Email Marketing

White House Landing Page – Video Critique

White House Landing PageThe White House landing page is the page you see when you visit their site (for the first time). They use a so-called welcome gate to direct new visitors to the landing page.

The goal is to get people to join their emailing list.

And to be honest, the page is quite okay. But it could be better and here are some ways they could increase their conversion.

101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read

101 Headline Formulas - The Ultimate Swipe File

“The Only Swipe File You’ll Ever Need”

The headline is the most important part of any text.

It will either keep people reading what you have to say, or send them away.

How many headlines do you read during a day? Twitter, Facebook, email, magazines, etc. Altogether 100? Maybe more?

And how many of those make you read more?

An average headline gets around 25% of people to read on. And even fewer read to the end. Even when reading and leaving are the only possibilities (landing pages, magazines, etc.).

What do you think happens to those percentages in Twitter where dozens of headlines fight for attention?

So, what can you do to beat the odds?

Stockmann Syndrome – Don’t Try this (Landing Page) at Home

Landing Page Conversion

You can’t always hit the bulls-eye, but you’ll always do fine with these three landing page principles. photo: ##Erika**

Landing pages are a cornerstone of online marketing, but sometimes even large companies forget how to build effective landing pages.

Stockmann is the best known and most prestigious department store in Finland. They’ve been around for 125 years and their special sale is an event people wait almost religiously.

Their marketing is usually really good, but the other day I stumbled onto their opt-in email list landing page. All the three basic elements of an effective landing page were wrong.

I could not believe they could go so wrong with their marketing. But so does many other major companies all around the world.

If you follow these three basic guidelines, you’re landing page will get at least an average conversion. But if you forget even one of these basics, your conversion will sink.

How to Sell More – 3 Simple Steps

Sales people are constantly asked for larger sales, higher conversion rates, and better customer service. What if you could accomplish all that, at the same time?

It’s actually relatively simple. Here’s what you do. And yes, I’m fully aware of the simplicity of these steps. Most sales people just don’t like them, so they don’t use them, even when they understand how effective they are.

Step 1 – Contact your active customers

Active customers are those customers who either have a subscription-like deal with you (they pay you weekly/monthly), or you’re currently negotiating a deal with them. Offer them some additional services, products, or features. If you manage to create a relevant offer, they’re likely to buy it. But only if it truly is relevant for them. Upselling is by far the easiest way to create larger sales.

Step 2 – Contact hot leads

Hot leads are prospects who have recently bought something from you, or have asked for some information. After active customers, hot leads are the best customer group you have. Again, create an offer that’s relevant for them, and price it well. You can convert hot leads into customers more easily than any other ones.

Step 3 – Contact cold leads

Note that I said, “leads”, don’t start cold calling. Cold leads are customers who bought from you in the past, or asked for information a while ago. They’re unlikely to buy anything immediately, but if you can make a relevant offer, they’ll come back sometime. The point is to offer them what they wanted.

Is that it?

You can’t expect everyone to buy something, but your odds are still much higher. And you do accomplish the three tasks: higher sales and conversions, and you take care of customer service. Basically these simple steps make you the ideal sales person ;)

If you decide to contact them through email, read the short series on email customer contact first.

Do you have other ideas or more steps you should take to sell more? Share them in the comments below.

Email Customer Contact: Make the Decision to Buy Easy

This is the fourth post in the five-part series on email customer contact.

In the previous part I explained how to answer questions. This post will explain what you should offer along with the answers. In other words, how to sell to customers looking for answers.

Unless you only have one product, people will ask for help choosing between options. The closer the products are to each other, in terms of functionality, the more confused people are.

An example is web hosting. Shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers aren’t something most people understand. Or even want to understand.

The difference is clear to you if you sell the service. But your customers may not see any difference.

Most web hosting companies have carefully explained the differences on their websites and sales pages. But it took me three emails to a hosting company to even remotely understand what the explanations mean. I guess they should’ve read the previous post in this series.

