The top marketing trends of 2016

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Wow, what a year! As 2016 comes to a close, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the top marketing trends of 2016, and how they relate to your business.

Mobile email and mobile first

Mobile marketing saw a continued steady growth in implementation and use. It’s no surprise that more people are on-the-go and on their phones, and so marketing that is tailored to not only be mobile-friendly, but mobile first, did much better in 2016. 

Social media: not a strategy, but a channel

This was the year that saw a shift in how social media has traditionally been viewed. Social media is not a strategy, but instead a channel, one of many your business should utilize to support its broader campaigns. This is often why social media marketing as a tactic is often more effective than if it’s utilized as a campaign on its own.

Marketing automation

With better UI came a way to create easier multi-channel touch campaigns, and 2016 saw the merging of email marketing and marketing automation. More time was spent on marketing automations, and less on scheduled campaigns and email broadcasts. As it becomes easier to import third-party data to enhance a company’s information about its customers; and as technology continues to improve, marketing automation will become a foundation of future marketing campaigns and strategies.

Hyper-personalization and relationship marketing

This was the year of hyper-personalization and a trend towards relationship marketing versus the hard sell. Again, technology advancements in deliverability, testing, live content, remarketing options, and analytics helped create new ways to connect (and stay connected) with customers and prospects. Many businesses chose to focus on relationship marketing, which meant changing their marketing strategy to be longer-term in focus—building stronger loyalty and long-term customer engagement, rather than quick, short-term customer acquisition and individual sales goals. This helped many businesses develop strong, emotional connections to their brands that drive word-of-mouth promotions and lead generation. Relationship marketing and hyper-personalization go hand-in-hand, as the ability to know how to market to your customers comes from knowing more about them – through data.

Modular templates and interactivity for emails

An interesting marketing trend of 2016 was the choice of many major brands to begin a shift away from one-off, complex and unique emails for every campaign to choosing a more modular template design—one where you can have several different versions of an email from the same template. This saves time and creates a familiar brand identity for your customers, as they begin identifying a certain look to your company or service. Added to this was a rise in animation and interactivity in emails, as marketers sought to keep content fresh, unique, and engaging.

More visual content

Today’s world is one filled with so many different things competing for the attention and eye of your customer. This goes for emails and marketing as well. Your customers need more than plain text to engage. They want valuable content that not only educates, but entertains them as well. That’s where visual content can help. People remember visuals 6x more than plain text, and platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are great forums for visual content.

Debunking Email Marketing Myths [Infographic]

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As 2016 comes to a close, we’re still talking about email marketing because it’s that important to staying connected to your customers. As the leading customer communications platform for dentists, doctors, veterinarians, salons, spas, and auto shops, the team at Demandforce knows emails.

One of the most powerful features of Demandforce is one-click email campaigns. These are campaigns that you can send out to your email database with—you guessed it—one click!

But before you send your first email, you might be wondering about some Best Practices for Email Marketing. There’s so much information out there, it can seem overwhelming sometimes. That’s why we created this helpful and simple infographic that outlines the 4 Email Marketing Myths we hear the most. Don’t fall for the hype and take the first step in elevating your email marketing!

We hope you enjoy this infographic, and if you want to chat with our team about Demandforce, set up a free consultation with a Demandforce expert by clicking here.

Email Marketing Myths

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How Clickable Are Your CTAs?

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A Call-to-Action (CTA) is a vital part of any business website and digital campaign. CTAs are the buttons or links that push traffic to where you want it to go. They drive sales, are important indicators showing how effective your campaigns are, and they are crucial in moving prospects further into the sales process.

Therefore, you should care how clickable your CTAs are, and take the time to test different messages and words to determine what phrases connect to your customers. In this article, we will discuss how to determine how clickable your Call-to-Action buttons are, and we’ll give you some examples of CTAs you could use.

How to build & test your CTAs

When done right, your Call-to-Action button can act as a visual attention-grabber that, when paired with a compelling message and offer, drive people to action. But even creating the CTA can seriously impact your click-through and conversion rate. So here are a few hints on how to test (and build) your CTAs.

Use active language

This might take you back to your high school English class, but active language motivates people much more than passive phrasing. Remind people why they want to take action to encourage clicks as well.

For example, when A/B tested, the phrase “Create My Account & Get Started” converted better than just “Create My Account.” And “Download to Save Time” converted more than just “Download.”

Show the benefit

It follows, then, that providing information about the benefit of clicking also helps. This doesn’t have to be within the button itself, but you can provide information within the same landing page or area your button shows up.

Test button design

The button itself has proven to matter for conversions, so always test certain variables to see what works best for you. Here are our favorites to test:

  • Color – consider contrasting colors that don’t blend into the background
  • Position – test placing the button above the fold, or below all the content needed to explain the offer
  • Size – Don’t get too crazy, but remember the button should be large enough to be easily seen among the other elements on your page
  • Special Effects – Consider graphic enhancements such as rounded corners, drop shadows, or a different hover color
  • White Space – Remember to keep white space around your button, and play with how much so that the eye is quickly drawn to and can stay focused on the CTA

It’s all in the language

So now we come to arguably the most obvious, and most difficult aspect to test in a CTA – the language itself. An ad adage to remember as you think about CTA copy is: people buy with emotion, but follow with logic.

