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Tracking and Split Testing

16
Aug

Average open rates for newsletters

A recent Marketing Sherpa article about average open rates published this interesting chart.

The research was compiled based on data from nearly 1,500 marketers. The chart compares the performance of B2B email newsletters to the performance of B2C e-newsletters in open rate, clickthrough rate and conversion rate.

The open rate is usually defined as the ratio between the number of registered opens to the number of emails sent. Some email service providers, as well as some marketers, take it to the next step and count only the number of emails delivered in the ratio. (See this post on email bounce rates)

The clickthrough rate (or CTR) is usually defined as the ratio between the number of clicks to the number of emails opened. For example, if an email was opened by 100 subscribers to an ezine, and 30 of those subscribers clicked on a link, then the CTR would be 30%.

The conversion rate is usually defined as the ratio between the number of conversions to the number of clicks. A conversion can be anything, such as a sale, request for more information, additional subscription, or anything that you may ask your subscribers to do. For example, if, of those 30 subscribers that clicked on a link, 3 purchased something, then the conversion rate would be 10%. (Some marketers would say it’s 3%)

Clickthrough and conversion rates are important indicators of email newsletter performance. As newsletter publishers we should track these statistics, making sure we always apply the same metrics.

The research shows that B2C newsletters perform slightly better than B2B. How do your own results compare to these averages? Please comment and share your insights.

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Blog
14
Mar

Have you noticed in Gmail that some URLs are clickable and some are not?

Recently, email marketers, and other people who are using this powerful marketing channel, started noticing that some URLs are working and some are not! What’s the mystery?

I sent a few test emails to my own Gmail account and here’s what one looks like in this screen shot:
Gmail ruins some text URLs

As you can see, links which contain a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, and no “www” are not functional links.

I don’t know if this is a deliberate “feature” or a bug in the Gmail web client, but as email marketers we need to be aware of this quirk, and find a workaround, which is actually simple: if you like to use some caps in your URLs for emphasis, all you need to do is add “www.” and they will work just fine.

Alternatively, you can use ALLCAPS.COM or onlylowercase.com and they should work as well.

This is only a problem in plain text emails, which email marketers usually use in auto-responders. If you’re using HTML to format your e-newsletter or other email marketing messages, all your links will work fine in Gmail.

Thanks to Denise Wakeman for alerting me to this problem.

Category : Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Design | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Managing Email | Tracking and Split Testing | Blog
20
Mar

These two Email Service Providers (ESPs) are as different as they can be.

Aweber is primarily an auto-responder service, enewsletter service second. To take advantage of all its features, you really need to be familiar with some Internet technologies, such as HTML, FTP and RSS.

If your intention is to self-publish a company newsletter, then Constant Contact is a better choice (not the best choice, though, but read on). They have an extensive library of ezine templates which can be customized relatively easily. CC provides hosting space for a small number of images, and more can be purchased. Aweber does not offer image hosting, so images need to be uploaded to your web site or blog – by FTP, for example.

When sending HTML emails, such as newsletters and e-flyers, it is advisable to also send a plain text version along with it, for people who prefer to read text-only emails, or their email programs don’t support HTML, or HTML is blocked by the company firewall. If you’re using one of Constant Contact’s many templates, the system generates the TXT version for you. With Aweber you need to manually create the TXT version which can become tedious quickly. However, a tool such as Premailer can help with that, however your HTML ezine needs to be hosted on your web site for this tool to work.

If you plan to publish several different email newsletters, and collect subscribers online, then Aweber provides an easier way, as you can have separate sign up forms for each list (newsletter). Aweber also offers pop up sign up forms, which have been proved to be very effective. Also, in terms of user experience during the sign up process, Aweber offers more choices as you can direct subscribers to different pages on your site, for example to deliver a sign up bonus or freebie.

Constant Contact would be a better choice if you already have an existing list of subscribers, or clients, which you can import into your account. Ideally you would import only people you know would be interested in receiving your newsletters, and have given you permission (either electronically or in person). When importing any number of contacts into an Awber account they are automatically sent a so-called “confirmation” email. This email contains a link each individual contact must click to give you permission to send them additional messages. This process can sometimes decimate your list, even ones which contain previously confirmed contacts. With Constant Contact, it’s up to you if you want to send your contacts this message, or you can confirm them “softly” over time, by including a “reminder” at the top of each email you send them. When a confirmation message is sent, you can not send your contact ANY more messages until they click on the confirmation link.

