Year end Tax Tips
Our trusted DMCNY accountant offers us—again—a gaggle of useful tips for tax and financial planning at yearend 2013. [David, watch out! We’re going to have to make this an annual thing!]
A health savings account. These provide a great tax break, even if you don’t itemize your deductions. And the money helps you pay medical expenses. Keep in mind, if you don’t use all of the money in one year, you may carry it to the next year, even if you change jobs.
Party time. You can only write off half of your business meals and entertainment expenses. But if you hold an event, like a party, a picnic or a BBQ, for the entire company, that’s 100% deductible.
Obamacare. If you are having trouble understanding the new law (and who isn’t), go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZkk6ueZt-U&feature=youtu.be
Married couples of the same sex. All who are legally married will now have to file federal returns as married, even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage. The rules for state returns depend on the law of the state where you live.
December 31 is the last day to set up and deposit up to $51k into your solo 401(k). It’s also the deadline for setting up your Keogh retirement plan.
New York State driver’s license. You may have to forfeit your license if you owe more than $10k in taxes.
Warm up. If you are retiring and want to move someplace warm, look into 3 questions: How the state taxes retirement income; what the sales and real estate taxes are; and whether there is an estate tax. Keep in mind that states offering tax breaks in one area may raise revenue by taxing other activities. State rules vary widely. One place to start your research is http://www.taxadmin.org.
The tax man cometh. Starting January 1, 2013, for married couples with income over $250k (and singles above $200k), there is a 3.8% tax on investment income, including dividends, capital gains and rental income. There will also be a 0.9% tax on wages above those amounts. The top tax rate is now 39.6%. So, it makes sense to keep taxable bonds, REITs, and high paying stocks in your tax-deferred retirement accounts. You can then keep tax-exempt bonds in your regular investment account, since those earnings are not included in income for this tax calculation.
For any further questions, club members may reach David at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Direct Mail – Still Relevant After All These Years
As any direct marketer knows – despite some opinions to the contrary – direct mail is as relevant as ever in a direct marketing campaign. It is a vitally important medium in reaching customers, and should still be considered the engine of any integrated direct marketing effort.
There is a lot to be said these days for the tactile experience. Not only can customers retain the message, they have the opportunity to revisit it. The key is to stand out from the clutter with a dynamic piece.
So how can marketers get the most out of their direct mail campaign and trust that their investment in this marketing channel is worthwhile? Here are some considerations:
1. What is the size, complexity, time frame and budget for your direct mail program? Once you determine the specifics of a marketing program, an important factor is the relationship you have with your production partner. Here are some questions to ask to ensure you have the best possible partner:
· Does your supplier have direct mail expertise, along with a range of capabilities, products and services that are appropriate for your program?
· Can the supplier meet deadlines and provide on-time delivery, on budget?
· Is your production partner readily accessible, and good at problem solving?
· Can this partner provide ideas about reducing costs or improving design?
2. Can you assume the data is correct? Instead of selling to everyone, direct marketers focus on segments or target markets that represent reachable prospects. The integrity of the lists and data is critical. So considerable time needs to be spent reviewing, analyzing and segmenting the data through its life cycle.
3. Does your production partner have the platform to provide the level of personalization and innovation your program needs? We all know how difficult it is to stay on top of rapid changes in technology. But your supplier must demonstrate continual investment in the latest technology, to meet your requirements and challenges, and to offer the best personalization options, as well as innovative solutions.
4. How can you optimize speed to market and save costs at the same time? First, include all the necessary elements and instructions from the get-go, including the job basics and the data processing information, along with letter set-up, sign-off and letter shop information. Second, postage and transportation costs are the largest part of any direct mail budget, so find out whether your supplier has an on-site post office and commingling capabilities.