You might have heard that CTAs must convey an urgency to attract impulse clickers, and that CTA should clearly communicate what will happen once you click the button. This is not an area for cleverness or subtlety.

For example, you might be surprised at the lower conversion rates for “Buy Now” buttons, but when you consider that some users might believe their credit card will be automatically charged if they click it… that’s why you see more “Add to Cart” or “Download Now”

Of course, the text does need to match what type of business you are, and what you are trying to get the visitor to do. But if you’re looking for help, Demandforce has done the heavy lifting for you. Our custom email campaigns use optimized language that is proven to drive click-throughs and engagement with your customers.

Some tips:

  • Once you pick a button, keep it consistent on your page. Carry the format and even language through so that your visitors know and familiarize themselves with your buttons.
  • Keep the opportunity. Sometimes soft CTAs work better than hard sells. Language such as “View offers”, “Learn more”, “Shop all” can keep people interested and clicking more than immediate sells, like “Buy now” or “Sign Up.”

Test, test, test!

The best advice we can give you to improve your CTA is to research, test, and tweak! Work with your designers and website guru and A/B test your CTAs on your site and on landing pages. Run user tests to figure out what colors and layout resonate the most with specific demographics. Check in on your analytics and remember – don’t test or change everything at once, or you won’t be able to tell what aspect affected your conversion or click-through rate.

Effective Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

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As the season changes and the holidays approach, we thought it would be a good time for a refresher on effective email marketing tips for small businesses. Keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s working in email marketing can mean the difference between percentages in open rates, engagement, and – in the end – revenue.

The following is our newly compiled list of effective email marketing tips to help your business drive email opens, CTR, and customer engagement.

Plan out your emails and know your holiday dates

You might be surprised at how many businesses don’t give any thought to even a simple email marketing strategy; and yet then wonder why their opt-outs are rising and their emails are not connecting with their customers. Before you send out your next email, take some time (even just half an hour) to sit down and think through the next couple emails you might send out. Know your upcoming holiday dates—such as Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday—and think about how you might want to connect your emails to these dates.

Not only that, but plan what types of emails you’ll send. Which ones will have offers, and what offers; which ones will be content, and which will contain imagery. Planning out your emails helps take your customer through a journey that keeps them engaged and connected in your business.

Utilize email marketing automation

The holidays are always a busy time for businesses, and your customers as well. So instead of spending time setting up and wrestling with a series of individual emails, let email marketing automation do the heavy lifting for you. Once you have an idea of your email-marketing plan, you can create all your emails at once, and then set them to automatically send on a certain date. This saves you from headaches and last-minute emergencies, and also provides a consistent experience for your customers.

Consider offering opt-down, not just opt-out

Every business has to deal with subscribers who, for whatever reason, decide to opt-out of your emails. The good news is, you’re not alone in having to tackle this issue; the better news is, we have a way to cut back on complete unsubscribes! One way you can keep potential unsubscribers in your email marketing database is by offering an opt-down option, not just an opt-out. An opt-down means you’d send these individuals fewer emails, yet keep them in your communication stream.

Get creative with your content

Keeping your content different and fresh is a great way to drive CTR and engagement. A major study showed that a large majority of U.S. adults in fact enjoy receiving email communication from businesses they use and like, as long as that information is relevant and informative. If you establish yourself as a thought leader who has interesting things to say, or provides useful information, then your emails will be opened more and shared, and you will gain more legitimacy as a business. Another effective tip for your emails – using big, bold imagery that fills the frame for the hero images, and graphics over stock imagery.

Utilize segmentation and personalization

Another email marketing tip to remember – you should be utilizing segmentation and personalization in all your email marketing. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, and (according to DMA) marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns. This means that you should be sending email offers and messages to your customers based on past purchases or behavior patterns, to foster open rates and stay on their radar.

Add social sharing buttons

Adding social sharing buttons to the bottom of your emails is an easy way to expand the natural reach of your email marketing campaigns, funnel readers to your social media channels, and integrate your marketing efforts.

Weed out inactive subscribers

An important email marketing tip is to pay attention to your inactive subscribers and make sure that you’re removing them from your email database so that they don’t end your email campaigns before they even have a chance to begin. You can use engagement scoring to determine engagement levels, and clear out from there.

Create events to drive customers to your business

An email marketing tip to remember in this digital age is that while it might be almost all about digital, you cannot forget the importance of in-person interaction, especially if your business has a brick and mortar side. In-person, a subscriber has more of a likelihood of making a purchase once they arrive, so consider tailoring an email marketing campaign around driving people to a special event hosted at your business, offering them exclusive deals that can only be used in person.

What to Consider Before Sending Emails to Customers Over the Holidays

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It’s almost Halloween, and after that – Thanksgiving and beyond! So as a small business, a question that you might ask yourself is: should you send emails to your customers over the holidays? The answer is more complicated than you might think.

