basis for a brand to indiscriminately send marketing messages, and worst of all, sell their customer data to other businesses who will do the same.

At marketingbytes we provide clients with a 100% customer-centric approach to engagement marketing. It has delivered significant benefits for brands wanting to construct a meaningful dialogue with their customers, earn a positive ROI plus achieve real demand management through highly effective data management.

Contact us to discuss how we can apply our approach to CRM to acquire customers for your business.

Further reading:

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Anatomy of a digital marketing campaign

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OVER my career I have planned and produced a wide variety of digital marketing campaigns. One certainty is that it’s not getting any simpler.

In an attempt to demystify the process of creating a digital-led communications campaign, I have developed a 5 Stage overview from planning to implementation to measurement. This post summarises each discipline/tactic, basically in chronological order, although this will vary depending on the complexity of the campaign elements.

[Note:  I have not included offline marketing processes, however there are some key digital decisions that enhance integration between the two disciplines.]

Stage 1 – Brief

The marketing brief must align with the overall business objectives.  Audience profile, budget and timing are also imperative elements of the brief.

The brief will inform the creative development process, leading to ideas that will be communicated to an audience through multi-channel digital strategies.


Stage 2 – Planning

The content of the campaign messaging must be reviewed and, in effect, cleared for use across ALL  digital platforms that will be utilised in the campaign.

Search terms
A successful online marketing campaign starts with choosing the right terminology so you optimise SEO (organic) to minimise SEM (paid). Develop a strategy based on SEO-friendly content, judicious use of paid search terms, and don’t underestimate the importance of social media to support SEO. Check out sites like Google Trends, Google AdWordsBing Trends or Twitter Search to learn about relevant search terms’ popularity.

Build a Keyword & Key Brand/Product Messaging matrix. Prioritise the matrix and ensure it is followed by everyone who is writing copy for the campaign’s online and printed material.

Short URL
Sometimes called a vanity URL, this is very useful for print media (ads, brochures, posters, etc.) where you want people to easily remember the URL. A number of options are available:
– create a landing page within the main website with a URL like ‘www.yourdomain.com.au/campaigntheme’;
– create a stand-alone microsite with a new domain name based on the campaign theme; or
– register a new domain name based on the campaign theme and redirect the URL to a landing page within your main website.

Hashtag (#)
Over the past few years the humble hashtag has become the marketing weapon-of-choice for major advertisers. They’re now used liberally on TV, posters, sports ground signage, and social media where they originated. Search multiple platforms to see if your chosen hashtag is available, using tools like TagBoard. The main ‘trap’ to watch out for is who else is either using that hashtag now, or might over the time period of your campaign. Acronyms are especially susceptible to have multiple meanings. Another hashtag ‘trap’ is the unwitting blending of letters when multiple words run together, creating a completely different meaning to the original campaign theme (for bad examples see this Guardian article).

Social media
Review existing SM channels and consider if new ones can be launched via the campaign (of course they must continue to be used after the campaign is over). A high level SM planning document should identify the audiences and related social network/s, and how the the Brand/Product Messaging matrix will drive the publishing cycle and content.

Stage 3 – Content

Landing page
Further to the discussion above re SEO and short URL, the landing page is the ‘destination’ for all digital marketing call-to-action (CTA) elements. People will arrive here after they have clicked an online ad, a link in an email, a social media post, read it in a brochure or on a poster. What is written and shown here must present the brand/product information in the most engaging way. It must also take the CTA to the next logical step – a buy/checkout option, download a report, request a sales call, or subscribe to an eNewsletter.

Ideally your business has a regular eNewsletter with a substantial subscriber database. Include the campaign message/s within the existing eNewsletter template, or create a bespoke email to promote the campaign. Use the exact same campaign keywords/terminology in the email as that used on the web, in social media posts and search marketing.

Not every business has a blog, as it requires significant time and effort to publish consistently and professionally. For those that do blog, it can be an ideal ‘launch pad’ for a campaign. The selected keywords and brand/product messages must be written into the copy, also links to the landing page/website, as these are what search engines will be looking for. Blogs should also include ‘rich media’ like video, audio and photographs as these are known to encourage reader sharing.

Social media
Preparing a social media publishing and content calendar will optimise the use of these channels. Ideally it should include video and visual content to accompany written posts/updates, as these are proven to receive much higher rates of user engagement and sharing.

The success of video to support digital marketing initiatives has grown significantly in the past few years. The variety of ways to use video makes it such a flexible tool for digital marketers: ‘how to’ videos are amongst the most searched on YouTube; crowd-sourced videos make for some amazing and entertaining films; and authoritative speakers filmed at a conference (or to camera) are highly valued by audiences.