(A hint to web hosting companies: The average blogger doesn’t know how much RAM their server should have. They only know how many visitors and pageviews they approximately get.)

The problem is the language you use. If it takes expertise to understand your explanation, rewrite it. Unless you sell something only a highly trained professional will be interested in, imagine you’re explaining your products to a 7-year old child.

It isn’t enough to make your customer understand your product. They need to understand the difference between your products.

The customer will tell you what’s their interest in your products when they first contact you. They may not spell it out, but it is whatever they focus on. When you explain the differences use the customer’s interest as the metric.

When I contacted the web hosting company, I was interested in loading speed. They missed that and told me how much RAM each option had. I know those two are related, but I don’t know how.

What really surprises me, is how willing companies are to miss out on sales. I was very interested in buying their service but they never told me which service would suit my needs.

So, even if the customer didn’t directly ask for a recommendation you should make one. Don’t make it pushy, just say, “I believe a VPS hosting plan would be best for you at this time. I think so because…”

And finally: make it extremely simple for them to buy. Say something like, “If this option seems good to you, can you please send *required information*, so I can set the service up for you.”

The decision to buy shouldn’t require much thought. Don’t force your customers to think when they don’t want to think.

The last part of this series comes tomorrow. It’s about what you should say in your last contact with the customer.

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Email Customer Contact: How to Answer Customers’ Questions

This is the third post in the five-part series on email customer contact. The previous post explained what you should remember when sending the first reply.

The way you answer customers’ questions in emails can either create trust or frustration. More often than not I’ve felt the frustration after receiving the reply from customer service.

I’ve been repeatedly surprised by customer service people. It seems they don’t have the capability to handle more than a couple of questions in one email.

I know there are exceptions. I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter some people who do answer all my questions without the need to repeat them in another email.

But usually they only answer the simple questions. Sometimes it even feels like they didn’t read through my email.

When you first read a customer’s email, notice all questions in it. Try making a list of them just to make sure you don’t forget one. It really makes a difference to the customer.

Answer customers’ questions in simple language unless they use professional language themselves. And even then, remember there’s a chance the customer picked up some fancy words from your website, without really understanding them.

Once you’ve answered all the questions, answer the rest of them. The customer is likely to have more questions than the ones in the email.

The customer may not know of the other questions, but some may still exist. And sometimes they just expects you to answer a related question.

I once sent an email to a travel agency to know if I could use a laptop during my flight. The flight was over 30 hours long so they might’ve thought to tell me I couldn’t charge my computer even though I was allowed to use one.

If you take the time to answer your customers’ questions thoroughly, they’ll thank you later.

The next part in the series will explain how to get more interested prospects to turn into customers.

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Email Customer Contact: How to Respond to Customers’ Emails

This is the second post in the five-part series on email customer contact. The previous post explained how you get customers to contact you. I’ll post a new part each day this week.

How you respond to the first email a customer sends you determines what they expect from you later. Actually they already have a solid expectation about you, even before contacting you. But with your reply you can either affirm their expectation, or start to change it.

You should always respond as quickly as possible. But don’t spam them. There’s no point in sending a confirmation email if you’re going to send the actual email an hour later.

If you need time to figure out an answer, you should send a quick reply. Tell them you’ve received their email and that you’re working on it. Estimate when they can expect your answer or promise a reply by a certain time.

There’s nothing more frustrating than, “The issue you’ve been experiencing is being worked on by our technicians. Unfortunately, we’re unable to give a specific time frame…” (I received this reply from my web host when I contacted them because of slow loading speed).

If you need more information to answer the customer’s email then explain why you need it. Just asking without explanation easily seems arrogant.

Before you should attempt to answer specific questions you should figure out what the customer wants. It’s best to send one comprehensive answer to a customer’s email, even when you need a couple of emails asking for more information first.

And finally: use your name when you respond to customers. Even if someone else may answer their next email, you should use your name in emails. I know this seems obvious but to some people it apparently is not. A few weeks ago I was making a reservation at a restaurant. I got the replies from “sales service”. Can you think of a less personal contact info?

