Seven Ingredients for Powerful Emails

The average professional spends about 13 hours a week reading and responding to email. So if you want to cut through that thicket, watch these seven factors.

Inform and Sell
Alternate emails between those that give the reader valuable information and those that sell what you do. Think about answering the “how to” question in either case — “how to boost your _____ results” or “how to cut your _____ bill in half.”

The 50% Subject Line Rule
Spend half your content creation time perfecting your subject lines. If your email doesn’t get opened, it doesn’t get read. Powerful subject lines get emails opened. Use numbers. Ask questions. Keep it short. Use punchy language.

Content Mix
Try different kinds of content and pay attention to what works for you. Is it a quick video? An article? A chart or infographic? A “how to” pdf? Experiment to see what performs best, but keep mixing it up.

Calls to Action
Think beyond open and click-through rates. What do you want your reader to do? Tell them. Buy now. Get a free sample. Schedule an appointment. Download the free guide. Give your reader something to do.

Trim and Grow
Have a continuous process for building your list and stay on top of it. Prune that list regularly. Get rid of names tied to bounces, or those who go a certain amount of time without ever opening one of your emails.

Involve Prospects and Customers
Ask readers what they want. As a part of your regular conversations, ask what kinds of emails they find themselves opening. What do they need to know more about? How can you help?

Stay Social
Share your email content across your social media platforms. Share your social media links in every email. Share other people’s relevant posts with your connections, but not too often — the best content is always yours.
Email remains a powerful, cost-effective way to drive awareness and sales. And there’s a lot more you can do to amp yours up. Call us today to find out how we can help you max out your email ROI.

Four Social Media Missteps to Avoid.

There are lots of ways to miss the potential of social media for your company. Here are four of the biggest to avoid.

Hiring the Wrong Person.
Just because someone is active on their own personal social media — even if they’re wildly engaging — doesn’t mean they can do the same for your company. If they don’t really understand your business — and more importantly, your customers — it’s unlikely they’ll post the kind of content that will truly resonate with them and move them closer to a purchase.

Here’s the good news. There’s probably somebody who already works for you who knows you and your customers well and who would like the opportunity to start handling your social media. They get an opportunity to do something different and earn a bit more, and you get a much higher chance that your content will hit the mark. If that won’t work, consider hiring an agency or a professional to manage your social media accounts.

Now Hiring. Again.
If you’re constantly posting open positions you’re trying to fill, you’re either saying that you’re short-handed, or that you have a lot of turnover. In either case, it suggests that you’re having some internal challenges, and that the service you’re providing right now may not be great.

Should you use social media for recruiting? Absolutely. But try positioning your postings as signposts of growth. Use testimonials from existing employees to talk about what a great place yours is to work. And post plenty of other kinds of content so it doesn’t seem like you’re always looking for help.

Same Old Same Old.
Take a look at your posts from the last three months. If they’re all pretty much the same kind of content (“congratulations to or team for doing ____”) the chances that your audience is paying attention are getting slim. You need to be helping them, informing them or entertaining them — and ideally all three — every step of the way.

The cure? Take time to build a content calendar that really mixes things up — and stick to it. Schedule lots of different kinds of posts, with a focus on what interests your customers the most.

Always Be Closing. Or Not.
If you’re using social media only to sell what you do and promote how awesome you are, with pictures of your team doing exciting things, it’s pretty unlikely to move the needle for your brand.

Instead, make your customers the star. Ask them questions. Tell their stories. Share their posts. Like their content. Show how their lives or businesses are better because of their connection to you. Check your analytics to see which posts seem to catch on — and create more like them.

Social media is a fantastic tool, but like all tools, you get more out of it when you really know how to use it. Use yours well.

Are Smaller Lists Better?

In marketing, we usually think that the more people we can reach, the better. But when it comes to the lists you’re using, going big may not be the best strategy.

It may seem counterintuitive, but with email or direct mail, you should almost always try to trim your lists. Here’s why.

Especially with direct mail, each prospect you reach costs you money. So it makes sense to focus your list on your best prospects — those who: 

  • Are most likely to have the problem you solve or who want what you provide
  • Are most likely to buy
  • Have the highest potential to generate long-term / lifetime value
  • You can serve cost-effectively and profitably

Think about your best customers or clients — those who meet the above criteria. What do you know about them? 

If they’re individual consumers, what’s their annual income or net worth? Where do they live? How old are they? Are they college educated? Do they have kids? How old? What else?

If they’re businesses, how big are they? What’s their annual revenue? How many employees do they have? What industries are they in? Where are they located? How long have they been around? Who’s your contact?

Now look at building or refining your list around more people or businesses who fit those criteria. These are the prospects you’re more likely to convert.