Online ads
There are many options to use paid online media to reach an audience.  Dependant on budget and campaign messaging, a professional marketer can identify appropriate online media to reach a business’ prospects. An excellent resource is MediaScope, a comprehensive directory for marketers and agencies to find the right media for their needs.

Stage 4 – Channels


This is where all the action will be when customers come looking for information, to buy your product/service, to subscribe/download/engage/etc. Ensure it is optimised so people can find what they are looking for quickly and do what they want to do easily.

If the campaign requires a microsite, ensure it is designed to complement the brand identity and the main website. It can harm your brand image if a microsite has a completely different look & feel to the brand’s other digital assets. Launching a microsite also means starting your organic search performance from scratch- this can inhibit the campaign’s early results. Thus ensure SEO-friendly keywords/metadata and optimise the home page user experience.

Include campaign messages  within an existing eNewsletter or send a custom message to an established email subscriber database (opt-in permissions permitting). Purchasing a 3rd party email list is a tactic that is becoming much harder to get satisfactory results given the improved performance of spam/junk email filters and firewalls.

A well-subscribed blog is the place to start a conversation around the campaign theme. Don’t sit on the fence, invite audience discussion, and that will encourage sharing. Link to the blog post from all your social channels plus from the website/microsite. Where appropriate find related blogs to contribute your point-of-view in conversations that can lead back to your own blog/website.

Social media
There is a huge array of content marketing that can be implemented via SM. I won’t go into the many strategies and tactics of using your own presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc., suffice to say they are powerful platforms to reach existing and new customers when used to their maximum potential.

Mobile app
Building a new mobile/tablet app is a big investment in time, money and resources. If this solution meets the brief then it will need a fully scoped plan to design, test and launch – and regularly maintain content and functionality!


Online ads
The budget for online advertising will determine the scope for buying media space in relevant online media. Keep in mind the click-through-rate (CTR) of banner advertising is very low (in the 0.1%-0.4% range) and due to their abundance, banner ads are basically ignored (called ‘banner blindness’). However there are design and placement strategies that can deliver suitable returns on investment.

Search (SEM)
SEM is a pay-per-click (PPC) model with a bidding (auction) process. Two key factors determine if your paid ad appears in Google search results: your maximum CPC bid and Quality Score (QS) – the latter is a key metric to determine how relevant your ad is to the user and good SEO practices impacts your QS. Check out Google Adwords site for more info. Engaging a professional search marketer is recommended to ensure your SEM investment returns positive results.

Social media
New audiences may be reachable via paid advertising on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Buying that reach is not a simple prospect, and is best considered when budgets and resources allow proper planning to ensure a successful investment.

3rd party apps
Advertisers can now reach customers through mobile (or in-app) advertising. This is a new medium with the potential to reach niche targets like gamers or fitness fanatics. A detailed explanation of mobile advertising can be read on this Wikipedia page.

Stage 5 – Analytics

Google Analytics (GA)
GA has become the default product for measuring website traffic, behaviours and technology. For the casual user GA provides valuable high level data. For the power user the data provides deep insights into your digital marketing performance. Setting up a campaign to be tracked using GA code is a key element in the production phase, and a job best left to an expert. Google regularly improve/change the functionality and design of the GA interface so it pays to engage someone who is proficient with the tools that Google provide for free.

CMS Analytics
Many content management systems (CMS) have their own analytics service to track and report website performance. In some cases this will provide more useful data and better reporting functions than GA, especially if the website is integrated with other internal systems like CRM and eCommerce.

Email Analytics
Sending emails is one of the most measurable digital marketing tactics. Whichever email system is used will come with an analytics function that provides all essential data to measure the responses to sent emails. Set benchmarks and test different creative solutions to continually improve your email performance.

Advertising Analytics
Online advertising can be measured at both the source (ie. the media owner) using the media owner’s analytics software, and the inbound destination (usually the website) using Google/CMS Analytics. Confusion can arise when data differs between systems, however the best policy is to compare ‘apples with apples’.  Google provides a good overview here showing how to set up the tracking codes for online advertising.

CRM Reports
There are some powerful CRM systems that can report on customers that visit your website then transact with your company. Data that identifies who buys what is always going to be the most valuable to a business; this is especially critical for an eCommerce business that must deliver online after-sales service, customer loyalty programs, and a continuously improving customer experience.

The digital marketing eco-system is actually far more complex than I have attempted to describe here. Due to the proliferation of ‘owned’ media channels, business owners would be excused for thinking that customers can be reached at an ever decreasing cost. Even the management consultant, educator, and author Peter F Drucker said, “The new information technology, Internet and e-mail, have practically eliminated the physical costs of communications”.