Silver Apples at 29 – Looking Better Than Ever, a Fitting Tribute to DM Leadership
As Club president Cyndi Lee of SMS Marketing Services opened the 2013 Silver Apples Award Gala on November 7 at the Edison Ballroom off Times Square, she invoked the first Silver Apples in 1985, with a video showing past honoree and then president Mal Dunn relating how the award program got its start. “Here we are in the greatest city in the world, the greatest center of direct marketing,” he said. “And all we had to do was call on our most important talent, the people.” Dunn also credited Tom Knowlton and Jim Prendergast for coming up with the concept.
How compelling to recall the origin of this annual celebration of direct and data-driven marketing leaders, as the Gala marked its 29th anniversary, with 370 in attendance, the largest turnout ever. There are now 220 Silver Apples honorees, 5 Golden Apples honorees and 18 Corporate Award recipients. This is our heritage, and also our future.
Co-emcees Pam Haas of The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks—and our next (2014) Club president—and Scott Fenwick of ValueClick, took the stage to bring the entire room to song, to the melody of Neal Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” with a new set of lyrics: “So it begins / It is our annual gala / Honoring those who give their all / DM leaders all / Tonight they get their Apples / And they are glad you came along. …“
Tom Turner of Turner Direct presented Arthur Blumenfield with the Golden Apple, recalling Arthur’s tenure at the then Standard Oil of New Jersey where he launched their first data processing center with 42K of memory. Arthur also worked with past honorees Lee Epstein, Ed Mayer and Pete Hoke to launch the Direct Marketing Days in New York conference. Arthur and recounted the many men—and , he stressed, women—who helped to make his career and volunteer work so rewarding. “When you give back, you get back, over and over again,” he said. As is Arthur’s nature, he also shared a joke from a devout reader of The New York Times obituaries: “I find it amazing that people die in alphabetical order.”
Honoree Liberta Abbondate of Hearst Magazines was introduced by past Silver Apple recipient Joe Furgiuele: “She is the 1% of the 1% in our field,” Joe remarked, “whose running of the numbers matches up with the best of computers.” Liberta shared five key rules from her years in marketing and publishing: (1) Learn as much as you can; (2) Commit to the job; (3) Challenge conventional wisdom, and be a catalyst for change; (4) Do good by being good; and (5) Surround yourself with great people. We now know firsthand of the success she has brought to Hearst, Dow Jones, Forbes, and Smithsonian, among other publishers and dozens of titles.
When the late Direct Marketing Hall of Fame member Rose Harper of The Kleid Company is your aunt, you have a running start in our business. That’s who honoree Richard Vergara of MeritDirect credits for his lifelong career, having led the DMA List and Database Council and the launch of DMA List Day, and, today, his current leadership of the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association. “[Rose] was a force of nature—and a teacher of business and life lessons.” Richard offered plenty of tribute to his family, his longtime clients (such as American Media, Bonnier, Playboy and Time), his colleagues at MeritDirect, and past honoree Ralph Stevens.
Honoree and professor Richard Hochhauser, teaches both at Baruch College and NYU, launched the direct marketing division of Harte-Hanks in 1975, and later led the company as president & CEO. Richard told us how he co-taught a class with another professor, who would focus on the textbook content. When it was Richard’s turn, he said to the class, “That’s the theory. Now I’ll tell you what happens in the real world.” It’s that passion of passing on knowledge to others that’s earned Richard his reputation—as former chairman of the DMA and the DMEF (now Marketing EDGE), and on the board of Texas A&M’s Center for Retailing Studies. Richard on what helps build a career: “Choosing the right industry, and choosing the right company.” On teaching, his great motivator is: “Seeing a student’s light bulb go off.” Shine on, Richard.
The West Coast was in the house that night. Irvine CA-based honoree Pete Carney of Carney Direct Marketing said his wife told him once, “There are no jobs in California, and you are unemployable.” So Carney Direct Marketing came to be, harnessing Pete’s experience as national sales manager at Equifax, and previous stints at Mal Dunn Associates and Mail Marketing. “All my life, I’ve been working with friends. The people I work with are my assets,” he said, speaking of business partners, clients and colleagues. And then there was that story about Gary Laben and himself, getting a pair of pantyhose on a cow somewhere in Texas…
And speaking of Gary Laben, does he ever age? Gary, of KBM Group and Wunderman Data & Insights, also received a Silver Apple during the evening. Gary got plenty of laughs, as he lamented no longer being a “Young Direct Marketer of the Year.” Tireless in his commitment to marketing education, working with Marketing EDGE and the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing on their respective boards, Gary also serves as a business leader in analytics and customer engagement at KBM. “I am humbled, being in the presence of such Silver Apple honorees as Lester Wunderman,” who in his 90s, still comes to work every day.