If it’s important for you to get detailed reports on opens and click-throughs, CC comes ahead of Aweber again. CC offers a very detailed report on how many people were sent an email, how many (and which ones) were opened, who click on which links, and how many times, who forwarded your email to a friend, etc. Aweber (in its basic package) offers limited reporting capabilities, to get the similar reporting to Constant Contact’s you need to upgrade your account.

If you’re looking for a system to easily create and send email newsletters and e-flyers, consider MadMimi instead of Constant Contact, as it’s much easier to use, at about half the price.

For a full-featured, yet easy to use auto-responder and newsletter publishing system I know use and recommend iContact.

Category : Boris Recommends | E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Design | Email List Building | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Blog
23
Oct

Consumers in the 18-to-34 age bracket are more likely to respond to marketing messages received by email than to advertising they see while using social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, etc. according to new research published in a white paper from Ball State University and ExactTarget.

ExactTarget, Inc. is a leading provider of on-demand email marketing software solutions. The Center for Media Design at Ball State University is a research and development facility focused on the creation, testing, and practical application of digital technologies.

Among other findings: the best time to send email newsletters is in the morning when recipients receive fewer messages, spend more time with each individual email, up to 13 minutes on average. Shorter, promotional email messages have a better chance of response in the afternoon and evening, when the time spent on emails drops down to 2 minutes or less, on average.

There’s a lot of other fascinating data available in this report which you can download for free from ExactTarget.

What is your experience? Please comment – I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Blog
28
Jul

First, let’s talk about your ezine, or e-newsletter. If you intend to publish an informative ezine, do not expect much direct sales from it. Why is this?

Because the primary purpose of your newsletter is to establish your credibility, expertise and to create that relationship – we keep returning to this relationship thing all the time, don’t we? Do not think of your ezine primarily as an advertisement for your services or products.

In your ezine, you must provide useful content to your subscribers

By all means, promote your products and services in your ezine, but do not make it the most prominent part of the newsletter. Here it should be in the background, and shouldn’t take up more than about a quarter of the space.

For example, at the bottom of the newsletter you can have a section titled “About Me”, and here you can provide a brief summary of your business, and also mention that you are the author of such-and-such book, or creator of a product. Provide a link to your site where there’s more information.

Now, the most money you’re going to make is through so-called promo-emails, or some people call them solo mailings. While your ezine may have several articles, reviews, comments, recommendations, etc., in a promo email you will concentrate on promoting just one particular thing: it could be a new product you developed, a new type of service that you offer, or something like that.

Typically, your promo emails will be much shorter than your regular ezine. In case you’re sending your ezine in HTML format you may want to experiment and send the promo emails as plain text. Be sure to split-test this.

BTW, for those who are not familiar with the term, split-testing is when you send one version of your email to a subset of your list and another, different version, to a different group of the same size. You compare the results, and from then on use the format witch produced the highest response.

These promotional emails will usually have response rates that are several times higher than a response from your ezine.

Category : Affiliate Marketing | Driving Traffic to Your site | E-newsletter Publishing | Email Marketing | Selling Online | Small Business Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Web Site Development | Blog
18
Dec

I get this kind of question a lot, and also see it posted on online forums hosted by various ESPs. The questions is: “Should I resend an email (ezine, offer, solo mailing) to my whole list or only to those that have not opened (or responded to) the original send?” Immediately following this question is: “How do I do that?”

I will leave the “Why?” for you to answer, because it will be different to different people. If you send your ezine once a week, then I’d say “Probably no”, but if you send it once a month, I’d advise you to resend perhaps 2 weeks after the original send.

With special offers and solo mailings, it will be different, too. These types of emails are more aggressive in nature, so you may want to consider resending these more often than you would a regular ezine.

In this short article I am going to give you the “How”: specific instructions on how to create a temporary list of subscribers who haven’t opened an email. This technique will work with any Email Service Provider system that shows you exactly which email addresses were registered as “opens”, but I will use Constant Contact as an example. If you’d like instructions on how to do this in 1ShoppingCart, email me.

This technique works in general, when you want to re-send an email campaign to a list, but exclude those subscribers who have previously opened or clicked on a link.