When deciding whether or not to send an email over the holidays, there are several factors to consider:

  • What type of email are you planning to send?
  • What goal are you trying to achieve with your email?
  • Do you have the time and resources to split test?
  • Who are the people on your distribution list?

Let’s examine these one at a time.

What type of email are you planning to send?

If you are a small business or retailer, you might want to consider not sending an email during the holidays, because tons of discount and “holiday deal” emails are sent during the holidays, and recipients tend to mark any as SPAM. Or worse, sometimes you’ll get unsubscribes just from sending an email on a certain date. A study by Inc. and Delphi showed that holiday greetings can have a five times higher chance of unsubscribe as opposed to other messages.

However, if you’re sending an email to keep top-of-mind, and wish your clients a happy holiday, these might not get unsubscribes, but they also might get a lower open rate.

What goal are you trying to achieve with your email?

Because many holidays fall on or around the weekend, it’s important to consider the difference between weekday and weekend email sends as you consider whether to send a holiday email.

According to a 2014 ExactTarget mobile behavior report, emails sent on Saturday and Sunday had the lowest volume rates, but the highest open and clickthrough rates. (17.8% for both days – the highest percentage of the week). What this means is that although the weekend was not the most popular time to send emails, those who opened weekend emails were much more likely to engage and clickthrough.

Data from Harland Clarke corroborates this, as on Saturday, only 5.5% of total emails tracked were sent, yet they were viewed at 32.5%. So if the recipient chooses to open the email on the weekend, you have a higher ROI – but overall, open rates tend to be lower than weekdays.

This is a good argument for trying to send on a holiday, as you might be able to cut out some of your competition and engage with quality prospects – a good strategy, especially for start-ups or smaller businesses that might not have as many regular email marketing resources as larger businesses.

Do you have the time and resources to split test?

If you have the ability and resources to split test emails, you might want to consider doing this for the upcoming holiday. Try to test an unconventional time and holiday with a more traditional time, and see what results you get.

Who are the people on your distribution list?

During the holidays, many people might not be checking their emails, especially if you’re sending to an office or office manager’s work account. When they return, they’ll be inundated with emails, and those with a marketing or spam look to them will be deleted without a glance. Therefore, if you’re sending to work emails and offices, you might want to avoid sending emails during summer holiday season, around Christmas, or New Year’s. 

To help improve holiday email engagement rates, GoDaddy recommends brands avoid sending emails on Thanksgiving Day altogether. “On Thanksgiving Day, open rates hit their lowest rate for the entire month of November,” says GoDaddy.

So the general consensus seems to be: avoid sending email marketing over holidays, as the potential for unsubscribes outweighs the goodwill and recognition you might experience by sending out a Happy Holidays message. But then again, if you’re looking for an unconventional way to get an edge on your competitors, holiday emails might be a good test for your business.

Why Knowing Your Customers’ Emails is More Important Than Ever

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Email marketing is still an incredibly effective and powerful tool for small businesses to reach out and stay connected with their customers, without spending a lot of money. But as you might be finding out, people don’t give their email addresses out to just anyone – even their dentists, doctors, and service providers.

But knowing your customers’ emails is more important than ever in an age where email marketing still brings back a 3800% (that’s no typo!) ROI and $38 for every $1 spent.

You are still six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet, and more importantly – if you have your customer emails in your management system database, you can send them automated email reminders of their upcoming appointments, recommended services, and important updates to their accounts or your business.

So how do you collect customer emails?

So you know that emails are important to have, so how do you go about collecting them?

Here are some tips:

Ask all new customers for their email. Integrate a request for email into your signup process, and add a space for your customers to leave their emails next to the phone number and address. Many customers, especially the younger generation, might give you their email as readily as they would their address.

Make it easy and obvious as to why you need it. Post a signup form for your newsletter or blog on your website and/or Facebook page, and consider placing a sign at your front desk stating your reasons for wanting an email. Your reasons may include: so you can send appointment reminders, connect easily with a doctor/dentist/vet, or send offers.

Remember to emphasis why it helps them. Don’t focus on why having their email helps you, but focus instead on the benefits they’ll get from providing you with updated information and easy ways of contacting them. According to a Pew Research poll, 92% of online adults use email, and 61% use it on an average day.

A powerful tool to help you connect with your customers: Email Finder

Email Finder is a tool that Demandforce offers its customers to help you fill in missing emails within your database. The Email Finder can find email addresses for anyone that currently has none listed in their record. It uses national opt-in databases to match email addressed based on a client’s name and physical address.

Is Email Finder legal?

Yes! Once an email is gathered, an opt-out request is sent to that individual, letting them know your business is offering a new communication service that allows them to request appointments, confirm appointments, refer friends & family easily online, and receive special offers. Clients who don’t opt out have their emails automatically added to your database.

How Much Does Email Finder Cost?

Email Finder is an additional service Demandforce offers its customers, and you can choose what emails to integrate into your database, and pay per email. For full information on this, check out the Demandforce Help Center.