“You may already be a winner,” but Publishers Clearing House’s Debbie Holland is now a Silver Apples honoree. “When I first started in this industry back in 1978, a four-page sales letter was the standard,” she observed. “In this day of flash mobs, speed dating, and Twitter, I should be able to get a message across in 140 characters, right?” So in just 3 tweets, @DeborahJHolland shared her philosophy: “#Respect all the links in your chain, big or small. Be a bright, shining link to #Inspire others & light the way for new directions. | Don't be the #WeakLink when someone pulls your chain. #silverapples13 advice | We're all connected in the #ChainOfLife & stronger together than 1 link alone. Thanks for being part of my chain & for supporting me! @DMCNY.”
DMCNY also named a corporate Silver Apples honoree, the Target Marketing Group, publisher of Target Marketing, FundRaising Success, Retail Online Integration, eMarketing + Commerce magazines, the Who’s Mailing What! archive and Direct Marketing IQ. On innovation and reinvention, publisher Peggy Hatch—who, with past honoree Denny Hatch, joined the company 21 years ago—spoke of the transformation the company has undertaken as marketers’ needs for information and knowledge have changed. Today, the company offers case studies, blogs, webinars, virtual conferences, and video along with its magazines, to help make marketing smarter for a global audience. “Take risks and swing for the fences,” she urged.
Altogether 40 past honorees were present, among them: Ken Altman, Stu Boysen, Reggie Brady, Jerry Cerasale, William Denhard, Phillip Dresden, JoAnne Monfradi Dunn (newly named DMA chairman), Scott Fenwick, Jim Fosina, Joseph Furgiuele, Richard Goldsmith, Joseph Gomez, Dennison Hatch, Peggy Hatch, Leon Henry, Don Hinman, Henry Hoke III, Marjorie Kalter, Brian Kurtz, Ray Longden, Harvey Markovitz, Neil Mason, Susan McNamara, Pegg Nadler, Edward Nash, John Pahmer, John Papalia, Christopher Paradysz, Jim Prendergast, Jerry Reitman, Adrea Rubin, Robert Sawyer, Ronald Sichler, Christine Slusarek, Brian Snider, Ralph Stevens, Ruth Stevens, Tom Turner, Penny Vane and Tom Zukas.
There were no hurricanes to fiddle with the festivities—but there was plenty of momentum and cheer for the year ahead: the Silver Apples will never be 29 again. A thank you to all honorees, attendees, sponsors, and the event committee – led by Sharron Mahoney of SMS Marketing Services and Dianne Petruzzelli of Fosina Marketing. We made quite a song, “Awarded to our Shining Stars.”
This annual celebration of direct and data-driven marketing leaders, marked its 29th anniversary, with 370 in attendance, the largest turnout ever. There are now 220 Silver Apples honorees, 5 Golden Apples honorees and 18 Corporate Award recipients. This is our heritage, and also our future.
Claire Burns - DMCNY Member profile
Q: Now that you’ve been a member, and a sponsor, of DMCNY for a year, what would you say are the benefits of supporting our club?
A: Being a member of DMCNY has been great. We've been thrilled to connect with other members whose services compliment ours. The luncheons and evening events have featured so many dynamic speakers who have explored all aspects of traditional direct marketing as well as email marketing, which has helped us become better experts in this field.
Q: Tell me about your career. How did you get into direct and email marketing in the first place?