The next part in the series is about answering questions. I’m surprised time and time again of how poorly companies respond to customers. It’s like they don’t read the questions from start to finish. More on that tomorrow.

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Email Customer Contact: Encourage Customers to Contact You

This is the first post in a five-part series on email customer contact. I’ll post a new part each day this week.

Any customer contact is valuable. Whether it’s via phone, email, or face-to-face, it’s an opportunity to sell and build a relationship. But many well-known companies miss the opportunities customer contact presents.

This series focuses on email contact, but the same principles work with all kinds of customer contact.

First you need the customer to contact you and the only way that’s going to happen, is if you provide a way to do it. You should have your company’s support/contact email and phone information displayed clearly on your website; never more than one click away.

Tell your prospects and customers you want them to contact you. For example Audible, the audio book store owned by Amazon, has “We’re great listeners too” written next to their logo and their phone number right under it. And it’s on every page.

FAQs and forums are a good bonus but they don’t replace personal help via email (or phone).

Should you have a contact form on your website? Or your email address? Usually both; you want customers to contact you. But the contact form is sometimes especially useful.

A contact form on your website that sends an email to you has its perks. You can have custom fields. Those include what the email is about (which can affect to whom it’ll be sent to), the product in question, and other relevant information about the situation. Gathering this information saves time later and enables you to respond more accurately.

If you use the additional fields, make sure there’s always an “Other” option. It’s frustrating when you can’t pick a correct answer from a list.

The next part in the series is about your reply to the first customer contact. There are some common mistakes you can make with the first reply. I’ll explain them and what you should do instead.

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5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Think About The ROI of Marketing

What is the ROI of marketing?

Almost every marketing specialist will urge you to accurately calculate the ROI of marketing. You should measure every marketing effort separately to be able to know what’s working best. ROI (Return On Investment) means how much you gain/lose relative to your investment. So, if you spend $1 million in a TV advertisement and that ad generates $5 million in revenue, your ROI is 400%. Seems simple and rational? Well, it’s in no way simple and I wouldn’t say it’s entirely rational.

Why you shouldn’t think about the ROI of marketing

There are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t think about your ROI of marketing.

  1. Marketing should be built into your business idea. If your product is interesting enough people will talk about it. And you don’t have to pay anything for word-of-mouth marketing.
  2. There’s no way to know the ROI of marketing for a specific marketing effort. All your marketing should work together. Maybe the customer, who decided to buy after seeing your magazine ad, wouldn’t have bought from you if they hadn’t heard the radio ad. You’ll often get inaccurate results no matter how precisely you track your marketing.
  3. If you concentrate on the ROI of marketing you easily forget to track other aspects of your business. Customer service and sales people often create much more sales than any advertising.
  4. Your marketing budget is like the phone payment; it’s part of the cost of doing business. You don’t try to calculate the ROI of email do you?
  5. The difference in the life long value of customers makes it impossible to calculate the ROI of marketing. Even if you knew what made a customer come to you in the first place, there’s no way to know what’s their value to you.

So, you shouldn’t think about the ROI of marketing. Then how can you know if your marketing works or not?

How to measure the effectiveness of marketing

Rather than trying to calculate the ROI of marketing you should compare your marketing efforts to your overall results. If you’re making a profit your marketing works. Maybe not all marketing you do, but at least enough of it. To get better at marketing you should also know what’s working and what’s not. Here’s some ideas on how to track marketing results.

  • Identifiers. Use promotional codes and other identifiers in your advertisements to track which ads were seen and acted on.
  • Target specific audience. Create ads that are only seen by a specific target audience. It’s easier to track who buys rather than why someone buys from you.
  • Change location. Systematically change where your ad appears to find the best place. Placement in newspapers and websites alike is important, because only a tiny portion of the space is actually looked at.
  • Change the design. Changing just the color of a headline can have a major effect even if nothing else changes. People respond to different colors in different ways. Remember that the surroundings of your ad will also play a part.

