Effective Email Marketing

When faced with the high cost of advertising, printing, and postage it can be difficult to know where to put your marketing dollars. No matter how great your mailing list or brochure distribution, it can be hard to know if you actually reached your target audience. If you’re tired of the cost of print media, maybe it’s time to try an email marketing campaign.

1. How much does it cost?

Beginning an email marketing campaign does not need a large investment. Sending a broadcast to a list of emails can cost just a few cents each, making it the most affordable form of marketing available to your business. You can easily reach a large list for a hundred dollars or less..

For that small investment you get statistics on how many people read your email, how many opened the links in the email and how many sent it to their friends. You can know immediately if the campaign worked or not.

2. Why not send it from your own email account?

Many web hosts and email servers have a limit on how many emails you can send at a time, which means that sending a message to a large list can take hours. Email service providers have been known to set limits as low as 50 emails an hour. If you have 500 on your list, you will need 10 hours to send to the full list.

Sending multiple emails at a time from a non-commercial server can easily trigger spam alerts on the receiving end and even result in your domain being put on an email blackslist. Sending with an official email service vendor protects your domain email address being listed as a spammer.

3. Build your email list

You can’t just take all the emails you have in your Outlook address book and dump them into the list. By law, the contacts you use for your email newsletter must have a prior business relationship with you or have opted in to receive your email newsletter.

It is best to send an initial email to everyone you’d like to include on your list and ask them to sign up for your new newsletter. Emails must always contain an unsubcribe link or info about how to be removed from the mailing list.

4. Craft the message

Don’t give it all way. Build on your reader’s curiosity. Create a tease about the topic, then lead them to your website for more information. Once they are on your website, they can learn more about how your business can help them meet a need or solve a problem. Longwinded emails aren’t read and just end up ignored.

5. Stay out of spam traps

Most email vendors offer filters to evaluate aspects of your emails that will get your emails labeled as spam. Avoid any of these techniques to assure your emails will be deliverable.

  1. Avoid using ALL CAPS in the copy.
  2. Avoid mentioning money, drugs, weight loss or sexual organs.
  3. Be sure there are enough words to go with the photos.
  4. Avoid using the word “Free”
  5. Do not use scripts or try to include any active coding.

6. Link for more, lead them home

The whole point of having an email newsletter is to get people to visit your website, buy your product, give you a call, or make an appointment. So be sure to provide many links back to your website from every area of the email.

7. Offer tasty tidbits

A classic marketing technique is to provide a free sample of the product or service you provide. Use your email newsletter to provide a free sample of your expertise, whether as an enticing discount or a valuable piece of advice.

But keep it short. A paragraph or two is enough for an email newsletter with a link back to the website for more details, so they can explore and learn more details about your business.

8. Call to action!

Be direct. Tell readers what to do on your newletter, either by a call, a purchase at your bricks and mortar store or a visit your website. Be sure to include directions such as “Call now to make an appointment” “Visit the website to learn more” “Register for this workshop” or Bring this coupon in by Feb. 1″ are all great calls to action.

9. Follow up

Be consistent. Only email as frequently as you promised. Provide the content promised on the website or in the headline. Unsubscribe requests as soon as they come in. If you add someone who didn’t want to be on the list, apologize. And be sure to reply immediately to anyone who calls, stops by or emails to learn more about your business.

Ready to start your email marketing campaign? Then it’s time to get Sirius!

What to Do When a Page is Broken

One of the challenges of both creating and owning a website is that sometimes it can stop working. This can happen to a page or the entire site for any one of a number of reasons.

Often your first reaction is one of panic and then the second is to call your web developer to let them know. That’s good — it’s what we’re here for. Every web designer I know is understanding and eager to help you fix issues with your site. We love to play detective and  solve problems.

Remember to breathe. It’s not the end of the world. There’s always something we can do to get the site back to normal.

Submit a Bug Report. Debugging is a part of the programming process and requires collection of data we’ll need to know before we can address the issues on your website. Please answer at least the top 4 questions. It really helps if you answer all of them.

  1. What is the nature of the problem? Are images missing, does the page not load? Are you seeing error messages? Error messages contain useful clues, so be sure to pass them along.
  2. Send a screenshot if you can. On a PC, use Alt+PrintScr to save a screenshot. On a Mac, use Command+Shift+3. Then paste it into an email and send.
  3. What browser are you using and what version? Were you using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera or another browser? Version information is usually found under the Help menu under About.
  4. What type of computer and operating system are you running? To replicate the error, your developer may need to mimic the environment it came from.
  5. What page where you on? Send the link if you can.
  6. What link did you click on the page, if any, when the error happened?
  7. Do you have problems accessing the internet or using any other sites? Be sure other sites are working for you as well.
  8. Has anything changed on your computer since the last time you used the site successfully? Has any new software or hardware been installed?