A: I've been in client services for 12 years in various industries. Prior to Emma, I was in background screening which is an industry void of creativity. So I was quite interested in moving to a field where I could not only use my creative strengths but also be part of an industry that was fast growing. Emma was the perfect fit. I started as a compliance officer to learn the technical side of email, and then transitioned to account management to help some of our larger clients.
Q: What’s going on at Emma? Any things our membership should know about?
A: I'm lucky to see a number of great success stories, but one sticks out in particular. One of the accounts I manage, Mario Batali, had a pretty impressive year. They moved to Emma last spring after having not a lot of success with their previous email campaigns. I worked with them to find their focus through better design and mailing strategy. After the better part of a year of thoughtful and consistent emailing, we compared the success of their holiday mailings to the year prior. They had a 57% increase in opens and a 64% increase on clicks on their licensee ads. They were thrilled.
Q: What do you see as some of the challenges and new directions where email marketing is headed?
A: There's been a shift of focus since I started with Emma five years ago. While spam is still prevalent, it's not the biggest enemy of your mailing's success any more. Now, we must focus on how your email can stand out among all the other credible emails. The consumer is smarter, so the marketer must rise to the challenge by making their content relevant and personalized. Personalization has gone beyond a mere "Hi, [Claire]." Now you need to consider your messaging strategy carefully, sending them content specific to their interests and at a frequency they respond to. You need to give them options on your signup form and honor their selections. It may mean an extra step of work on your end, but the result is an appreciative and engaged audience.
Q: What is the most important thing to consider when looking at your email marketing plan?
A: Before working with any new account, my first question is: Why are you doing email marketing? Many jumped into email because everyone else was doing it. It's essential to understand the why so you can gauge your success. Then, your mailing calendar, content plan and mailing expectations will all fall into place. This type of focus and consideration will undoubtedly be appreciated by your audience and readers, and result in better ROI.
Emma, a new sponsor of DMCNY, is an innovative email marketing services provider. Postings’s Ruth P. Stevens spoke with Claire Burns, who enthusiastically manages Emma’s relationship with our club.
14 Call-To-Action Tips to Boost Response
Think about the Call to Action (CTs) as an advertisement for your offer. CTAs are an effective tool to drive traffic to your landing page and increase conversion rates. Creating persuasive, powerful calls to action isn't easy, but here are some tips and practices that you can test.
1. Use value-laden and actionable copy such as “Download Now,” “Get Your Free Trial” or “Speak to an Expert.” Your copy objective is to get to the point and create trust, urgency and value.
2. Use a CTA only to offer something of real value to your visitor. CTAs should not be used for branding.
3. Adding the specific offer in the CTA makes it stronger. For example: “Subscribe Now and Save 80%,” which is better than just “Subscribe Now.”
4. Place CTAs above the fold and along the visitor’s eye path.
5. Use bold, contrasting colors in your CTAs so they don’t blend into the content.
6. Make your CTA one of the bigger, more prominent objects on a page.
7. Design the CTA to resemble a button, by adding bevels, shadows, and hover effects.
8. Make your CTA stand out by surrounding it with plenty of white space.
9. Link your CTAs to a dedicated landing page, not your home page.
10. Too many CTAs will distract your visitors. A CTA is meant to direct visitors to a specific course of action, so limit yourself to a primary CTA and possibly a secondary CTA only.
11. Experiment with and test your CTAs to know what design, copy and placement works best.
12. Add keyword-rich ALT tags so your CTA adds search value to the page.
13. Mobile optimize your CTAs so any device can see them.
14. Personalization is a good way to improve your CTA’s effectiveness. Create different CTAs for different personas.
What You Need to Know About DRTV Today
Today, $150 billion of consumer products in the U.S. are sold through DRTV, and between 20% and 40% of TV households buy from DRTV.
1. So, what is DRTV? And what's the difference between DRTV and regular TV?
Direct response television is a form of marketing used to generate responses from prospective consumers, as a direct result of the marketing campaign. DRTV is often broken down into three subcategories: lead generation, product direct sales, or service direct sales. The difference between DRTV and traditional TV is as simple as a URL or 1-800 number. Media that has been designated DR based on the presence of a URL or 1-800 number can be purchased at a discount, versus standard TV advertising (brand advertising), thus ensuring media efficiencies. On average, DR prices are 30-50% lower.
