Roses are so last season anyway

Posted by: Alison
Feb 01, 2008

It’s Valentine’s Day! Don’t leave your customers wondering how much you appreciate their business; show them with a Valentine’s promotion. Even if you’re not in the flower, card or candy business.

The cynics out there will say that Hallmark, advertisers and every profit-driven business in America have turned Valentine’s Day, and every other holiday, into a commercial monstrosity that’s all about money. While I don’t agree with this position, I can see where that idea comes from.

Holidays present the perfect opportunity (read: excuse) for a sale or giveaway. And that sale is justification of an advertising campaign. Not too many people really want to go to White Castle for Valentine’s Day, but the promotion gets people talking. Look, I even linked to it.

Saving customers money or not, sales and promotions are designed to make more money for the business. Get a customer in a store or on the site with the lure of a sale, and hope they shop around and buy more full-price items. Or buy enough stuff on sale to make up the difference. Either way, the sale is for the store’s benefit, not the customer.

But who wants to print a flyer or fire an email that says “Pretend to save some money but actually spend more because profits are down.” No one. A holiday gives people a reason to shop—for themselves, for holiday items or for gifts. It doesn’t matter what the holiday is, you’re bound to need something.

valentine's day email marketing promotionBut if you’re not a Wal-Mart or department store offering something for every imaginable need, your products might not always mesh with the holiday being advertised. Then what? Get creative, that’s what.

It’s Valentine’s Day. You are not a florist, you’re an auto repair shop. Not romantic, but it is practical. Give the gift of safety. Or treat yourself. Or be daring and show your buddy how much you care—it’s a manly gift, so it balances out.

You get the idea. People love to shop. Give them a reason to and they will. Make them feel like it’s acceptable and expected, and you’ll get a customer for life.

Get out of jail "free"

Posted by: Alison
Jan 25, 2008

“Free” has always been a bad word for email marketers, but now it’s dangerous too. A recent court ruling decided that using “free” in the subject line of an email is deceptive advertising unless the product or service advertised is absolutely, completely, 100% free with no obligations or strings attached. If it’s not really and truly “free,” then it is in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

So that teensy-weensy email with an itty-bitty white lie in the subject line? That’s just one more harmless junk email? Just committed a federal offense. So, to help you stay out of jail, here are some more words not to use in email marketing subject lines.

Act now
    Yes, you’re always supposed to have a call to action, but don’t hit them with it before they’ve read your pitch. Also, “act now” just screams cheesy infomercial.

Apply now
    I didn’t put “now” on this list because I’m sure there are some legitimate reasons for using it, but more often than not it’s bad news.

As seen on__________
    More bad commercial lingo. Some reputable companies will mention where you may have seen their product, but they never use “as seen on” (or “as seen in”). Try featured on/in, or from…or just about anything but this.

    “Cash” + pretty much any word = spam. No not-spammy company advertises cash. Not even banks.

    On its own, “earn” is not a bad word, but again, this is one that is so often paired with a string of other bad words that it has lost its value. Think about it—you earn money working. And any decent employer is not going to email you for a job.

    So tempting, but so dangerous. Not only is free a red flag to recipients and spam filters, it’s a CAN-SPAM violation if it’s not really free. And what is these days?

Information you requested
    Sounds legitimate, but so many people have been tricked by this phrase that it has lost all credibility.

Limited time
    A real email marketing promotion would put an actual deadline on a sale or special, and wait until the revealed the offer in the body of the email to do so.

Lower or lowest
    Yes, a real email marketing message could be offering a lower price, or the lowest deal, but very rarely is that a real or verifiable claim. Many reputable stores do offer the “lowest prices of the season,” but that’s the only exception I can think of.

    “Opportunity” is everywhere, but a good, honest opportunity is not coming in an email. These email opportunities are just too good to be true…’cuz they’re not.

Any drug name or pornographic reference
    Goes without saying that these are no-nos, and in some cases actual bad words.

If you think about it and come up with some subject lines using these and other common spam words, you will quickly realize they all have a cheesy, late-night-TV, used-car-commercial ring to them. So, make your subject line actually say something and you should be all set.


Make an email marketing resolution

Posted by: Alison
Jan 15, 2008

It's a new year, and for many that means new budgets and new marketing campaigns. If you've never used email promotions, now is the time to start thinking about building an in-house email list and designing some cool postcards. Or, if your email marketing campaign seems a little stale, revamp it with a new look. Try a new format, or ditch your old marketing message and try an email newsletter.