  • Create a duplicate of your existing list, name it “Resend xyz” where “xyz” stands for the name of your email that you’d like to resend, e.g. “Resend C2C.v2.14” would stand for “Contacts2Clients Volume 2. Issue 14.”
    If you have several lists, create the new one by merging your list. This list will now contain addresses of all your subscribers to whom you sent the original email.
  • In Constant Contact, go to Emails > Reports, then click on the number of “opens” for your original send. This will display a list of subscribers. At the bottom of the list click the button that reads “Save as List.” Name your new list “Opened xyz.”
  • go to Contacts > Export. In the Contact List drop down menu select “Opened xyz” list, then export it in either CSV or TXT format, it doesn’t matter. This will create a file called export.csv in your download folder on your computer (most likely on your desktop)
  • Locate this file on your PC and rename it “Opened xyz.csv”
  • Back to Constant Contact. Remove the subscribers who have already opened your email campaign by selecting the “Resend xyz” list and then upload the file “Opened xyz.csv” from your PC (follow this click-path Contacts > Manage Contacts > Remove)

This way your new, temporary list “Resend xyz” will contain only those subscribers who have not previously opened your original email campaign.

Use this list to resend your email campaign, then delete it. If you intend to resend several times, then rename the “Resend xyz” list as “opened” and remove the “new” openers from it. Each time you do it, the list will get smaller and smaller.

Things to Keep in Mind When Resending Your Emails

  • How often do you normally send your emails?
  • Are your subscribers used to seeing resends in their in boxes?
  • Are you going to antagonize some subscribers who didn’t open your email in the first place, because the subject line wasn’t enticing enough?
  • Should you also change the subject line?

You see, there are so many variables, and things to consider, and we’re out of time and space, as I am trying to keep this last issue of 2007 a short one.

Bonus TIP:
Before doing any “open heart surgery” on your lists, save a backup copy of your active subscribers to your computer.

Copyright 2007 by Boris Mahovac – Your Ezine Coach

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Service Providers | Small Business Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Blog
6
Nov

Using email for your marketing purposes is very powerful, easy and (almost) free, and is still the most effective way to reach your customers/clients. However, sometimes it pays off to go off-line and use traditional methods for generating leads or new business.

Depending on how clean and fresh your lists are, you may be experiencing 80%-98% deliverability rates for your emails. But you must agree that nothing beats the deliverability of the good old post office!

What if you could combine the strengths of an online, automated system, which works very much like an Email Publishing System with the

  • deliverability of snail mail, and
  • benefits of sending your prospects and customers a tangible item?

Would you be interested in trying this almost perfect business-generating system?

About a year a go I discovered Send Out Cards, an online on-demand printing and delivery system that works very much like sending personalized email, only it prints,personalizes and mails real postcards and greeting cards in any quantity. You can send a dozen custom postcards for about 10 bucks including postage. When you send a greeting card in an envelope, you can even insert gifts such as Starbucks or Home Depot gift cards!

You can use this system to send automated, but personalized postcards and greeting cards. You can choose between thousands of great stock designs – humorous, retro, playful, business-like, your choice – or you can easily create your own designs as simply as uploading a digital photo and adding a voice bubble or a caption.

Recently, I used Send Out Cards to generate some leads for my Ezine Coaching Program. If you’ve ever used direct mail (DM), or at least read about it, you know that a decent DM campaign results in about 1% response rate, while 2% is considered exceptional. Well, my postcards generated close to 10% response rate!

I used Send Out Cards to set up a custom designed postcard (ah, the benefits of having an in-house graphic designer – me :-) On the back of the card I have a simple marketing message, basically asking the prospect a few thought-provoking questions with a call to action to find the answers to those questions on my web site, with an offer to receive a free CD and printed report.

All of the copy on the back of the postcard is printed on-the-fly, personalized with the recipient’s name, and all of that using my own handwriting! Of course, I didn’t spend hours manually writing those postcards, I had my handwriting digitized so that my postcards appear to be hand-written.

For this particular postcard campaign I set up a special web site, with three different versions of the landing page. Why different versions of the landing page? Because I am split-testing them to see which one converts better – in other words, which page generates more subscribers.

Again, I am using my trusted Shopping Cart to manage and track the split-testing. This is so powerful, I am amazed every time I log in to my account – especially when I remember how we used to do it, many years ago with every DM piece having a little “ad code” and processing those responses in a spreadsheet! Wow. This is so much easier today.

To be able to track your off-line campaigns I recommend that you set up a special URL, e.g. www.yoursite.com/postcard, or even better, a unique web site. If you’re testing different postcards, have each card link to a different URL.

Using Send Out Cards is a great way to generate leads and especially repeat business from existing clients. However, one more great way to use Send Out Cards is to test different cards on a small sample of prospects (you can test the design, headline, copy, etc.) to see which one to use en masse, if you’re planning to ultimately send a large-scale mailing (1,000 or more cards).

