sending dynamic emails

Get Personal With Dynamic Emails

Custom messaging is the future of Internet communication.

 

Custom messaging, or dynamic messaging, is content that changes and is served on your website based on a visitor’s characteristics. Imagine going to a website and having only the product or service pages that most interest you being highlighted on its web pages. Or receiving an opportune email about the product or service you are the most interested in.

 

A lead visits your site for the first time? Provide them a white paper or an educational document about your products of services.  A visitor’s site visit history indicates they are ready to buy? Offer a quote or testimonial to close the deal.

 

Custom (dynamic) messaging is all about providing content that is personalized to a visitor, helping to increase online conversions.

 

In this previous article, SharpSpring’s Dynamic Landing Page feature is discussed. Today, we discuss SharpSpring’s Dynamic Email capability.

 

sending dynamic emails

gettyimages/ FeelPic

Dynamic Emails help to significantly increase conversion rates as we are delivering messages that are tailored to the recipient.

 

Dynamic Emails are single emails with contain content that changes based on information that we have on a lead. As an example, let’s use a lead who is interested in services that a Marketing Agency provides. These services could be Branding, Website Design & Development, Digital Marketing or Creative Services. When a lead shows an expressed interest in one of those services we can change the content in your email to be specific to that interest.

 

When the lead fills out a form on your site for more information on the service in which they are interested that triggers an automatic email to be sent from your automated marketing platform, such as SharpSpring. Using a Dynamic Email, we only need to create one email that sends to all leads who fill out the form – however the content within that email will be specific to the interest of that lead.
Not sure where to start with Dynamic Emails? Here are some ideas:

 

  • Use the contact field “Has an Opportunity”, and then create Dynamic Emails with variable content based whether or not the lead has an opportunity associated to them.
  • Lead Status – If a lead is a customer, email may point to our support forum or provide an email address for support or “Manage Your Account”. If the lead is not a customer, include an email segment that directs them to Sales.
  • Create a custom contact field called “Has Provided Review”. If a Customer has provided a review, then we show an email segment that points them to a “refer a friend” page. If the customer has not provided a review, we include an email segment pointing them to a review forum.

 

 

 

12 Marketing Automation Must-Haves

Marketing automation gives you the power to drive more leads, convert leads to sales, and prove your marketing ROI. It enables personalized, one-to-one marketing.

 

marketing automation flow concept
gettyimages/Infografx

Here are a dozen must-have features (and their functions) in a well-equipped marketing automation platform:

Read More

dynamic landing page examle

Improve Conversions with Dynamic Landing Pages

Website landing pages are important members of the sales team. They serve information to visitors that “arrive” (by link from a home page or an ad) and contain a “call to action” directing visitors to behave a certain way.

 

The next level of website landing pages are now here, thanks to SharpSpring, our automated marketing partner.

 

Dynamic landing pages, created within SharpSpring, offer improved conversion by customizing the website visitor’s experience. Simply put, you can existing lead data captured in SharpSpring to build web pages that display different text, images and calls to action based on individual lead attributes and interests. 

 

Create One Page That Adapts to Different Visitors

 

In the past, creating a dynamic web experience required complex programming and layout. Testing of different layouts added to the complexity and difficulty.

 

Now you can set up one landing page that adapts to any number of user profiles. Simply create dynamic rules based on specific visitor profiles so users only see content that’s tailored to their specific attributes. Once your rules are in place, click on the individual landing page elements – text, images, headers, videos – and select which content should appear for which user types, without any programming.

 

Dynamic landing pages are a high-converting method that can help you get a lot more out of any campaign. Your leads will be far more likely to engage with you, and ultimately make a purchase, if your webpages address specific things they’ve done, places they’ve been, and things they like. You’re making their entire web experience personal.

 

For example, if a travel agency wants to improve its conversion rates, it can use dynamic landing pages to offer its clients new travel ideas based on the places they’ve already visited. That same landing page can be used for any client who has previously traveled with the agency (or even new clients, if they’ve provided any relevant information on their previous travels). By creating a rule based on “preferred type of destination,” the agency can set the page to display exactly the right destination content for each visitor.

 

If a client has visited the Rocky Mountains, one may assume he/she has a preference for visiting mountainous destinations. So when the client revisits the travel agency’s website, the main landing page could display an offer for another similar trip. In this case — how about the Alps?

 

dynamic landing pages example

 

Truly Leverage Your Data

 

Another way you can leverage your data is by basing the dynamic content (that a given lead will see) on his/her lead score. Lead scores are awarded and accumulated in SharpSpring based on visitor’s behaviour at your website. You can create a single landing page page that will display one of multiple possible options depending on whether a lead is above or below a specified lead score threshold. For example, you can set it so that new visitors with lower lead scores will see an option to download an ebook acquainting them with your product or service. For previous visitors whose lead scores match or exceed the specified lead score threshold, the same page can display a demo offer or testimonials for your product or service. The principle behind this is that those with higher lead scores are further along in a buying decision and should see content that is relevant to a making a final purchase.

 

This is all based on the data that SharpSpring has collected on your leads over time, allowing you to take full advantage of that data and truly personalize your campaigns.

 

Dynamic landing pages are available now and another great reason to add automated marketing to your website.

 

Paying Travel Expenses

Manage Sales Costs With Marketing

Sales calls fact – it’s damn hard to get in to see anybody these days.

 

I recently spoke to a business owner about sales travel. He replied that his sales people were travelling less these days. It’s hard to get suspects and prospects to commit to appointments. Past customers are not interested in the latest and greatest unless they actually need something. Factor in the high cost of travel and the sales’ regular road trips are often not viable.