2. Who uses DRTV?
Chances are you've seen the old “yell-and-sell” infomercials, with pitchmen like Billy Mays, but those days have passed, and DRTV has taken on an entirely new tone. Today, it's used by more brands than you probably realize: Estee Lauder, American Express, L'Oreal, Bose, KitchenAid, Capital One, Hanes, Keurig, Vanity Fair, Dyson, Garnier, Fab, Travelocity, Playtex, ShoeDazzle, Maybelline, and many more.
3. Why DRTV?
Direct response television is a highly effective customer acquisition medium that offers broad exposure to build your brand while driving response and measurable sales. Tracking and measuring performance can be drilled down to the level of individual airings, allowing brands to cost effectively reach a segmented audience based on daypart, channel, location, or type of programming.
4. What should I know before considering DRTV?
Step one is getting to know your customers and their journey. It is mission critical to know where your customers spend, what they watch, and how they are influenced by various media: print, radio, TV, direct mail, out-of-home, mobile, and social. Use data-driven insight, research tools, and emerging technology to create a holistic view of your consumer. Recognize that the overarching goal of DRTV campaigns is to either push continuity programs or drive to retail—or a combination of the two. Not only are these the areas that hold the greatest potential for profit, they are crucial to developing a business model that remains effective at scale.
5. Give me a few hints! What are the keys to success?
One major key to success is creating a seamless customer experience between TV, online, and retail, by streamlining messaging, creative, and in-store signage. To do so, you must surround customers with relevant messaging to ensure a frictionless path to purchase. In addition, establish metrics and benchmarks that ensure a clear line of sight to success. Savvy marketers will consistently test their campaigns to not only mitigate risk but constantly optimize campaigns to drive the highest possible level of ROI, retail impact, and scalability.
Pre-testing: A Better Way to Beat the Control
The A/B split test is as fundamentally sound, as it is slow, expensive and inefficient.
Direct mail testing—even for high-volume mailers—means putting a finite number of possible tests in market. These tests are either incremental changes or wholesale redesigns. The former usually assures incremental gain/loss, and the latter requires a lot of risk and reputational capital.
Truth is, the vast majority of tests fail. For two reasons.
1) The control is hard to beat. It benefits immensely from something your test package can never have—exposure. Your target audience, however large, is still finite. You mail the same people over and over. Even non-buyers are exposed to the control.
2) Coming up with a test, or 10 tests or 100, for a single campaign is like searching for a needle in the haystack. The number of possible test packages is infinite, and you are forced to choose an imperceptibly small percentage of them to mail.
In split testing, the odds are against you. With a complete redesign, the odds are even more onerous. The A/B test will tell you if the new package test wins or not. But it cannot tell you why. Perhaps there are components within the complete redesign that are clear winners, but are getting drowned out by the weaker elements.
So, what is a better alternative? Look no further than the consumer package goods industry for an idea. CPG marketer do lots of in-market testing, also lots of product development work in advance. By comparison, the direct marketing world does very little.
The methodology now available to direct marketers is sophisticated, but simple and intuitive. In short, It is an online testing program through which your target audience evaluates thousands of different direct mail package ideas in mere minutes.
The secret to its success, and why this pre-testing matches up with live test results so well, is the ability to replicate real-world choice and decision making by:
1- Showing the target audience concepts, packages or offers holistically, just as they view them home.
2- Asking the target audience answer one question—overall preference—within a few seconds, the same amount of time you get before your package is thrown in the trash.
Behind the scenes is very sophisticated statistical modeling to answer the question we really want to know, which is Why? You end up with scores for every single test element, which may encompass 30 or 40 different component parts of a direct mail package (OE, letter, buck slip, reply form) and, in turn, thousands of package combinations.
The business upside is four fold:
- Test exponentially more ideas in a radically shorter period of time.
- Put fewer tests in the mail, and at higher volume, to get to rollout faster.