Once you’ve nailed a winning card, then use a commercial printer to print your cards and a mail shop for personalization/sorting/mailing.

Extra tip: when mailing your own envelopes, try to use something to differentiate your envelope from the competition by using either an interesting sticker or enclose an object into your envelope. Anything that will make the recipient want to open it!

Category : Boris Recommends | Driving Traffic to Your site | Email List Building | Off Line Marketing Strategies | Small Business Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Blog
25
Oct

The easiest way to manage an affiliate program is to use shopping cart softwarethat also has the affiliate module available, either as an add-on feature, or it is included in the basic package.

The system I use is 1ShoppingCart (you may have heard of it under a different name, such as KickStartCart). This is a well-known and respected shopping cart system that is used by the majority of Internet marketers I’ve come across. Apart from the affiliate module and cart features, it also allows you to set up ad trackersauto-responders and ezines.

It allows you to create an affiliate program, have a web page where people can sign up, then the systems gives each affiliate his or her own link code for each product or service that you offer, and tracks visitors, sign ups, and purchases made that came from those links, for a period of time that you define.

In other words, if one of your affiliates sends you a visitor that signs up for your free ezine today, but makes a purchase a year from now, your affiliate partner will still get his/her commission.

Alternatively, if you’re technically inclined, you may choose a stand-alone script, orsoftware that you install on your own server to manage your affiliate program. I’ve never personally used any of these programs myself, so I can’t recommend any one in particular, but I do know that there’s one important advantage to having your own affiliate script installed, and it has to do with search engine optimization.

You see, if you’re using 1ShoppingCart, or a similar solution for managing your affiliate program, when your affiliates promote your products the links are always going to look like this: http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=94277&AdID=333732

However, if you run your own script, however, you can set it up that those links actually point to your web site, such as this http://YourWebSite.com/affid?2847

Why is this important? Well, from the point of view of search engine optimization, it’s better for you to have pages around the web have a link back to your site. However, if the majority of your affiliate partners are going to be using email to promote your products then this won’t matter.

To find about these alternative software solutions, simply Google “affiliate program software”, or, if you’re part of an affiliate program that uses one of these scripts, and you like its features, log in to your account and look at the bottom of the page. That’s where you can usually find a link to the person or company that created it.

Category : Affiliate Marketing | Driving Traffic to Your site | SEO for Affiliate Marketing | Small Business Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Web Site Development | Blog
20
Aug

This is an off line method of building your list, but you will be driving traffic to your web site, where your prospects can sign up. You will achieve best results if you can find a newspaper or magazine whose readership is your target market. For example, if you were a matchmaker you could place a classified ad in the “Personals” section of your local newspaper.

Bonus tip: Start small (i.e. cheap) to polish your ad, then work up to display ads which are more expensive.

Make sure you track the effectiveness of each of these marketing techniques. I recommend you use ad-tracking software, which allows you to assign a unique “ID” to each article, listing, or classified ad. This way you will be able to track your subscribers, see where they are coming from, how many are converting to clients, etc. This kind of information can help you eliminate marketing strategies that do not work, so that you can concentrate on the ones that do.

If you’d like to add ad-tracking features to your existing Email System Provider, I recommend HyperTracker.

Category : Driving Traffic to Your site | E-newsletter Publishing | Email List Building | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Off Line Marketing Strategies | Small Business Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Blog
5
Aug

OK, when’s the last time you updated your business card? Take a look at it now, and see if there’s room for improvement. Here are some tips:

  • use both sides of the card to deliver your message;
  • have a clear, benefit-driven statement that addresses your prospects needs/wants;
  • include a call to action, such as “Visit our web site to sign up for my e-newsletter and receive a free special report/white paper“;
  • in the call to action, see if it’s possible to use a custom URL so that you can track your sign-ups;
  • ask your printer about using AQ coating because it will protect the ink from smudging, but – unlike UV coating – will allow your prospects to write on your card with a regular pen, or even a pencil.

If you’re really cash-strapped you can get your cards for almost nothing on line at VistaPrint.com, but I’d recommend you invest in a nice custom designed card, which will project a more professional image.

If you attend a lot of networking events, where you may leave your cards unattended for anyone to pick up, I’d recommend not using your real email address, but list a Yahoo, or similar account on the cards, so that you can protect yourself from unsolicited email.

Copyright 2007 Boris Mahovac R.G.D.

Category : Business Networking | Driving Traffic to Your site | E-newsletter Publishing | Email List Building | Email Marketing | Seminars and Live Events | Small Business Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Blog