Ann Taylor, What Have You Done?

I don’t normally name names, but recent emails I received from Ann Taylor, the specialty apparel retailer, reminded me of an email marketing best practice that is too often overlooked:

  • Tell recipients WHY they are receiving your email.
Email Marketing Best Practice: Tell Recipients why they are receiving your email.

Don't let this be a recipient's first reaction to your brand: "What? Why am I receiving this? Unsubscribe! DELETE!!!"

Since last Tuesday, I have received an email newsletter from Ann Taylor EVERY DAY.  Why?  I have no idea.  I’ve never purchased from Ann Taylor, LOFT, or what I can tell are its affiliate brands.  I don’t visit the Ann Taylor website.  And, while I appreciate a pretty email (they do have beautiful images), I do not take kindly to receiving unsolicited commercial email.

The problem? Nowhere in the welcome email (right) did I get a why.  Not even in the tiny print at the bottom.  Nada. The most I got was “Now that you’re on our email list…”

A brief intro goes a long way.
It really only takes a little snippet of text, preferably above the main body of the message, that says “You are receiving this message because…” or something similar to introduce yourself, your brand, and explain why you, the sender, feel the message is relevant to the recipient.

The when for the why: Any time you are sending to a list of new recipients, an introduction is a good idea.  Also, if you are mailing to an older list, be mindful that recipients may not remember who you are or that they opted to receive email from you.

Ultimately, a little explanation of why an initial email is being sent will:

  • Demonstrate that you’re a responsible sender, showing respect for your recipients’ time and interests.  Brownie points for transparency and valuing your relationship with the recipient!
  • Build trust for your brand and lessen the likelihood of spam complaints and unsubscribes.  Spam complaints are brutal, and depending on your ESP, they can damage your sender reputation and possibly result in your ESP threatening to ditch you as a client.

Also, although it should go without saying, be sure the list you are emailing has been acquired in a legitimate manner. List renting or buying is generally frowned upon and can do more damage than good to your brand and sender reputation.  Really… think of the puppies!

Got any email marketing horror stories to share, either as a sender or a recipient?  Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for an example of a good intro to share.  Sign up for email notifications or like Blue Tomato Creative on Facebook to receive instant updates!


You Have Customer Emails, Now What? (Developing an Email Marketing Strategy)

Hooray, you’ve been collecting customer email addresses! That’s fantastic! Now what?

Develop an Email Marketing StrategyBefore loading all your customer emails into a mailing list and firing away, consider what you have at stake – brand reputation, penalties for not adhering to best practices, and, in general, a high risk of doing damage to your Email Marketing program before you even really get started.

First Things First –
Develop An Email Marketing Strategy

TIP: Develop your Email Marketing Strategy BEFORE selecting an email service provider. It may help to think of this initial Email Marketing Strategy as a wish list that you can reference when researching email service provider options.  Believe me, this will save the pains of moving your email file later!

Begin with a 5 year time frame (or 3 if 5 is too daunting) – Set your Email Marketing goals (for at least the first year) and brainstorm as many types of emails as you think you may want to send, plus some.  Also, keep in mind how you will measure the performance of your email campaigns and how you will utilize reporting to build a more robust Email Marketing program.

Set Email Marketing Goals: Setting goals is an essential first step in your strategy as every subsequent element of your plan will hinge on whether or not it is helping meet them. Depending on where Email Marketing falls in the grand scheme of your organization’s marketing plan, your goals may range anywhere from simply opening up the Email channel as a means of communication with your customers to growing your subscriber list to increasing revenues – or all of these and more.

Brainstorm Specifics about Email Campaigns: Make as many notes as possible about the types of messages you want to send.  Some questions that may be helpful:

  • What types of messages do I want to send? – personalized, informative, marketing, press releases, etc.  Consider your audience as well as whether you will send plain text or html or graphic-heavy messages.
  • With what frequency will I send emails? – Keep in mind you may later choose to add options to allow recipients to specify how often they want to hear from you.
  • How will I segment my list? – Advanced email segmentation takes time, so initially, it can help to reference what segmentation you are already using for “offline” customers.
  • Do I want emails with dynamic content? – Emails based on past purchases, interests, etc. can be very powerful and receive great response. My advice? This is definitely something worth looking into, even if it is not something you want to do immediately.
  • Do I want to send triggered email messages? – Automatically generated emails from your website or backend system triggered by customer actions.