VerticalResponse's marketing blog has a great marketing checklist full of ideas to start the (marketing) year off with a bang. Their ideas encompass every aspect of a truly comprehensive marketing plan, not just email, so you can use it to tie your whole campaign together, pull everything in a new direction or pick and choose what you'd like to try and make it work for you. A lot of the suggestions can be applied to email, even if it's not specifically mentioned.

Their best "marketing resolution" is to get people talking, because isn't that what any good marketing promotion is all about, email or otherwise? The "send to a friend" feature allows easy, one click email forwarding of anything people think is worth talking about, and sharing, with friends. So if you can get one person talking, they can help you get ten more friends talking.

Remember chain letters? How many jokes, cartoons and interesting articles do you get in your inbox a day? All these require you, or someone you know, to pass along an email to a friend or two. It's free for them, and they are only too happy to do it because they see something in the email adding value to their, and their friends', lives.

By creating a buzzworthy product or service and an email campaign to match, you could almost double your reach! If you sent 500 emails and every one of your recipients forwards your email to just one person, you get 500 free email promotions. And these promotions are almost more valuable, because they come from a trusted source-a friend or coworker, not an advertiser.

So resolve to take some time and come up with something worth sharing with friends. It could be a simple promotional code (everyone loves saving money) or a crazy contest. Just give them something to talk about.

Should internet marketers get bitten by the Twitter bug?

Posted by: Alison
Jan 04, 2008

Everywhere I look, people are dumping on email, and it’s really starting to get annoying. Maybe annoying isn’t the right word, but it’s definitely tiresome. Imagine always being one of the few kids to stand up for the poor little abused dork on the playground. Email is that dork, and I am its champion.

Twitter is the latest contender vying for the chance to shove email marketing out of favor and secure a coveted top spot as an advertising tool on the web. Laughable, really. Does anyone seriously anticipate Twitter replacing email enough to change email marketing significantly?

Twitter is to email what text messages are to phone calls. Twitter is fun and fast and great for quick little updates or random, off the cuff comments, but useless for serious discussion, conversation or messaging. Twittering is like texting; great for fluffy conversations with friends, but too frivolous and insincere for anything of great importance.

Real communication requires time, space and attention, none of which is afforded by Twitter. So there really is no hope of Tweets becoming the next generation of emails. Again, they are a different method of communication, with a different goal and end result than email. Twitter has strengths and weaknesses like any other channel of communication.

So does Twitter provide any value for marketing? Absolutely, but I don’t think people will be following brands and receiving mobile updates on promotions. Twitter has great potential for viral and word of mouth marketing, but its best hope for becoming part of the marketing mix is alongside email, not opposite it.

Email: alive and clicking

Posted by: Alison
Dec 19, 2007

It’s official: email is NOT dead. Obviously, or you wouldn’t be here at an email marketing site, reading a blog that’s all about…email?

So why a whole blog that talks about email marketing and opt-in advertising? Because email is and will continue to be a huge part of our personal and professional lives, whether you’re a student or a stockbroker, a geek or a grandpa.

Just today I overheard a coworker ask another coworker “Did you get that email I sent you?” She utilized the speed and efficiency of electronic communication, then took the extra time to walk over and check in person to make sure that the recipient got it.

I’ve got a client who wants an email record of every voicemail I leave him, to make sure he doesn’t forget to call me back. One of my credit cards is offering me special incentives to go paperless and get email statements instead of printed ones. Victoria’s Secret sends me so many email promotions they’re going to have to start paying me to shop soon. But yeah, keep trying to convince me that email is dead.

Email might not seem as cool as when it first came out, and marketing email promotions are by no means groundbreaking, but therein lies the power of both email and email marketing. Email has become such a normal part of our everyday lives that to not use it as a promotional tool would be absurd.

Think about how much of your life is tied to email in some way. Shopping, appointments, work, bills, correspondence…now think about how frantic you get when you can’t check your email. What smart advertiser wouldn’t want to target customers at their inbox?

If you really think email is dead, I challenge you to try to go without it for a week. Leave a comment to let me know how it went, and if you fared as fine as you thought, I’ll reevaluate my position. If not, you’ll definitely want to check back for more posts on the undead marketing medium that is email.

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