- Find out exactly what impact each component has on preference and response.
- Test big ideas, those that would never make it in the mail unless you have empirical proof they can work, in a low cost, low risk environment.
A/B split testing method has been around for decades, and yet direct marketing has changed dramatically, with more channels, better targeting, better production methods and now, a better way to beat the control.
3 Essentials of Cross-Device Direct Marketing
We’ve seen astounding changes in consumer media behavior lately. Digital research company comScore reports that 51% of a person’s total digital media time is now spent on smart phones and tablets. The always connected consumer creates new challenges and VAST new marketing opportunities for direct marketers.
Just as PCs required different marketing strategies and techniques from DRTV and direct mail, so too does the growth in mobile require us to rethink our strategies and tactics. Fortunately, “going cross-device” needn’t feel daunting if you remember three simple principles for doing it right:
1. Start with a 360 view of the consumer.
With digital we can effectively observe consumer behavior in unique ways. But most targeting solutions base their decision-making solely on a person’s PC activity. Given that PCs now represent a minority of total time spent on the Internet, it’s easy to see how PC-only data results in an incomplete customer profile.
Granted, it is more difficult to track mobile activity owing to issues with cookies in mobile applications and 3rd party cookies in Apple’s iOS operating systems. But technology has advanced, and the best solutions providers can now combine a user’s PC, smartphone and tablet activity into a single, rich customer profile. By analyzing such profiles you can pinpoint ideal target audiences as well as each person’s stage in the buying process.
There’s something else to consider. Most people think about running integrated PC, smartphone and tablet campaigns when they think of “cross-device.” Such campaigns have been proven highly effective. But you can also use your 360 cross-device data for targeting and then execute your advertising in just one channel, like PC or mobile. This can be a good way to get your feet wet before you commit to broader creative development and media buying.
2. Connect with Users on Their Terms
Marketing success is all about right person|right time|right message. In digital that means that you need to ensure that the message you deliver comes to them when they are most likely to care about it, and that the desired action is conducive to the strengths of the device they are using.
Different devices have different interactive strengths. Phones are great for on the go. PCs for content creation. Tablets for viewing content. Make sure that you leverage the strengths of each device in the messages you deliver. For instance, give people ways to find a store in a mobile ad. Rely on PC for online sales, because people are more likely to make purchases on this platform due to easier data entry. Showcase product shots and videos in tablet executions.
3. Use Every Campaign as a Learning Opportunity
Direct marketers are all about metrics and results. Reporting is essential to doing cross-device right. But you should also be learning about the specific cross-device behaviors of your particular customers with each campaign. The more we understand our audiences, the better we can design our programs to perform.
Doing cross-device right requires techniques that are a departure for many direct marketers. But the results are worth the change. My company recently conducted testing that compared single device campaigns with cross-device campaigns that used a 360 customer view. The results showed enormous increases in both engagement and conversion rates.
With figures like those, it makes sense for you to “take your brand cross-device” ASAP.
Your Email Reputation Depends on These Top 10 Must-Knows
Email marketing is still a top priority for marketers who seek leverage in their ability to target customers with relevant offers. But it’s very concerning when you realize 20% of emails don’t make it to the consumer’s inbox, according to data from ReturnPath.
Getting delivered requires some due diligence and care, but it also means giving consumers what they want. Web mail providers pay attention when consumers flag an email as spam, and when they leave the email unopened. Here are the 10 ways to improve your email marketing:
1. Email Append, Direct: Today, it’s a risky move to append email addresses to your database and then email those customers without an opt-in. Many email service providers will not allow their customers to use this method, because it can hurt the sender reputation.
2. Email Append, Indirect: Appending your list to a third party list and emailing customers through the third party is still okay—on the surface. However, it’s highly recommended that you use a positive opt-in method, requiring the customer to click on a link and give their permission.
3. Email Change of Address (ECOA): This service, which is not recommended, provides a new email address if old one is no longer working. While the majority of consumers have more than one email address, it’s important to remember that email permission is based on a particular email address, not a customer record. When the email address goes bad, so does your permission.