However intangible costs have moved in the opposite direction – in skilled personnel, in software, in services.

My advice: plan, test, measure, learn; re-plan, re-test, re-measure, re-learn; and so on. Marketing has become an iterative process.


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10 reasons this is an #email #fail

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Sometimes a mass broadcast email is sent that makes you wonder at the lack of digital marketing skills in large companies. It’s particularly baffling when it’s sent by a company that’s in the communications industry – like Fairfax Media.

The below email was sent by Fairfax to a colleague who had not subscribed to this newsletter and does not know the AFR Editor-In-Chief.

I spotted 10 basic mistakes.

  1. The header image has the Facebook and Twitter icons embedded within the banner, making them useless as links to each social channel.
  2. The photo of the author is not captioned, confusing those who don’t know who he is.
  3. The title is “A word from the Editor-In-Chief”. The text runs to 924 words!!!
  4. Opening sentence seems like 2 sentences mashed together. Was the email proofed?
  5. There is not a skerrick of formatting to break up the long copy.
  6. None of the links are formatted to appear as hyperlinks. Only by hovering your mouse over them shows they are live links.
  7. An option to read the email online was not provided.
  8. The last sentence links to an AFR story: “You can read it here“. What the email doesn’t mention is this article is behind the paywall – poor usability.
  9. Alignment of the phrase “Enjoy your weekend” shows further non-attention to formatting.
  10. The sender signs his name as “Stutch”. As a message from the venerable Australian Financial Review this is far too informal and sounds like he’s signing off a message to his mates.

Email marketing has been a staple in the marketing mix for a very long time. You’d think major companies would have worked out how to do it effectively.

I’m reading ‘Killing Fairfax‘ by Pamela Williams at the moment. Sadly, on this evidence, seems like they are self-inflicted wounds.


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Permission-based Email Gone Wrong

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It amazes me that leading marketers still make fundamental mistakes in their email communications to customers. Recently I received an email from one of Australia’s leading financial institutions that highlights how easy it is to make simple mistakes. A copy of the email is below (self-censored as the bank’s identity is not relevant to this discussion).

This email fails to meet some basic tenets of email best practice for a number of reasons.

1. Out-dated Customer Email List

I actually don’t have an active account with this bank (or any account for that matter). An account was opened by me online many years ago, however no money was deposited into it and since I have not had any correspondence from them in years I assumed it was closed due to being inactive. They missed an opportunity to ask if I wanted to reactivate the account, maybe with an offer of a brilliant interest rate.

2. Subject Line Blooper

One of the most important elements of successful permission-based email marketing is the Subject line wording. This email says “Message from ___” and that is completely the wrong approach because it doesn’t indicate this message contains any relevant or useful information for me. At least they would have done better to personalise it, such as “Hi Tim, here is an important message from ___.”

3. Cannot View Online

Most HTML email readers will display the images and text, however it is essential to offer readers the option to ‘View Online’. Here the link leads to a web page with an error message that says
“Information Notice – Sorry, this feature is currently unavailable. ERR432970”. Now that is seriously unacceptable.

4. Missing Unsubscribe Link

A legal requirement in Australia is for all commercial emails to contain a one-click unsubscribe function. There is no “Unsubscribe” link here. Interestingly, this email was distributed by Vision 6, a company that says on it’s web site that “Each email you send has an unsubscribe link that allows recipients to remove themselves from your list [www.vision6.com.au/spam_compliance.html]. The email copy actually says “This is an automated email and you can not respond to this email address”. They also use a ‘From’ email address of “Please_do_not_reply@”. What a non-customer friendly attitude for a bank to have, especially in an email!

5. No Signatory

Organisations should always include a signature at the bottom of their emails, as it’s the best way to indicate this message is from a person representing the sender, not just a faceless company. It should include name and title details, as well the company’s physical and web address. A link to the company web site, and even to other product/service information, is a great way to measure clicks too.

6. More Paper and Postage Costs

Further to these indiscretions, this email’s core message is quite bizarre. This bank is actually telling me that an account statement will now be mailed “at least every six months” (or “every six months” as it also confusingly states). This policy change is at odds with most major service organisations that now offer their customers the choice of receiving their statement or invoice by email or post. So why in 2009 is this bank: a) not offering a choice to receive statements in the post, by email, and/or view online, and b) now sending them by post that will increase their administration costs and effort???

All in all it seems very wrong to me. I’m sure they have a highly rational explanation for this new policy. One positive I can say is that the email was sent on a Tuesday, as research has shown that Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to send out broadcast emails in terms of response rates (pity this email didn’t include some trackable links though).

I’d be interested in your thoughts and to hear about any other strange or ridiculous emails from large service organisations that you have received.