It can be daunting to have to come up with some many details, but to fix the issue, the first task is to determine where the problem is.

Problems can be caused on your internet host’s server, your internet provider’s connection, a browser quirk, missing files or pages on the site, compliance or scripting issues, security software settings, or browser settings.

Most site errors are due to browser variations. Despite progress made in the last decade with internet standards there is still some variation between browsers.

I generally test for the top 90% of browsers used on a given site shown by site analytics when available. This does not include old versions of Explorer, mobile devices or tablet computers. IE6 is rapidly being phased out now that IE9 has launched, so Sirius Media no longer supports that browser. Currently none of our client sites are showing iPads or iPhones in the top 90% of site visitors, so we don’t test for them, either (unless this was a development requirement).

Coding is a delicate and difficult business. An extra space, single quote instead of a double quote or rogue period out of place is all it takes to break a page. This is made even trickier by the fact that some browsers may forgive an error while others won’t even load the page. Your average email would not pass the browser’s muster due to tiny errors we all ignore.

Essentially, web developers are trying to master a game that changes daily while we’re doing it. Don’t let that freak you out, though. We web coders just love to solve problems — that’s why we do what we do. So relax, give us the info we need to help you out and let us fix your page for you.

What Happens Next?

First, we try to duplicate the problem and see what conditions caused it. This is the easiest scenario. If I can’t, I may need to come see the bug in action on your system.

Second, I may need to contact the site host and see if there are issues going on there.

Third, if there seems to be a pervasive internet issue, such as email access, then following up with your internet provider may be necessary.

Fourth, enlisting the help of others to test the page will further identify any ongoing issues and ensure that the issue is solved.

A Dozen Ways Facebook Can Build Your Business

  1. Set up a FB Business Page. Although you must have a personal page to create a business page, do keep them separate. This allows you to create marketing content that is separate from your personal life and build your business brand with consistent messaging.
  2. Tell the World Who You Are. Be sure to complete the entire profile, including business category, description, location, hours on the info page.
  3. Show Your Stuff. Customize the page with your company logo. Add photos of recent work, products and happy customers whenever you can. Viewing photos is the #1 activity on Facebook.
  4. Share Successes. Go ahead — toot your own horn. This is the place to let the world know how good you are. Just remember that some clients would prefer anonymity and be discreet when needed. Post updates at least several times a week for best results.
  5. Start Discussions. Use Discussions to share ideas, brainstorm, discover unmet needs your clients may have, provide helpful tips for troubleshooting, and get feedback.
  6. Ask Questions This new short polling feature allows you to get input fast. These polls are quick and informal, so go ahead, be a little lighthearted. If the poll is fun, people are more likely to participate and share it with their friends.
  7. Like Other Businesses. Find other business pages, friend’s businesses and like them from your business page as well as from your personal page. If you’ve done business with them, write an online review of their work.
  8. Get a Vanity Url. As soon as you have 25 followers for your business page, get your custom name at http://www.facebook.com/username/. This helps build your brand and make the site easier to find and link to.
  9. Create a Custom Page. Make a page that is styled the way you want it. Under Edit > Apps search for Static Frame IFRAME. Install the app and then link to a customized html page somewhere on your real website. There are other iframe apps, but they don’t work on a secure https connection.
  10. Laser Targeted Ads. With the new ad features you can target very small market segments to see your advertising by age, income or area.
  11. Get a Badge. Add social media sharing buttons, or a Facebook badge or a Like button to your website to build followers and be sure your communications avenues intersect.
  12. Post Regularly. Most importantly, be sure to keep the content fresh. Post several times a week. Share tips in your field, links you find useful, or humor to build followers. Let people know you’re out there.

Who Else Wants to Write Better Email Copy?

VerticalResponse Email Marketing Blog for Small Business: Who Else Wants to Write Better Email Copy?.

A great set of tips for writing marketing emails, including.

  • Use Bucket Brigade Words: Bucket brigade words help you move your copy forward. They include remember, and, but, consider, however, for example..and more!
  • Vary Sentence Length: It is important to vary your sentence length to hold your reader’s attention. And don’t be afraid to use sentence fragments – this isn’t your college English class!
  • Differentiate Between Features vs. Benefits: Features are what the product has. Benefits are what it will provide the customers. The customer will always ask, “What’s in it for me?” Be sure you tell them.

