When Should You Send Email?

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Email is still one of the most effective — and cost-effective — targeted marketing tools available.  But knowing when to send is nearly as important as what you send.  Luckily, a review of several different studies conducted by companies as diverse as HubSpot and MailChimp revealed a few patterns.

Three metrics matter most to email marketers.  First is the open rate.  How many people read your message?  Open rate is significant because it represents action.  Somebody made a decision to read what you sent them, so they think there’s value in what you send, whether it’s an offer or information.

Second is the click-through rate.  How many people clicked on a link in your email to visit your website?  These are people who are either curious or potentially have an interest in doing business with you.  If you sell a product on your website, you’ll also want to know how many of these clicks turn to purchases.

Third is the bounce rate.  How many of your emails are actually reaching their destination?  A hard bounce is permanent — the address no longer exists, etc.  A soft bounce is temporary — their server is down, their mailbox is full, the email is too large, and so on.  If emails continue to bounce from an address, you should verify that address or drop it from your list.

The goal is to find the day of the week and time of the day that results in the highest open and click-through rates, because those can lead to new business.  Be aware that different kinds of companies get different results, so you’ll want to experiment.

First, consider the days of the week.  Virtually every study shows that open rates and click-through rates are highest in middle of the week.  Tuesday seems to come out on top most often, with Thursday running a close second, and Wednesday a not-too-distant third.  This is especially true if your customers are other businesses or professionals.  If you’re selling retail consumer products online, you may find that weekends provide higher open and click-through rates.)

Next, think about the right time of day.  These make sense when you think about them.  The top time for opens and clicks is 10 a.m.  People have gotten to work, cleared out their inbox, said their hellos, put out their fires and are settling back in, so now they’re more likely to be seeing emails as they arrive.  For much the same reason, 2 p.m. is an effective time to send.

The two surprises are earlier and later.  It turns out that 6 a.m. gets a good share of clicks and opens, probably because a lot of people check email first thing in the morning.  Its counterpart is 8 p.m., when people are winding down for the evening and taking one last look at email.  Proceed with caution here, though.  If you want to send email at a time when someone could contact you as a result of reading what you sent, sending during the workday makes more sense.

What works for you?  Try it and see.  Since the costs to distribute email are so low, you can afford to experiment, and see which day and time earn you the highest number of opens and clicks.  And remember the basics.  Your message matters.  Don’t be boring.  Write compelling subject lines.  Be sure your email is mobile – that it’s easy to read on a phone.  Know the average open and click-through rates for your industry, and try to beat them.

(If you’re looking for ways to grow your email program, from list-building to content generation and tracking, Idealogy is here to help.  Just reply to this email and let us know what’s on your mind.)

Are You Asking the Wrong Questions?

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Imagine an organization that provides its members with professional development workshops.  After each program, they survey the participants to get their feedback.  So far so good.  But in actual execution, they make three mistakes that make the responses they receive almost completely invalid.

First, they ask all participants to rate the event.  If the event gets high marks, high fives all around — the event was a success!  But not so fast.  What if only ten people attended when the goal was fifty?  And what if only six of the ten completed a survey?  Was that event really a success?  Probably not.  But interpreting it that way ensures that the organization is likely to repeat a program no one wants or needs.

Second, they overlook an obvious audience for their survey: the members who registered but didn’t attend.  What if fifty people registered but only thirty showed up?  The 40% who stayed away might have some insights to offer.  And since the organization has to plan — and pay — for all the people who register, it hits the bottom line.

Why did they stay away?  Is this the first time they registered but didn’t show, or are they habitual?  What’s the normal percentage of no-shows for your type of organization?  What would have made them attend?  How can the organization improve its confirmation and reminder process?  Is there a correlation between those who don’t show up and those who don’t renew their membership when it comes due?

Third, what about the members who never registered?  It’s worth finding out what motivated them to stay away.  Was it the topic?  The presenter?  The time or day?  The location?  If you charge, was it the price?  Was it so high it kept them away — or so low that it devalued the program?  How easy is the registration process?  How fast?  If it’s online, does member information autofill when they begin, especially if they’ve attended other programs?

Finally, how do you determine what programs interest your members?  If they have to get approval from supervisors, how different are their interests from their supervisors’?  Do you just ask them to suggest program ideas, or is it more methodical?  Do you list potential programs and ask members to rate their interest?  Do you experiment with special programs that cost more but offer more?  What if you began with broad areas of interest, then let them rank specific topics based on their responses?  If they don’t take the survey, do you re-send it?  Do you follow up with a phone call?

Of course, all of this applies to any business.  How does your company or organization get the feedback it needs to create smart products, services and programs.  Are you nimble enough to drop underperforming offerings and double down on what people want?

Remember that your brand — and customer loyalty — depend on continuing to remain relevant in your customers’ eyes.  And the key to that is getting, good, actionable information on a regular basis, then acting on it.

(If you could use a hand establishing a continuous feedback program for your organization, Idealogy can lend a hand.  Feel free to give us a call today — and get the data you need to do what you do more profitably.)

The 3 Barriers to Becoming a Brand.