Keeping your mailing lists more focused means you’re not paying to deliver your message to those who are less likely to buy. Keeping your email list under control means fewer bounces and higher open and click-through rates. In both cases, your response rate goes up and costs go down.

So if you’re using these two powerful marketing tools, amplify their value by tightening up your lists. And be sure to use your website to offer visitors something of value in exchange for their email address.

(And if you could use a hand building those lists or crafting a message that creates engagement and response, call Idealogy at 812-399-1400 or email allen@idealogy.biz to get started.)

Three Hurdles Your Logo Has to Clear.

Your logo is visual shorthand for your brand and a reflection on your company. If it’s outdated or doesn’t create the right impression, it’s working against you. So whether you’re having a new logo designed or refreshing an existing one, here are three tests it needs to pass.

Just Your Type
If a typeface is trendy at the time your logo is created, there’s a good chance it will get dated more quickly. So if you’re thinking about developing a logo or updating the one you have, look at typefaces that have managed to stand the test of time and still look fresh and current. Those timeless faces will still be working hard for you years from now.

Sans serif typefaces may be more suitable for industrial or technical types of companies, while serif typefaces often feel friendlier and may make more sense for human services companies. And there’s almost never an occasion when a script typeface or novelty face makes sense for a logo.

Color By Numbers
Too often, logo colors get chosen for the wrong reason. They may be colors that the decision-maker simply likes personally, or colors that a lot of companies in your industry use, rather than colors that make sense with what you offer and resonate with your audience. Color choices should fit your offerings and your audience, and make you stand out from the competition.

There are practical things to consider as well. Red fades in the sun more quickly than other colors, so if your logo is going to get a lot of outdoor exposure, red may pose some challenges. In addition, if your logo will appear on signs that direct people to you, the colors you choose need to offer a strong contrast and high readability.

Graphic Detail
Most logos have some graphic element or icon. It doesn’t have to be literal. And it doesn’t have to be the coolest thing in the world. But it does have to be different to be memorable. And if it can reinforce your name or what you do, so much the better.

As you consider your choices, ask if your icon is similar to that of a lot of other companies, especially in your industry. Or is it something truly unique? For example, a lot of companies want to show their patriotism by using some variation of the American flag or stars and stripes with red, white and blue. Often, this has nothing to do with the business they’re in or who their audience is. The result? The marketplace is seriously crowded with red, white and blue logos that use elements of the flag. This makes them harder to find and remember.

Consensus Kills
Consensus is often where great logos go to die. A design that gets watered down by a committee and has to be blessed by everyone is a lowest common denominator logo, and unlikely to serve you well. Hire a designer or firm you trust with expertise in identity design, choose the smallest possible number of decision-makers, and push yourselves to allow a logo that lets you stand out.

(Idealogy has been designing awesome, award-winning logos for more than two decades. If yours needs an update, ask how we can make it a logo you’ll love for years.)

The Bare Essentials of Your Brand.

Dieter Rams is the pioneering industrial designer who led the design team at consumer products company, Braun, where he worked from the 1960s through the 1990s. In the wonderful documentary Rams, he shares a fascinating insight into his approach to product design.

“We were trying to eliminate the need for user manuals. We wanted to make it so that the machine could be used without one. Which means the reduction of everything to the bare essentials and removal of anything that could be a distraction.”

This applies to your brand as well. If a brand is the unique position you hold in the minds of your customers, prospects and employees, it needs to be simplified and pared down until only what is essential and obvious remains. Everything else is a distraction.

In fact, let’s go one step further. Anything more than the most simple, clear brand message actually waters down and undermines your position, making it less unique and more interchangeable with your competitors’. That’s the opposite of branding.

The same is true of your website. Think of Rams’ call for “the reduction of everything to the bare essentials and removal of anything that could be a distraction.” If you followed that principle, would your site become more user-friendly? Clearer? More effective? Yes.

In a world where a lot of content is created simply for the sake of having more content, it makes sense to strip away everything that isn’t necessary to help people find you and the solutions you provide. Because if it isn’t needed, it’s getting in the way.

The same is true of presentations and slide decks, collateral and emails. How can you get to the point faster and make it more clearly?

Rams closes out his Ten Principles of Good Design with this: “Good design is the least design possible.” Less is more as long as what’s left is the essence of who you are and how you can help.

Try this today. What’s the least number of words you can use to state the unique way you help people or companies? It’s a great team exercise — or a great competition. Take it for a spin and see what you get. (Hint: it will probably be a stronger brand statement.)

3 Marketing Moves That Boost Sales

You want to sell more.  You need to sell more.  So here are three specific things that make marketing — anybody’s marketing — work harder.

