26 April 2009

I'm moving

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09 April 2009

Good rules of thumb

In part two, we pick up at the point where we have defined our offer. Let go over some things that you should keep in mind when creating an SEO/SMO-friendly campaign. As I have said in previous posts, take a class or two in HTML. If you do, you will be able to create many of the campaign components on your own, without the additional costs of hiring this out.

Here's a logically ordered set of tips.

Creating your campaign pieces

TIP 1: Consider a multi-tiered campaign. If you have a limited budget, you could create an email, custom landing pages, and a news release. With a bit more investment, add a direct-mail piece to the campaign.

TIP 2: Be sure that the design of the landing page matches the design of your email. This creates continuity and ensures the user that they have landed on the correct page. Repeat the offer.

TIP 3: De-dupe your list to ensure each customer only receives the message once.

TIP 4: Include your company name and FULL contact information along with an opt-out process. This is required under the CAN-SPAM Act 2003. Your opt-out doesn't have to be fancy, you can ask that they reply to the email with REMOVE in the subject line.

Writing the message

TIP 1: Use personalization at every opportunity, e.g., "Dear Cyndie, thank you for your purchase of ShadowCaster on 13 March 2007." (if your list is less than 5,000, try an email application such as DirectMail or MaxBulkMailer). Include any bit of customer-centric information that you have in your list. This will make your customer feel as though you know them well. Personalized messaging will dramatically increase your response rate.

TIP 2: Don't use pronouns to refer to your product. Use the full name of the product as many times as possible. If your product is known by nicknames, be sure to use those as well. If your product is referred to by an acronym, be sure the first use is of the full name with the acronym immediately following in parentheses. Mix it up a bit and alternate the use of the acronym and full product name.

TIP 3: Don't mix messages. Choose one message, state it clearly, and state it at least twice; more if possible.

TIP 4: Tell the customer to visit your web site, but be sure that this is directed to a landing page especially for this offer. Do not use generic landing pages and do not send the user to your home page.

TIP 5: Add an expiration. Choose a date no more than 45 days out. This creates the sense of urgency.

TIP 6: Include a testimonial from a valued customer touting how wonderful the product or service is.

TIP 7: Include a phone number where they may ask questions.

TIP 8: Once the components are complete, have someone else dial every phone number, click every link, and complete every form. Nothing will stop a campaign quicker than a broken link.

Measuring your success

TIP 1: Add Google Analytics, or similar click tracking, to your site to provide measurements of the response rates. (You must set up a Google account.)

TIP 2: On the custom landing page provide links to other custom pages. These can be duplicates of existing pages in your web site, but with a unique URL so that you can track the visitor's path through your web site using your analytics software.

TIP 3: If you are using Google Analytics, use the Goal Conversion feature to measure how many visitors actually make a purchase.

Getting more from your campaign

TIP 1: Provide a button to enable the recipient to sign up for your subscriber list, early offer list, or preferred-shopper list. Use a form (if you're not a PHP expert, try EmailMe Form) to request additional information about your customer. Most customers will complete a simple form if you offer something in exchange for the information they provide. This can be as a white paper, freeware, or a demo version of your product, or perhaps a discount of their next purchase.

TIP 2: Notify your social network (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, and blog).

TIP 3: Send a press announcement. Sign up for an account at FreePressReleases.com. Click through and look at some sample announcements and follow their format. It does not have to be fancy, it has to be quotable -- be sure to include the testimonial. News releases are aimed at bloggers, rather than publications, who pick up noteworthy messages to include in their blogs, but it's a free exposure and you want some.

Ok, you're ready; press send!

In part three, we'll take a look at what the measurements tell you so that you may successfully plan the next campaign.

08 April 2009

Implementing your first foray into SEO/SMO

As I've said in earlier posts, everyone can play in the SEO/SMO field. You do not have to be an expert. There may be a lot of efforts you can put in that show limited results, but as long as you exercise a modicum of common sense, there's not much you can do that's truly detrimental.

To begin your foray into SEO/SMO, let's start with creating some accounts. You should sign up for a business account (free) at LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, Facebook, and, if you are going to create video, at YouTube. While you're at it, stop by Free-Press-Releases.com.

Please take note that I said "business accounts." It is not appropriate to use your personal social-media accounts to promote your business. You need to minimize the possibility of confusion for your customers and limit their exposure into your personal life (remember: it's called private information for a reason). Make sure that your account names are the same as your company name whenever possible. This simple step is a great start to SEO.

With your accounts established, you're ready to approach your first campaign. If you're a small company, I highly recommend that you either learn some HTML or find someone on your staff with a bit of skill in this arena. A Dreamweaver class (Adobe software for creating web sites) will take you a long way in today's marketing landscape. I'm going to assume that you either have the ability, or that you have the ability to find someone who does, and move from there.

Define the offer. Customer-loyalty campaigns are well received, so let's target that. By way of example, we will offer our current customers 60% off their next purchase. This is called a loyalty campaign because you are rewarding current customers for shopping with you.

With our offer in mind, we need to produce the creatives for both the email offer and the landing page. I cheat at every opportunity, and so should you. The goal of this campaign is to generate business and to do that by spending less than $100. Depending upon the components you implement, you could even do it for free.

Here are some of my shortcuts:
BigStockPhoto.com a fast site that enables you to shop for very inexpensive images.
EmailMeForm to easily generate web forms that, when completed by the customer, are sent to your inbox.
TemplateMonster.com a great resource for inexpensive web page and email templates.
DirectMail Pro easy-to-use software for sending out HTML or simple text messages to your customer list. It also offers tag support so that you can personalize the message. If you have data that includes your customers' past purchase information this is ideal, but not required. You'll also benefit from the tracking services they provide so you can tell who received your message, who read your message, and whose system blocked your message.

Using any or all of the above, create your email offer and your landing page, but while you're doing that, keep an eye on the SEO of it all. It's a pretty simple thing to do.

-- I wanted to get this campaign plan into a single post, but it's starting to look a whole lot like a book. Part 2 is forthcoming.