Get Emails Read – Follow 7 Guidelines

Most businesses rely on emails for the majority of their communications. Yet, most of us are certain that some of our emails are ignored by the recipient. If you are trying to get your emails read, consider the below guidelines offered by Jonathan Borge of ToutApp. (Borge was contacted by Tom Searcy for a recent article for Inc.com on the subject.)

1. Subject lines: Remember that only 20 percent to 40 percent of your emails will actually get opened, though most of your subject lines will be seen. To boost your open rates, think of short, catchy, and informative subject lines. You should try to dangle compelling information (“The future of sales emails”), and you can even try adding some mystery (“Strange question”). We also recommend personalized subject lines, if possible (“Hunter Sullivan suggested I contact you”).]

2. Your tone: Portray yourself as someone that other people can connect to. You’ll want to show your recipients that you care about hearing back from them… so you can’t simply sound like you’re just sending another mass email. Never use “Dear sir or Madam,” and stay away from overly formal language.

3. Email content: Make your emails short, simple, and easy to quickly digest. Your leads are busy people with jobs, too, so you need to maintain their interest. Do your research and find out what resonates for your prospects. Try to get an introduction to them or, if that’s not possible, figure out in more detail what they or their company do. Tell them why you’re emailing them, specifically. Talk about how you can solve a problem for them.

Email

4. Your sign-off: End your emails with a definitive, clear call to action. Make it dead simple for your recipients to say yes—whether it’s to a meeting, phone call, or product demo. Don’t ask them for permission. If you want a phone call, then say “Call me right now at X for more details.”

5. Your timing: Reach out to your leads when they’re not too busy. Make sure you avoid heavy traffic times like Monday mornings. Based on our tracking data, we recommend the middle of the week, mid-day, as the best time to send emails.

6. Your image: First impressions are important both in person and online. The tone and formatting of your email is all your recipients have to judge you by. Make sure you are being professional, clear, and easy to understand. Stay away from over-formatted emails that look gimmicky, but don’t hesitate to call out important information in bold or bullet points.

7. Your homework: Send yourself a sales email. Put yourself in your leads’ shoes. If you were them, would you open this email? Would you spend more than two seconds reading it? If so, what would you do next?

Searcy notes that the list sounds almost too basic. Yet, when he went back and examined the last 10 recent emails he had sent to prospects and clients, he found that he only employed four of these guidelines on average per email. Why don’t you take the same challenge? Hopefully, you can learn from it –as he and I have!

 

 

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Your Online Content Needs a Strategy

Many of my clients have made the jump into the digital age with their marketing. They know that they need to be involved in social media, but often have never heard of content management. While I do not pretend to be a content expert, I have picked up on some best practices over time and try to apply those to my own firm and the clientele I serve. My email inbox receives regular updates to keep me abreast of what thought leaders have to say about content. Over the weekend, I read about “8 Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid,” a whitepaper that was very well written. The authors/sources quoted include Heinz Marketing’s Matt Heinz, Marketing Interactions’ Ardath Albee, Babcock & Jenkins’ Carmen Hill, The Funnelholic’s Craig Rosenberg, and The Sales Lion’s Marcus Sheridan. 

Excerpts appear below, followed by my own formatting for emphasis, observation and commentary:

1. Don’t neglect to do the groundwork. Before you start any marketing activity, you have to know why you’re doing it. How does this activity translate to immediate or eventual sales and revenue? (Heinz)

You have to know (to) whom you’re talking, what they need and want to know, and where their interests intersect with yours. (Hill)

2. Don’t focus on yourself—focus on the buyer instead. Think like the end user, not like a business owner. Great content marketing is about education.  To be great at content marketing, the focus has to be about the reader, and not the company/writer. (Sheridan)

Our content needs a lot less “we” and a lot more “you.” (Hill).

3. Don’t pitch your product at every stage. Give the people what they want: interesting content that makes their life better. (Rosenberg)

What are your customer’s issues? What do they need help with, right now? That’s the content that will spread like wildfire for you. (Heinz)

Question words4. Don’t overlook calls to action. Every content asset should have a call to action. Build pathways and tell connected stories that help to build momentum through the pipe. (Albee)

5. Don’t forget that effective content marketing is a two-way street. To really accelerate your audience and impact, you must devote time to responding, commenting, engaging questions and so on. (Heinz)

6. Don’t produce content that lacks substance. Audrey Gray of American Express advised that we put our energy into what we’re making rather than the platform: “Create content that makes you feel smarter, celebrates human artistry, or that has with real-world value.” (Hill)

