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!

Fun with Twitter, a Win-Win

Liquid Highway shows a playful side on Twitter and gives followers a good reason to come visit their store.

Liquid Highway's Twitter Stream

As somewhat of a (long overdue) followup to my previous post on social media as a marketing channel, I’d like to highlight a business who has the right idea on how to use Twitter to engage loyal and potential customers.

Liquid Highway, a specialty coffee company with locations across South Carolina, has been part of the Twitter community since early 2009.  In that time, they have found a way to translate their Twitter presence into that of a fun-loving friend who is a delight to be around, who you look forward to hearing from… the kind of friend you’d like to introduce to others.   Why? They’ve chosen to add fun tidbits such as games to their tweets, with the prize being discounts in their stores.  And from their tweetstream, you can see that they are as passionate about pleasing their customers as they are about coffee.

The games come in all sorts, all of which encourage followers to visit a Liquid Highway store: everything from a “Happy Mooonday!” invitation to make an animal sound to receive a free shot of espresso, “Twitter Tuesday” where a tweet about Liquid Highway gets you a free small coffee, to “Truth OR Dare Thursday!” where brave souls can receive 50% off their drinks for participation.  What’s great about this? These are DAILY games… meaning followers look forward to seeing a new day’s challenge and are more likely stop by multiple times in a week.  Plus, followers have many, many options for sharing deals with friends.  A win-win… win. 🙂

Social Media Soup

Social media is on the rise as a marketing channel, but is that what consumers want to hear?

I can now ‘Become a Fan’ of, follow the tweets of, and subscribe to any number of rss feeds from the companies/brands I enjoy.  Does having a Twitter account with a river of tweets about products make me more likely to purchase from a company? No.  It’s hard enough to keep up with what  friends are tweeting about, much less take in advertisements.  So, what angle should a company take to get attention in this blossoming channel?  How about share something interesting with those who opt to hear from you.

When friends opt to see status updates from each other, they expect to see something personable… something to keep them in the know about each other.  Companies should keep this in mind when attempting to harness the various social media outlets.  Instead of a push of impersonal ads, how about something that relates to the company/brand’s story?  Could you share bits of historical interest?  Photos? Provide some interactivity such as a game or contest?  Special offer and sale notifications are acceptable as well, in moderation.  If you’re interesting, in a real sort of way, you’re less likely to land an ‘un-follow.’  Just something to think about.

Five Brand Must-Dos – Proving Your Brand

Can you prove your brand is not just another bland one in the sea of mass marketing?

Today’s consumers are more knowledgable than ever before, and no wonder… they’re used to sifting through tons of false marketing ploys.

How does your brand measure up?  Is your brand:

believable1. Believable?
Consumers are so overwhelmed these days with brands pitching everything from “green initiatives” to “new and improved.”  If your brand is pitching, it better have the proof to back it up. Can you illustrate the ways you’re “going green” to your customer? Can you show how this product is “new and improved” over the product it replaces? Give the customer a believable story to back up your claims.

unique22. Unique?
Does your brand represent a niche market? Is it strikingly similar to others? If niche is your realm, then good for you – you’re unique! If not, you have work to do. What makes your brand (let’s say Brand A), any more worthy of purchase than Brand B?  Tell customers precisely why they should purchase – cost? quality? performance? Again, you must explain PRECISELY WHY the customer should purchase your brand over another.

passionate3. Passionate?
Do you love your brand? Of course you do, else it wouldn’t exist, right? Conveying the brand’s own history and stories breathes life into what might otherwise be a bland, faceless product or service.  This is a vital part of illustrating the value of your brand.  Find your brand’s core values and explain them to your customers in a way that they can relate.

engaging4. Engaging?
Are customers invited to actively participate in making your brand a success?  Seems like a no-brainer, but still some companies are afraid to let their customers’ voices be heard.  If you believe your brand is worth it, let the customers provide feedback, reviews, and ratings.  You can learn more than you’d ever imagine about your customer and just how to reach them effectively by doing so.

truetocustomer5. True to its consumer?
Lastly, but most importantly… Putting the customer first in all brand-related decisions is always a must.  It’s not just “give the customer what she wants,” but “would the customer perceive this as a value-add to her experience with the brand?”  No clue if something is a value-add? Customer surveys are an excellent way to find out!

Blissful Branding – Sweet! and Achievable!

And, I’m not just saying this because it’s one of my favorite brands.
(Okay, that might have a little something to do with it.)

ravenlogoRaven’s Brew coffee has been a favorite brand of mine for 5+ years now, never letting me down… not once.  I discovered them while googling for Christmas gifts one holiday season.  I’ve placed numerous orders with them and am a true Raven’s Brew brand evangelist.  What makes this brand so special?  I’m so glad you asked.

  • They’re real people with a story and a passion for coffee.
    These folks eat, sleep, and breathe coffee roasting perfection andpromoting positive relationships with the regions from which their coffee is harvested.  And, they do a beautiful job of educating their customers to emphasize their focus on qualitysustainability, andculture.
  • They’re creative, spirited, and just plain fun.
    The precisely right combination of artwork and prose can be found on each bag of Raven’s Brew signature coffee.  Not only can you ooh and aah over these masterpieces on the bags, but there are full-sized posters (among other merch) available for purchase.  I personally find it hard to throw away these bags even if I have dupes… that’s how much I REALLY like the artwork.
  • cherrykarmaThey deliver a superb product and have excellent customer service.
    When ordering, I always get exactly what I pay for – fine, quality-roasted coffee beans with an unparalleled flavor.  Blissful, indeed!   And, if I contact customer service, I literally feel as if I’m conversing with a friend, not a company.  I mean, the sympathy expressed when I panicked because they ran out of Cherry Karma (my favorite, and a very very limited offering) was enough to make me a lifetime customer.

So there you have it.  Whether small or large, brands should be able to understand the very powerful basics to blissful branding. Again, they are:

  • Demonstrating a real passion for the product being sold
  • Taking a brand-appropriate, creative and personable approach to marketing
  • Delivering a quality product with excellent customer service backing.

I truly hope to see more businesses focus on these fundamentals as our economy recovers from its current state.  Also, I’ve not been solicited in any way to add this information, however, I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there because it is timely.  The Valentine’s Elixir is now available on the website. Yum!  And, thank you, Raven’s Brew, for giving me a full brand experience to “glow” about!