4. Cleansing: Take a hard look at your list. Remove those hard bounces and any soft bounces that have occured a few times. When you send emails to bad addresses again and again, it hurts your reputation, wastes your money and impacts your ROI.
5. Filter Out Inactives: Consider only communicating with customers who have engaged (via opens or clicks, for example) with you in the past 90 days This keeps your list fresh, improves your metrics and mitigates any deliverability impact of using old addresses.
6. Email Verification of Address (EVOA): Use EVOA to verify that email addresses are correct. Give your subscriber an opportunity to fix them, in real-time if possible.
7. Organic Acquisition: Look across your customer’s touch points with your brand and find opportunities to offer an opt-in. Look at web sites, social networks or even in-store locations. Build your list with customers who indicate that they want to receive your messages, to ensure relevancy.
8. Preference Center: Create a preference center to give subscribers the ability to change their frequency, channel or content types. Put them in control of the message.
9. Monitor Delivery: Watch your email’s performance, by campaign and in aggregate. Watch for trends that indicate emails are not being delivered—and act quickly.
10. Mobile: As more consumers move toward mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, leverage mobile-aware emails to ensure relevancy based on the device they are viewed on, as well as the content they deliver.
Remember that your subscribers are interested in your message, but it’s easy to lose their love. Relevant messages that matter will keep them opening and clicking, and will help you maintain a good email sender reputation—in a world where reputation is everything.
B2B Email Best Practices
The ad tech industry is abuzz with emerging technologies and new techniques, but email marketing remains one of the most important tools in the B2B marketer’s toolbox. The cornerstone of today’s business communications, email goes out at the rate of over 122 billion messages every hour, and 68 percent of marketers say that email marketing is vital to their business.
That said, email marketing in 2014 is not the same as it was in the ‘90s. Here are current best practices for B2B marketers looking to leverage email for customer engagement, acquisition, retention, CRM and more.
Make subject lines count. The subject line is the very first interaction your customers have with your message, so craft it carefully to encourage them to actually open the email. It should be short, benefits-driven and compelling. Self-service email provider MailChimp recommends 50 characters or less, and—though your grade school composition teacher may cringe—don’t waste valuable space on unnecessary punctuation. We’ve also found that capitalizing the important words lifts engagement, and that recipients are 22 percent more likely to open emails addressed to them by name.
Content is (obviously) key. This may sound like a no-brainer, but your email’s content should also adhere to certain best practices. Keep it clear and concise. Also be sure that it actually delivers on the promise of the subject line. And keep the salesy stuff out of it. It’s a marketing message, but don’t beat users over the head. Don’t focus only on yourself; asking questions within the body of the email message has been shown to boost customer interest and click-through rates.
Go with eye-catching creative. This also sounds obvious, but many B2B marketers eschew color and design elements in favor of a more “professional looking” black and white, text-heavy message when, actually, a little color goes a long way toward capturing interest and driving action. We don’t recommend neon green letters and flashing banners, but we’ve found that orange and red are colors that pop, especially for Call To Action buttons. Also, those buttons are more likely to get clicked if they are placed either at the beginning of the message, the end, or both.
Test, test, test. Who cares how beautiful or compelling the email is if it never actually makes it to the inbox? Be sure to regularly test delivery rates to avoid getting stuck in spam filters, which can be even stricter for some corporate domains. Also, regularly conduct A/B testing to optimize campaign performance and surface any issues.
Go mobile. Your B2B prospects are doing business on their smartphones and tablets, so if your design isn’t optimized for mobile and responsive to action via mobile devices, you’re way behind the curve. This is no longer optional.
Email is still one of the most effective ways to engage on a one-to-one basis with B2B customers and prospects, but it is important to understand how your B2B audiences use and respond to email in general in order to actually begin that dialogue and maintain it over the lifecycle of that customer. Keep your communications concise, benefit-oriented, eye-catching and device-agnostic and you’re sure to reap the rewards of this tried and true channel.