7. Don’t treat content marketing as an afterthought. Content marketing is a practice that integrates all of your content-driven initiative into a consistent and holistic experience for your target markets. Content marketing is at its best when it’s used to pull everything together so that an experience in one channel makes sense or adds value when the audience switches to another channel. (Albee)

8. Don’t underestimate the power of various formats. Written content may be the core of your content strategy, but don’t forget video. Or podcasts. Or short, embedded slide presentations. Or whatever other formats your audience naturally gravitates toward. (Heinz) 

Marketers will benefit tremendously by embracing the Rule of 5. Take one topic and develop 5 different angles to approach it, creating 5 different formats of content. (Albee)

Sound advice from some stellar content curators and marketers. Incorporate these principles into your own business environment. Become engaging, relevant, and indispensable. Doing so will build a loyal following that can be turned into either revenues or referrals that produce revenues. At the very least, your brand gains equity for your efforts and that is no small feat!

 

Crank Up Content Marketing For 2013

One of the leading developments in marketing has been the increased importance of content management strategies. With the proliferation of communication via the internet, companies of all sizes who are serious about engaging their target audience are looking to content as a significant tool. Clare McDermott, writing for the Content Marketing Institute today, took the opportunity to speak to to Amanda Nelson recently about how her organization creates content that is compelling, fresh, and engaging. Amanda manages content for Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud platform. Her job is to create and curate content for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud community. She manages everything from the blog and eBooks to webinars and infographics — with the help of a content team, of course.Newsjacking

Excerpts from Clare’s interview with Amanda appear below:

CMI: What issue do you think your content solves for your audience?

Amanda: Businesses want to become social, but they don’t always know where to start. What we do is create content to educate these organizations in the hope that when they are ready for social media monitoring, engagement, or publishing software, they will think of us. 

What kinds of content tactics are you using?

What we do is develop a content engine. A content engine starts with a central focus. In our case, it’s an eBook, but it could be a case study or any other piece of content that a company might have. From there, we publish the content by recycling and reusing it on multiple media:

  • We’ll read the eBook aloud and make it an audio book.
  • We’ll interview the customer for a quote in the eBook and then put that up as a video.
  • We’ll take the audio from the video and make a podcast.
  • We’ll create a presentation from the eBook with highlights.

What results have you gotten since you started using the “content engine”?

We’ve  had significant increases — about a 300 percent year-over-year increase in our eBook shares and downloads. I believe social shares of our blog posts increased by about 150 percent. What challenges have you run into?

A lot of people want to plan and curate, but at the end of the day, we need writers.. I sometimes have a need for (outside) writers..I’ll go out to the community and get guest bloggers. 

What’s your favorite tool used to communicate with the team?

We use Google Hangout because we’re actually all spread out across the country and Canada.. it is great because it’s video and it can hold up to 10 people. There are also fun things that you can do. You can do screen share or overlay funny faces. Whoever is talking is displayed predominately so it constantly changes. It’s in real-time, easy to use and free. The hangout is public so anyone else can join. People can see that you’re hanging out. It’s very social.

What are the most exciting examples of content marketing that you’ve see outside of your own business?

“News-jacking:” you see what’s going on in the media and they’re able to create content around it that becomes really shareable because it’s sitting where it’s hot. 

As you read through Amanda’s comments, take note of what she has done (with plenty of resources including a team of people) and think through how to interpret it and implement similar concepts in your business. We suggest the following:

  1. Think through your audience, where they hang out, and what your main message to each segment may be.
  2. Create a content engine that is your prescribed way of being consistent.
  3. Think about ways to use free, crowdsourced help for additional content.
  4. Investigate Google Hangout as a tool for enhanced collaboration.
  5. News-jack something interesting to supplement your original content. (Like we just did with this excerpt!)

 

 

 

What Medium Do You Choose to Publish?

This week marked the announcement of Medium, the newest offering of Evan Williams and Biz Stone. These are the two “rock star” entrepreneurs who successfully created Blogger and Twitter. What they are trying to do with their newest venture is to redefine how and why content is published on the web.

In his first blog post about the new concept, Williams says Medium represents only “a sliver” of what he and his team have learned about publishing and the need for innovation. Blogger pioneered the premise that one could publish for free whenever and wherever desirable and create a reading audience. While the effort was revolutionary at the time, it has become commonplace as other substitutes and competitors have pursued the same target market. To “up the ante,” Williams thinks that collaboration and quality content that is crowdsourced are the new frontier:

“Lots of services have successfully lowered the bar for sharing information, but there’s been less progress toward raising the quality of what’s produced. While it’s great that you can be a one-person media company, it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others.”