Switch Pronouns

Everywhere you want to talk to customers, stop saying “us” and “we” and start saying “you.”  On social media. On your website. In phone calls and sales calls.  In company literature.  In email and direct mail.  

Talk about the customer and not about you.  Show customers that you understand what they want and need.  What opportunities and challenges they face.  What life can look like for them with you by their side.

Flip the Picture.

Put the visual focus on your customers, too.  Let them see themselves on your website, in your social media posts — everywhere you use images.  No matter whether you sell a product or service, depict it making life better for them. 

No one needs to see another image of your offices or your senior management team or your sales team or your providers.  They need to see the best possible version of themselves -— as made possible by you.

Ask for Something.

Every message doesn’t have to ask for a purchase, but every one should have a call to action.  If it’s social media, ask customers to comment about their experience or share their situation.  In email, ask them to visit the website or share on their own social accounts.

On your website, ask them to download a PDF or watch a video or subscribe to an email or a podcast.  In a direct mail piece, ask them to call or visit your website for more information.

In a face-to-face meeting, ask them to share their experiences, pro or con, in the area you serve.  Ask about their goals or their concerns.  Ask what keeps them up at night, or what lets them sleep easier.

So…Three Things.

Talk about the customer.  Let them see themselves.  Ask them to do something.  Doing those three things consistently can have an enormous impact on lead generation and sales.  Try it and see.

Six Ways to Market Ahead of a Recession

Recessions happen.  And while no one knows when, or how severe, one thing is certain — there’s one on the horizon in the next few years.  So how are you marketing now to minimize its impact when it lands?

First of all, understand how a recession will impact your customers — and by extension, your bottom line.  In most industries — and there are exceptions — demand drops off during a recession.  That means working to ramp up demand now before things cool off.  Here are six ways to do that now.

1. Divide and Conquer
Especially if you have a long sales curve, divide prospects into two types: those who are likely to stop spending during a recession, and those who aren’t.  Market with a greater sense of urgency to the first group to move them more quickly toward a purchase decision, while playing a long game with those whose purchasing power is less likely to be impacted during a downturn.

2. New Purchase Paths
Work now to develop alternate methods of purchase that may be more affordable and less risky during a recession.  Look at the kinds of financing options already in place at furniture stores and others, or consider creating different purchase models like subscriptions, as software companies and others have done.

3. Protect Your Base
In a downturn, you can’t afford to lose existing customers.  So use this time to perfect and even enhance your customer service.  Communicate more often with existing customers, through more channels — and more effectively.  Offer them insights and ideas that can help them through a slow economy, especially if you can assist them with that.  Look out for them, and they’ll stick with you.

4. Create Urgency Now
What problem do you solve?  Remind prospects of the pain that problem causes, and the remedy you provide.  Help them see how their life will be better the sooner they act.

5. Play All Your Cards
Talk openly about the likelihood of a recession in the next couple of years or so, and promote the benefits of purchasing now while things are still relatively stable and the economy is mostly strong.  Paint a picture of what it will look like if they wait too long. 

6. Sharpen the Differences
Right now, double down on the ways in which you’re better than your competitors.  Especially if you cost a little more, make the case for the value you deliver.  Be more creative in your marketing to make certain your message sticks.

One more thing.  Consider setting aside funds now to use for marketing when things slow down.  Your competitors are likely to make the classic mistake of putting marketing completely on hold to save money.  If you can create a rainy day marketing fund to help you keep your name out there, you’re likely to capture a bigger share of those who are still buying.

Your Mission Statement Is Broken.

Do you have a mission statement. If you do, why?

Seriously.

Let’s be honest. Mission statements are pretty useless. They’re labored over and argued about. They’re revisited and revised. They almost always grow longer over time. They’re put on walls and websites. And then mostly forgotten.

Don’t believe it? Take a walk. Ask the first five team members you see to tell you the mission. How many do you think can do it?
A mission statement no one knows is worthless. So why have one at all? Two reasons. 

The first — and most important — is to tell your team what to do. Because everything they do should move you closer to fulfilling your mission. To do that, you need one that’s crystal clear. 

While each has an “official” mission statement, the world’s best-known soft drink companies each use a very different version to guide their people. Coke’s? “Put a can of Coke within arm’s reach of everyone on the planet.” Pepsi’s? “Beat Coke.” 

Read their formal mission statements online. Now read the ones above again. Which do you think people remember? Which help them do their jobs? Which can they measure themselves against?

The second reason to have a mission statement? To attract and inspire customers, shareholders, donors, team members and volunteers. And as younger generations pay more attention to what you’re about, this gets more important.