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People talk about branding a lot.  And they should.  A strong brand gives you enormous advantages.  But before you can have a brand, you have to find your unique position in the market — a niche that belongs to you and no one else.  And very few companies own a position, for at least three reasons.

Time

Identifying the place only you can occupy is time-consuming.  It can’t be done over a staff lunch.  Here’s why.  Each time you have a position you think will work, it has to pass this test: is it something that only your company can claim, at least in the markets you serve?

And it has to be specific.  Your position can’t be, “We offer the highest quality product backed by the best service available.”  That’s a generic claim that almost anyone else in your space would make.  That level of specificity takes time to find.

Companies are extremely reluctant to set aside time for positioning, because there isn’t an immediate payoff, and because it’s so intangible.  But the long-term payoff is huge, and the benefit to the bottom line is as tangible as it gets.

Money

Staking out a position requires an investment.  There’s no way around it.  You have to let prospects know what your position is and why it matters.  When someone is looking for exactly what you do, you have to make sure they think you’re the first choice provider.  And that isn’t cheap.

It starts with your website.  It should shout your position, not just in a tagline or home page copy, but in case studies, in testimonials, in demonstration videos — from every corner of your site.  The SEO on your site should focus on your position with laser intensity.

And it goes beyond your site, to business cards and sales literature, training processes and promotional materials.  The only way to leverage a position is to invest in it.

Surrender

This is the biggest challenge of all.  Most companies want to be all things to all people.  But owning a true position in the marketplace means giving all that up.  You have to focus relentlessly on your niche — to the exclusion of all the other things you could do.

That sounds like leaving a lot of money on the table.  In fact, the opposite is true.  It’s focusing on your most high-value, high profit margin prospects.  That’s a more profitable business model.  And it’s more sustainable, because it allows you to devote more resources to customer service, which reduces customer turnover and boosts profitability.

The First Step

With 2018 looming, start building a real, durable brand today by deciding what your position will be.  Then make a commitment to devote the time, the talent, the resources and the sacrifice required to make it happen.

(Need a hand?  Idealogy has developed a step-by-step process for helping companies of all sizes determine their position in the marketplace and then build a brand around it.  Let us know if we can help!)

 

 

Clever or Clear?

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There’s one caveat to the item above.  In your enthusiasm for being different, don’t forget that you still have to sell.  So yes, your marketing has to push the envelope enough to get your prospects’ attention — but if they move on without knowing what you offer or why it’s better, you’re like one of those Superbowl commercials that’s entertaining, but the next day, no one can remember what it was selling.  It’s a very fine line.  And the only way to find that balance is to practice.

Clearing a Low Bar.

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Most marketing is terrible.  If you don’t believe it, take a drive and count how many billboards make you want to know more.  Or even make you smile.  Go online for awhile and see if a single digital ad intrigues or inspires you.  Or makes you click.  Do the same with TV, or radio, or any other medium you choose.  Mediocrity abounds.  And there’s your opportunity.  Make a statement.  Make waves.  Make your point in a way nobody else is trying.  Because almost nobody else is trying.

Learn from the Best.

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Nearly every company has a group of best customers or clients: those people who are intensely loyal and use more of what you sell or use it more often.  In addition to being more profitable, these customers may hold the key to growing faster.  If you spend time with these “enthusiasts,” you can learn why they tend to buy more — or more often —  and use those insights to market more effectively.  So find your biggest fans, then bring them into your brand.  You’ll learn a lot in a short time.

Deliver the Paper.

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According to a study reported in Scientific American, people comprehend and retain what they read on paper better than what they read on screen.  The tactile aspect of handling paper — the feel and even the sound and smell of it — have a positive effect on the brain that boosts understanding.  This is especially true when there is more information with a lot of details to absorb.  So even as you work on creating content for your website, consider that printed pieces — a brochure or booklet, a direct mail piece, an ad in a magazine — is more likely to be absorbed and retained.

Pleasant Persistence.

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Understand that few purchases happen with a single visit.  Plan your process.  Respect your prospect’s schedule and be punctual.  Always ask about the next step or steps, and always do what you say you’ll do.  Ask your prospect which method of communication he or she prefers, and use that.  Don’t say the same thing with every contact.  Listen and focus.  It’s your job to keep the momentum going.  And even if this sale doesn’t happen, find a gracious way to stay in touch.  Ask what you could have done differently, so you can learn as you go.

Passion and Value.

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Two qualities earned high praise from the panelists.  The first was a genuine and obvious passion for what you’re selling.  If you’re not excited and enthusiastic about what you offer, you can’t get a prospect excited either.  The other thing you should always bring to the table?  Genuine value.  Can you save me time?  Can you save me money?  Can you bring me business?  Can you make life easier or remove an obstacle?  Do you have knowledge I need, or an idea I can use?  There has to be an obvious benefit for the conversation to continue.

Get Carded.

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All the panelists agreed that business cards are still a necessity, but one took the notion  a step further.  Instead of simply handing someone your card, make it your goal to get them to ask you for one.  Why?  Two reasons.  First, it forces you to become an expert at learning about the other person and presenting what you do in a compelling way.  Second, a card that someone asks you for means much more to them than a card you simply hand them.