Pinterest postures as a collaboration platform where favorite objects (mainly photos) from the Web can be saved and shared. Crowdsourcing quality content through reader votes is done in differing ways by Digg, Reddit, and Tumblr. Of these, Tumblr is the best of the bunch for publishing and sharing content. In the dual realm of curation and instant publishing RebelMouse, uses social-networking activity to create a curated page of content that can be organized by preference, and Svbtle is a simplified blog platform with a stripped-down design.

Matthew Ingram, writing for GigaOm, observes that “both of the things Evan Williams is famous for also looked either unnecessary or unimpressive, and in some cases both. Blogger was cool if you were a geek and wanted your own website, but it was far from obvious at the time that self-publishing was going to become something huge or crack open the media industry in a fundamental way. And Twitter looked so ephemeral (not to mention the ridiculous name) that many people dismissed it as a plaything for nerds that would never amount to anything. So as Aaron Levie of Box.net noted on Twitter, it doesn’t pay to underestimate Williams when it comes to this kind of thing.”

Ingram says that Medium looks like a combo of Pinterest & Tumblr, though not proficient at text contributions. Furthermore, he references Josh Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab as saying that Medium subverts the notion of the author as the most important thing about the content. Medium is focused more on the value of the content, regardless of who is producing it or voting on it. Instead of a blog or collection showing whatever is the newest thing — the typical reverse-chronological format used by most blogs and publishing platforms — Medium sorts according to popularity (similar to Digg.) does (in a similar way, tools like Prismatic sort items based in part on the social activity around that content).

The social media culture demands more from publishing; BuzzFeed and the recently-launched Branch (also incubated by Obvious Corp.) are trying to become viable, popular solutions. Time will tell whether Medium is better than anything else out there. As Levie put it, don’t bet against it!

 

Real Estate Agents Must Understand Content Management

Today was a good day. In addition to meeting with some smart minds about artisan entrepreneurship, I had the opportunity to plan a pitch event for would-be entrepreneurs and meet with an existing business owner who desires to invigorate his enterprise. His business is real estate–specifically residential sales. What he’s hoping to accomplish is to build a powerhouse brand that competes statistically with the leading agents in our community while targeting an under-served niche market. He asked me about my philosophy on how to accomplish his goal(s).

We began with a conversation about the role of social media in marketing services organizations. Fairly quickly, I felt the need to draw a diagram to make a key series of points. The figure below is what I drew for him–allow me to explain it to you so that you can be on the same page as we ended up:

 

Everyone knows that Social Media is on the rise and important to reach niche audiences in engaging conversations. What I was able to point out to this entrepreneur is that social media is a subset of Content Management Marketing. Knowing what messages you want to get across is a precursor to sharing the right information through online channels. To begin making posts, tweets, updates, etc without in-depth knowledge of target prospects and their needs is like wearing a blindfold in an archery contest.

Whether it is your strategy as an agent to build your business through referrals from prior clients, key centers of influence, or new campaigns, it is unwise to get spread too thin and not have deep relationships. Given the huge number of users on many social networks, the agent must devise a strategy that isolates niches and pursues them with targeted strategies.

The diagram shows that thought leadership is obtained by creating great content that is shared through social media. In response, the various media provide a built-in feedback loop that should drive future thought leadership strategies. For instance, some agents provide insights in multiple categories for their target audience(s). Whether it is local community, national real estate trends, the agent’s own interests, or local real estate content, the point is to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about.

Lead generation is the holy grail for many agencies that advise real estate firms. They think that, if they can generate enough new prospects for the agents to pursue. they have earned their keep. However, as the agent with whom I was meeting explained, leads that are not qualified and filtered can waste a lot of time. Smart lead generation comes from site visitor capture initiatives that are driven by a content management system that relies on social media to create online experiences for web fans.

 

Having worked in marketing roles for multiple services firms, I have met many peers who are entirely comfortable being creative, attending wine and cheese events, and spending the money of the business owner(s). What many of them lack are measurement systems (metrics) that validate the marketing ROI.  Furthermore, when metrics are available (web analytics come with every website), the marketers often don’t use the information to change the messaging and means of communication. Smart agents know better and use metrics to verify that what they are doing is working.

Competitive advantage is what is so hard to achieve, yet worth the pursuit. It is that unique place where the audience you target perceives that you can solve their needs “better” than any other provider. “Better” means that the home buyer/seller connects with the agent on a personal and professional basis and feels that the fee they pay to be represented is a value that exceeds what else is available to them.

What is your Content Management Strategy? Do you have one?