To benefit from the results you get by doing all this, you need to do A/B-testing. Make changes to your marketing to make it more effective. If you want to do accurate A/B-testing you can only change one detail at the time. Otherwise you won’t know which change actually mattered. But even more vague results can be helpful.

How much should you spend on marketing then?

Short answer: as much as you can as long as it creates a profit. But the more you invest the smaller the ROI of marketing will be.

Most effective marketing methods are usually online marketing and content marketing. Both are extremely cheap compared to traditional advertising and usually create much better results. They work so well because you can target the best opportunities individually and with low-cost. But the more you market the poorer the targeting becomes; you start with the best, the second target is only the second best opportunity, and so on. As the marketing campaign grows you can’t choose so specific targets anymore. And that leads to a smaller ROI of marketing.

Don’t think about the largest amount of money you can spend on marketing. Rather think about the results you’re after. If you want to reach the people who will make lots of referrals, then do that. If you want to increase brand awareness, do just that. You can spend as much money as you like on both, even though one targets only a few people and the other all the people.

Make a list of 3-5 most important goals you have for your marketing. I’d always start with reaching the early adopters. If they’re already using and promoting your product then go after target groups. Target groups are groups of people who are most likely to enjoy your product or benefit from it. These target groups are larger than the group of early adopters but still way smaller than the general public. Once the target groups use your product, start marketing to the masses. These “masses” may still be only a handful of people; in a niche market that’s very possible. But I’d use the same logic anyway: early adopters – target groups – the rest of them ;)

When you have your list ready think about how much value you give to each of them. You’ll quickly build up a math problem. Once you solve it you’ll know how much to invest in each.

You might think there’s no point in using more money to reach a few early adopters then to build brand awareness. Why is that? If you value more reaching the early adopters and target groups (as I do), then why wouldn’t you invest more effort into that? Obviously if your product is already well-known there are no more early adopters to target, and the target groups are already using your product. But the idea still stands: spend most of your budget and effort in the most important goal.

If and when your business makes a nice profit you know your marketing worked as it was supposed to. That’s a good ROI of marketing.

What do you think?

How would you calculate the ROI of marketing? Do you do it? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

Why TV Advertising is a Waste of Money

It’s easy to spend your marketing budget

Tv advertisements are the easiest way to spend your marketing budget. Even if you need to spend $10 million it’s easy with a TV advertisement. Just call an advertising agency and tell them you have $10 million to spend for advertising. They’ll take care of it in no time. But they wouldn’t have a job unless it was effective, right? Well I’m saying TV advertising is a waste of money.

Why TV advertising can work

A TV advertisement works only if there’s someone watching it. During the commercial breaks people run off to the refrigerator or the toilet. And those who stay at their couch don’t want to see the commercials. So, they’re not really paying attention. Every advertiser knows this and yet they spend millions of dollars into content no one wants to see.

The idea, as all the same people would point out, is to create familiarity. People intuitively believe a familiar product is superior to a strange one. So, when you go shopping and see a line of cereals you like the one you’ve seen before. This works even if you don’t remember seeing the ad. So, TV advertising can work because of the benefits of branding. And for a select few it’s effective (see a list later in this post).

The ROI of a TV advertisement

Calculating the ROI (Return On Investment) for advertising is difficult if not impossible. And in my opinion you shouldn’t even try to calculate the ROI for marketing (I’ll explain why you shouldn’t calculate the ROI of marketing in another post). But for the sake of this post I’ll use the idea of ROI to demonstrate the idea.