Remember that your Email Marketing Strategy will evolve over time, so if you miss something, you can always add it later. Asking basic questions will get you started in brainstorming, but do not forget that analysis of key metrics and testing will also need to be built into your plan.

Email Analytics:  To determine your key metrics, ask what you want to know about how recipients interact with your emails – even beyond opens and clicks – and consider how you might use that information to determine which aspects of your Email Marketing Program are working and which need adjustment.

Testing:  Testing goes hand in hand with analytics, helping you hone in on successes and push poor performers aside.  When putting together your Email Marketing Strategy, make note of what you feel would be worth testing, then determine the types of tests that make sense for your email list and its segments (ex. A/B subject line or content split tests).

Do you have tips on how to build an Email Marketing Strategy? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Questions about developing your Email Marketing Strategy or anything mentioned in this post?  Click Here Now to contact me.


Is Social Media Changing the Way We Think?

Social Media Laboratory

Are your customers starting to think in 140 character snippets? Are they communicating in images or videos instead of text?

These days, it’s apparent that nearly all of us have accepted and embraced the idea of social media, whether we call it social media or not. The technology is there… it’s just another way to communicate, right? “I’ll tweet John.” or “I’ll post this on Sarah’s Facebook wall.” or “I’ll share this video on YouTube and see what my subscribers have to say about it.” or “I’ll upload this photo to Flickr to see if my contacts like it.”…

But is social media changing the way we think?… affecting our attention spans, altering the way we think about ourselves how we perceive what is valuable?

This is an important question when it comes to considering how to utilize social media as a marketing tool and determining how to communicate in the language of the end user.

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Think back a bit on the evolution of email. When email first came around, wasn’t it just a intended to be an electronic letter (Oh that’s right, that “e” stood for something.)? A faster way to convey the same amount of information that would have otherwise been transmitted via “snail?” Well, yes.

But then something happened. Email became a tool for marketers, to transmit ads… and for a while, people paid attention… and then we all got sick of looking at our inboxes. Enter CAN-SPAM regulation which led to marketers jumping hurdles of deliverability in the midst of internet and webmail service providers changing their rules about SPAM messages (I’ll delve into email best practices another time.).

At the same time, those marketers struggled (and still do!) with trying to figure out what works to get their prospective customer’s attention (also, another time).

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So what does this have to do with social media and the way we think? Well, once established, popular communication platforms develop somewhat of a “chicken or the egg” scenario.  The platform yields the format, which in turn forces the user to think within specific boundaries.

So, if Twitter only allows 140 characters, language has to be adapted for effective communication, and users have to seriously pare down a message to the bare essentials.

Same goes for Facebook.  While there isn’t so much a character limit ruling how much can be said at once (although Facebook does truncate lengthy posts), users can quickly see which types of messages get more attention and begin self-editing to post status updates, comments, and rich content posts that are witty and more likely to get a response.

In addition, users of these platforms have inadvertently become self-marketerers, marketing their own brand.  They are savvy, they are familiar with what’s catchy and popular, and they want to have their voices heard.

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As marketers, how do we step into this new way of thinking without falling on our faces?  Here’s the good news: hopefully we already have an edge with quick quips.

Appropriate initial steps would be:

  1. Choosing a platform that matches where our target demographics spend the majority of their social web time.  (Last I checked, platform demographic info could be found easily by poking around the web.)

  2. Improving upon and abbreviating stiff marketing copy to become more transparent, more approachable, with a voice that is interesting, humorous, AND useful to our fans/followers.  One that cuts through the static of all the other updates that flow through their social media feeds.

  3. Responding thoughtfully to comments, posts, and even negative feedback as we start to grow our fan/follower exposure.

  4. Studying what gains response among our target demographics and tailoring our messages to those groups.

Easy enough, right?  In another post, I’ll elaborate with tips on developing and improving your social media “voice,” as well as types of things to look for when evaluating response.

Looking for help with your social media program?

Click Here to Contact Blue Tomato Creative!

Do you have thoughts about social media’s impact on the way we think?  Your comments are welcome.