Your mission statement needs to be emotionally charged. It has to engage heart and mind. And it has to do it in clear, plain language.

So here’s a challenge. Scrap that musty mission statement that no one knows. Start over. You’ll meet resistance at first — maybe even your own. You’ll have to power through that.

Think like a military leader. What do you want your people to do? What’s the endgame? Take that hill. Destroy that wall. Stop those invaders. That’s the model. Start there. 

Now edit. Be ruthless. Strip away corporate jargon and long, formal phrases. What’s the point? What’s the least number of words that will work?

If you can do that, you’ll have a mission statement that actually inspires the troops. One that informs their actions every day. One that attracts the people you want to attract. Can your current mission statement do all that? Or any of that?

Want an equally effective vision statement? Answer this. How will you know when the mission is fulfilled? That’s your vision. “We beat Coke.”

(Need a hand tackling this? Give us a call at 812-399-1400 or email allen@idealogy.biz to find out how we can help.)

Bend It Like Bezos

In his terrific book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, writer Mark Schaefer points out something that might surprise you. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos believes that focusing on change can be less important than thinking about what isn’t changing.

Bezos points out that people will always want a low price. They’ll always prefer a wide selection. And they’ll always love fast delivery. By focusing on those three things that remain constant over time, Amazon has become an enormous success — and has changed retail forever.

And did you notice? All of those “constants” revolve around one thing: customer preferences. In other words, human beings. And while humans may change in the ways they interact with technology and so on, their core needs don’t really change that much. Focusing on those basic drives will always lead to better decisions.

Taking this to heart might lead to some really helpful insights — or at least help you question your assumptions about why customers do what they do. For example, it’s a widely held belief that millennials do not want to visit a bank branch. They’d rather do everything remotely using technology and not talk to a living banker.

But what if there’s another way to think about that? What if millennials happened to be the first big generation to start banking after banks began downsizing their staffs? So instead of the experience of previous generations, where many people in the bank might know you by name and know your family as well, they’re more likely to have encountered far fewer employees, higher turnover and a much less personal experience.

It’s widely held that millennials appreciate an experience, and embrace those choices that provide one: Starbucks and other small coffee joints, local shops and boutiques, restaurants that offer locally-grown or locally-made choices on their menus. And Disney World — because it’s the experience. 

So if a bank — or any business that wants millennial consumers — focused its time and energy on bringing back or invigorating that personal experience, they might find that conventional wisdom is wrong, and that millennials and others do want that human contact. Or they might not. But it’s sure worth asking the questions and questioning the assumptions.

The bottom line takes us back to Bezos. What is there about the way your customers think, feel and believe that hasn’t changed, and isn’t likely to change anytime soon? How would your marketing change if that became your focus?

It’s worth thinking about.

Why Marketing Fails

Marketing works. Except when it doesn’t. So when you miss your marketing goals, it pays to dig into the real reasons behind the shortfall. (Hint: it’s almost never that the goals were too aggressive.) Here are five ways marketing can go sideways on you.

Untargeted
Unless you have unlimited resources, you have to focus on your best and most likely prospects. That often means excluding everybody else. But too much marketing casts a wide net, when a majority of those reached are not prospects at all. Look at your best customers or clients. Then build your marketing to attract people or companies just like them. 

Unpersuasive
Marketing and sales are mostly the same thing. And just telling people what you offer is neither. Persuade me of the need, then persuade me that you’re the best choice to fill that need. Make me want it, show me why you’re the best source, then make it easy for me to get it from you. Whatever it is. Then repeat.

Underfunded
Probably because of social media, it’s easier than ever to believe that you don’t have to invest in marketing. It’s also wrong. It takes both time and money to market well (translation: get results). Most companies, regardless of size, invest too little of both.

Unimaginative
It’s true that some media don’t have the reach or impact they once did. But there are smart solutions. You can use those media better than others are using them. Or you can come up with marketing ideas that are off the beaten path. Either way, you have to look beyond what everyone else is doing. When was the last time you tried something new?

Uninteresting
It’s all about engagement. Think entertainment, but entertainment with a goal. You have to make the audience want to find out more or share or follow or take a next step. It’s been said many times before: you can’t bore anyone into buying anything. Look at your marketing. If it was a competitor’s, would you be jealous? Would you wish it was yours? If so, good for you. If not, it needs work.

Of course, there are a lot of other reasons marketing might not work as intended. But if you’re getting all of these five right, there’s a very good chance you’re meeting — or beating — your goals. If not…well, there’s your homework.

(If your marketing needs a boost, consider Idealogy’s Out of the Box Day, a chance to get you or your team out of the office and into creative high gear. You’ll come out the other side with new ideas, new marketing messages and new energy.)