Ten More Steps to Becoming the Designer You Want to Be – design mind on GOOD – GOOD

1. Never stop learning

While I use most of my projects as learning vehicles, I find that this isn’t enough. You should never stop learning. What would you learn and how would your view change if you went to 1,000 meet ups? As designers, our minds need to be as flexible as possible. Learning something new helps us see more and more possibilities and make connections that previously weren’t there.

via Ten More Steps to Becoming the Designer You Want to Be – design mind on GOOD – GOOD.

A great list of reminders on what it takes to become a great designer.

10 Things I Learned at SearchFest

1. 2010 is the Year of Semantics.
It’s time to go beyond the search and think about user’s intent.  This involves looking at search history, real-time content possibilities, location, and the user experience. We have a firehose of information streaming at us now. It’s time to think about what to do with it.

2. Written content is still king/queen.
There needs to be enough written content on the home page to attract searches. Photos, and white space are elegant as all get out, and flash is sure fun, but they are empty space to your local search engine. Content should always on meeting web visitors’ needs, not pushing your message.

3. If it’s bad and it’s about you – ignore it.
Reputation Management is best achieved by ignoring bad reviews. If you get a bad review, don’t post comments to counteract it. That will only keep the bad review on top of the search results. Publish good information elsewhere and push that up in results. Use offense, not defense. Be proactive about providing new information to replace the old.

4. Keyword scores don’t count.
Don’t worry about keyword density scores. Focus on answering the user’s eternal question “What’s In It For Me?” Write for visual scannability with meaningful subheads and bold highlights to move the eye along.

5. If Facebook were a country, it’d be the 3rd largest on the planet.
If you or your business is not on Facebook yet, it’s time to join in and stake your claim.

6. Blog at breakfast.
Write when your thoughts are fresh, early in the day. Keep it light and on a topic your readers can understand. Use humor, quizzes, recipes, patterns, crafts, odd topics, frank opinions, share resources and other useful information.

7. Expand your search footprint to raise rankings.
Use subdomains (blog.sirius-media.com) rather than subdirectories (sirius-media.com/blog) to create a larger footprint for your site on search engines and increase ranking.

8. Establish search goals to measure effectiveness.
You need to establish search goals to be able to use search analytics effectively. What are you trying to accomplish on each page of your website? Include calls to action and measure the responses.

9. Take advantage of local business search listings.
Google’s local business listings are very powerful and free, but requires a business signup, not just a website.

10. Embed easy to use information with rich snippets.
Rich snippets are a way to include map information, business card, and calendar files on your website.

Happy birthday Lake Oswego

“We want to honor the past, celebrate the present and look at our future,” said Cindy Thompson, centennial director. “We want to look at the next 100 years and see what our legacy will be.”

Not only that but Oswegans can follow the unfolding of events on with the Centennial Web site that opens on Jan. 19 at www.lakeoswego100.com .

“It will look great,” said Jamie Inglis, events specialist for the city of Lake Oswego. “There will be tons of stuff on it, the listing of events, ambassadors, a Lake Oswego timeline. It was designed by Fellene Gaylord of Sirius Media.”

via Happy birthday Lake Oswego

I just discovered this lovely article in the Portland Tribune that mentions the website I designed for the Lake Oswego Centennial www.lakeoswego100.com.

With a soft spot for local history, this project was very fun for me. The site features a trivia quiz, flash timeline, event calendar, downloadable history displays and a video history of the city of Lake Oswego. Frequent updates have kept the content fresh, including This Month in Lake Oswego and a trivia quiz that changes each week for 10 weeks.

All this great content is the result of the combined work of specialists, volunteers and City employees who are creating the celebration of the century all year long.

The 65 Most Annoying things about the Web Today | UXbyDesign.org

Poor Design

1. Illegible text. I can’t read that, it’s too small. And what on earth is that font called?

2. Busy backgrounds. Oh MySpace, why do you allow users to create profiles like that? My eyes hurt.

3. Obscure links. I’m confused, can I click on that or not? Oh I get it, you don’t want me to view other pages.

4. Flyouts that are too large. Holy crap Yahoo! This is a page within a flyout!

5. Drop-down menu navigation too many levels deep. OK, if I slowly move my mouse this way first… dammit Jim, I’m a doctor not a magician!

6. Complicated navigation. I just want to get to that page, the one over there! Oh I see, you want me to complete the maze first.

via The 65 Most Annoying things about the Web Today | UXbyDesign.org.

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