Lets say you spend a million dollars for an ad. 10 million people watch TV when it’s aired. You only spent $0.1 per viewer! So, 10 million people buy your product and you make $1 profit from each purchase. You just made a profit of $9 million! A 900% ROI! Unfortunately that’s not realistic and everybody knows it. Often only a few percent of the people watching are potential customers (why have I seen a thousand tampon commercials?). And only a few percent of those will actually buy your product. Here’s how it changes the calculation:

  • You spend $1 million for an advertisement
  • 10 million people see you ad
  • 5% of them are potential customers
  • 5% of the potential customers buy your product
  • You make $1 for each purchase
  • 25.000 people buy your product so you make $25.000
  • You lose $975.000
  • Your ROI is -97.5% on your fancy TV advertisement

The 5% may be too pessimistic so lets make it more promising. Lets say 20% of the people who actually see your ad are potential customers. And 20% of them buy your product. Your ROI is still -60%. You lost $0.6 million. To break even the percentages should be over 30%. For some products like cereals that’s possible, but if there are 5 cereal commercials back to back they can’t all get 35% conversion.

When should you use TV advertising

As I said earlier there are situations where TV advertising can create a good ROI. But some of these conditions always need to be met:

  1. A TV show has a specific viewer demographic. And it’s identical to your customer demographic. So, if you sell fly fishing equipment it might be a good idea to advertise during a fly fishing TV show. But only if the viewers actually buy new fly fishing equipment from you because of the advertisement.
  2. Your profit margin is large enough to cover a small conversion percentage. Real estate agencies use TV advertising quite often. They can get a good ROI because even a single sale is worth a lot to them.
  3. A strong brand is especially valuable in your industry. The marketers of car manufacturer’s now how valuable it is to have a strong brand. And that’s how they can justify a pitiful ROI.
  4. A TV advertisement is the only way to reach your potential customers. A cereal company is an example of this. Many enough people buy cereals to justify an expensive ad campaign. And more importantly cereals is a repeat purchase; people can buy cereals many times a month.
  5. You want to win a marketing award in the TV advertisement category. If you do win you’ll be able to tell your boss and/or your potential customers that you won an award. So creating TV advertisements for your boss/clients is a really good idea if you’re in the business of creating TV advertisements :)

None of the examples above are actually rational

As compelling as the examples may sound, they’re not thought through. It’s true the ROI could be positive (you make a profit from your investment). But you’re still wasting your money! Or at least you should think about a few more aspects.

  1. The fly fishing equipment company would get a significantly better ROI by advertising in fly fishing magazines and in internet forums. They could create a content marketing campaign that would reach more people interested in their products. And they would reach their target audience at the time when they’re looking for information.
  2. Some major real estate agencies have already stopped using TV advertisements because of the poor ROI. They’ve realized they get a better ROI if they concentrate their marketing on the internet. They use traditional advertising methods with content marketing methods. And most importantly they reach their potential customers at the exact time when they’re looking for a home. One company I know of uses ads that say, “Click to see the most viewed home at *your city/country*”. I’m sure most people don’t want that house, but they’ll remember the website and go there when they’re actually looking for a home.
  3. I have to admit that car manufacturers need a strong brand and a TV advertisement is a good way to accomplish that. I’d still spend much of the marketing budget in content marketing. People look for information about cars on the internet. If you’re the car manufacturer who answers the questions your potential customers have, you gain their trust. And if you really want to be on TV then be in the TV show when people are watching their heroes. Product placement is already becoming a part of the writing process of a TV series. That’s because smart marketers understand the value of it.
  4. An average cereal company can’t really use content marketing because no one looks for information about cereals. But if you’re selling a healthy alternative you have more options. Websites, blogs, and forums about health, food, etc. would all be good places for advertising. Or you could also pay for a good placement in health food stores to create brand awareness in your niche target audience.
  5. If your goal is to win a TV advertising award you need to create a TV advertisement. Nothing to add to that…

So in short: spending your TV advertising budget in content marketing usually creates a better ROI. That’s because TV advertising can never be as focused and targeted as online marketing. But to be perfectly honest I do believe TV advertising isn’t always a waste of your money. But the odds are on my side: only a small percentage of the readers of this post can justify a TV advertising campaign worth $10 million. Or am I wrong?

What do you think?

I’d love to hear what you think about TV advertisements. Do you pay attention to the commercials? Would you use TV advertising with your product and why? Do you believe a TV campaign is more effective than a content marketing campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments below.