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!


Everything I needed to know about Social Media, I learned from Instagram

I ❤ Instagram: an iPhone-based Social Media service for Photo-Lovers

Lessons learned from my favorite Social Media service, Instagram – a social photo app for iPhone.

Obviously, there isn’t an all-knowing source for what works and what doesn’t when it comes to Social Media, but through observation and the use of several services, I have gleaned a better understanding of the Social pulse and what drives users to get so involved.

My favorite example of a Social community explosion is Instagram. Not only do I love and use the Instagram service, but I can honestly say that my experience with this app has made quite a difference in my approach to working with Social Media on a professional level as well.

A few of the lessons I’ve learned from Instagram:

Be in the moment. – It’s not about perfection, it’s not about being cool… It’s about being real and right there in the moment, and it’s about expressing a notion, an idea, or a personal style.  Some of my favorite Instagramers, or IGers as regular users say, share a moment here and there throughout their day, even if it’s something that is as common as a view of the sky, gazing down at blades of grass, or what they’ve made for dinner.

The power of making even common moments magical is where Instagram really shines.  Using the app’s filters and effects, a very personalized approach to everyday moments is possible.  Plus, if you’re an app nerd like myself (I’ll share my favorite photo editing apps in another post.), you can edit a photo with a wide assortment of filter/editing apps and post it to reflect any given mood or artistic whim.

Get involved. – One aspect of Instagram I’ve enjoyed from the moment I began using the iPhone app (late 2010) is participating in “forums” or “challenges.”  Some IGers such as @joshjohnson, @jaywintermeyer, and @kewiki – to name just a few – often post challenges to get their followers engaged in the IG community.  These challenges can be based upon anything from a color theme to editing a specific photo using any combination of photo editing apps.

My Word of the Day Challenge@joshjohnson is an Atlanta, GA based photographer who has probably been the most prolific Instagram challenge maker/influencer as he posts daily AND weekly forums/challenges, plus “Instatips” – daily photography tips on everything from capturing the perfect light with your iPhone to SLR gear.  If you’re an Instagram user, I highly recommend checking him (and the other two users mentioned above) out!

I was even inspired to create my own challenge about a month ago – check Instagram’s #WOTDProject hashtag for my Word of the Day project feed.  Basically, this consists of a group of a few folks posting shots based around Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day.

It’s less ME than it is EVERYONE. – The sooner you stop soap-boxing, or in this case, focusing on only receiving feedback on your own photographs, and stop for a moment to HEAR – and SEE – what others are doing, the faster you will improve your Social Media skills.

I really dislike artificial ploys to grow your ‘follower’ or ‘friends’ lists when it comes to any Social Media service as they seem counterintuitive.  So, what to do?  Look at what others are posting, give honest and thoughtful feedback, follow people you are genuinely interested in… and pretty soon, you will develop real connections.  You will find yourself part of a conversation.

Charleston, SC Instameet on May 7, 2011 at 12pmAnd, like Twitter, Instagram has given way to in-person Instameetups – In fact, there’s a Worldwide Instameet happening this Saturday May 7th.  I’m attending one locally here in Charleston, SC.  Is there one in your town?  Click here to find out.

As with a lot of what was considered “web 2.0” (Wow, that sounds antiquated.), I had to come around to Social Media in my own time… and find something that appealed to me before I could wholeheartedly say I loved it.  Instagram really pushed the needle, which is something that Facebook and Twitter just couldn’t quite do for me.  I can now say, “I LOVE IT!”

I’m pleased that the takeaway from a passionate personal experience with a service such as Instagram has been a greater appreciation and understanding of the fundamentals of Social Media as a channel for connecting to an audience, sharing common interests, and building relationships.

Do you use Instagram?  If so, find me: @mockturtle!

Any other Instagram users our there?  I’d love your comments.


Seagull Eating a Starfish – When Quirky Works

A seagull eating a starfish smells like: “Tidelands, driftwood, downy bird musk, and the gingery spike of starfish terror.”

marf, marf, marf... mmm... starfishThanks to ZOMGsmells.com, I am now aware of this…  and the fact that seagulls really do eat starfish.  This unfortunate seagull snacking preference and the suggestion of its associated fragrance got my attention.  Quirky worked to draw me in. I quickly found myself lingering on the ZOMGsmells.com website, looking around for the next odd thing to catch my eye, and I didn’t have to look far…

ZOMGsmells.com sells unique fragrance blends, each curiously named.  Aside from the alluring scent of Seagull Eating a Starfish, I found gems such as: Coronal Mass EjectionKudzu Doom, Spacebat, Candy MechanicBaby Gorgon Birthday Party, and many more.  Each name just begged to be clicked to figure out what the heck that could possibly smell like.

Upon clicking through on each name, I was rewarded with a humorous little backstory and image, along with a very specific description of the scent (the oils included, etc.).  Win!  Quirky worked to keep me browsing, increasing the time I stayed on the site.

Now, the big question: Will quirky work to make me buy? Quite possibly… we shall see.  I could at least sample a “squee” or three.  (But, even though it got my attention, I probably won’t go with Seagull Eating a Starfish. I wouldn’t want to wander around my coastal home smelling of starfish terror.  I might get swarmed.)

And, on that note, I leave you with a bit of my YouTube research:


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 RavensBrew.com website. Yum!  And, thank you, Raven’s Brew, for giving me a full brand experience to “glow” about!


One of the Worst EVER eMarketing Mistakes

Anti-relevance.  And, I know it’s not just me who thinks this!

I’ve long stressed the importance of relevance to the budding eCommerce designers, developers, and marketers I’ve managed. It’s what most online marketers now think of as common sense, especially with the advent of paid search and getting folks to what they are searching for at all costs.

One area where so many websites still drop the ball is once the customer gets to the site, regardless of how or why, they must even be taken to relevant pages WITHIN the site when clicking around.  Seems like that would make sense, yes?  However, so often, the homepage of a website will show a picture of a flashy, attention-getting product, but with NO WAY TO GET TO THAT PRODUCT.  As a consumer, if I see a picture that catches my eye, and that picture is clickable, I expect to end up at a page that contains that item, explains more about it, and/or allows its purchase.

Example:

If I were to click on the flaming pink guitar, you’d think I’d see it on the resulting page… but no.  It’s nowhere to be found.

category page:
pinkguitar

resulting page:
guitar-results
So, food for thought when designers are putting together the page.  Just because an item is flashy and attention getting doesn’t mean it’s always the best choice for a teaser.  If it’s nowhere to be found for sale, it’s likely to generate more customer frustration than interest!