 

Paying Travel Expenses
Gettyimages/ Ridofranz

Willie Loman would die an early death in today’s markets.

 

Still, business relies on a constant supply of new customers and new business. Although the specifics vary by business and industry, the cost of acquiring new customers is multiple times the cost of retaining customers. There are resources and costs required in both efforts.

 

Business owners and sales managers have a dilemma. How to manage resources effectively between acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers?

 

Marketing can help with managing the costs of both obtaining new customers and keeping existing ones.

 

In many cases, a majority of sales come from existing customers. The satisfaction of existing customers and ongoing “staying in touch” are obviously very important in retaining customers.

 

Focus on acquiring new customers is equally important in keeping the sales pipeline full and fuelling company growth.

 

Marketing Qualified Leads

 

One aspect of marketing is to cast a wide net for new business opportunities.

 

Marketing can do much of the ”leg work” of qualifying leads before the expense of sales people are required. Marketing can reach many in an instant, much faster than even your speediest inside sales star or your heartiest cold caller.

 

The Internet has made marketing more focused and effective by allowing for very specific targeting, yet on a broad scale.

 

Marketing can filter the wide catch of prospects into those that you actually have a chance of doing business with. Filters like company size, geo location, and simple questions determining needs can qualify prospects before assigning to sales.

 

Marketing to Existing Customers

 

Another aspect of marketing is retaining existing customers and loyalty.

 

There is a lot of work to satisfying customers and showing the appreciation that you really care about them. It’s delicate staying in touch with people while respecting their reluctance to talk to sales people when not they are not in shopping mode. Sales people often feel they are banging their heads against a wall.

 

The Internet plays a large role in marketing effectiveness. Engagement is the key and in today’s world often public. The public nature of social media, reviews, and commentary is well serviced by the marketing dept. This takes some of the heat off of sales staff in not getting mired down in trying to do everything for existing customers.

 

Marketing techniques and marketing automation service existing customers until they are ready for sales assistance. Again, “leg work” is provided until valuable sales people need to get involved.

 

Managing Sales Costs

 

Having marketing help manage sales costs can make a big difference in profits:

 

  • Marketing can bring down the costs of acquiring new customers by qualifying suspects into prospects. Marketing qualified leads can be passed on to sales. Sales can then do what they are hired to do – work with legitimate prospects and close them.

 

  • Marketing can bring down the costs of customer retention by delivering consistent messaging and managing customer engagement. Satisfied customers become repeat customers. The lifetime value of repeat customers should not be underestimated.

 

Managing sales costs in today’s markets is a challenge. Marketing can help by doing the “leg work” of getting your message out in the widest distribution possible. Marketing qualifies the interest generated to ensure precious sales staff only focus on potential opportunities. Marketing maintains the message that your customers are important and your organization is always a part of the conversation.

 

 

Your Online Properties – Is There Anybody Home?

We all know the trick when you are off on vacation. Leave lights on, stop the mail delivery, have someone drop by often. The idea is to dissuade break-ins by giving an impression that there is someone at home – all the time.

I’m sure it’s true that most of the baddies would prefer to target homes with no one there or homes with reduced chance that people will return home in the middle of a burglary.

Vacant, crumbling house
Witthaya/Thinkstock

So, neglect of this trick leaves us vulnerable. That same vulnerability occurs when you neglect your online properties – websites, blogs, social media accounts. The worst is you get hacked and you don’t notice it immediately. Even without an online “break-in” subtle damage can occur. It can be equally costly.

The world may think that your business is on vacation.

 

Are There Signs of Life to New Visitors?

New visitors often look for some sign that your online information is current. They may look for something on your website that has a date. Many websites have a year in the footer, which is intended to show the last time the site was updated. Social media and blog posts (sometimes) have dates attached to them. All of this is proof that you care about your online properties and are maintaining them regularly. Proof that there is somebody at home.

I recently went to a website of an industrial manufacturer to find the last update of their site was 2012. What impression did that leave with me? I wondered if they were still in business (they are). Not good for attracting new business.

Corporate websites are built to support business. Many businesses are online because they have to be. Modern buying takes place at least partially online as shoppers gather information before buying. If a website is neglected it’s a message that online is not important to that business. Buyers can’t have access to the most current information to support an eventual purchase.

 

Are There Signs of Life to Return Visitors?

Let’s say someone has been to a website before and they return. In the online world, return visitors are gold. Most shoppers do not make a purchasing decision on their first visit. If they return, they have made the most important step possible to becoming a future customer or client. These golden return visitors must be treated with the highest regard.

They may return to a website to check on something that caught their attention first visit, but they will notice if things look the same. No problem if it’s a day later, but if they return in a month they may also be looking for something new – corporate news, product news – some sign of life in that business. If there are no changes it may not jeopardize their reason for returning. If they are returning to more than one site, sites that show signs of life have a huge advantage in impressing return visitors.

The days of a website as an online brochure are over. If you think of your website as static then you will get about the same reaction to it as what most brochures produce these days – a disinterested “meh”.

So, get in the game and show your online visitors that there is somebody home.

Effective Simplicity – 3 Steps to Building an Online Marketing Plan

Effective marketing can help a business soar. Business people know this. Just watch a few episodes of the CBC’s “Dragons Den” to hear the most common response to the question, “What do you need the money for?” Pretty much everyone’s reply includes “marketing”. From launching a new business to growing an existing enterprise, the business world knows the difference marketing makes.

Online businesses rely on marketing to spread the word of not only their stellar products and services, but also word of their very existence on a very crowded Internet.

A marketing plan is the cornerstone of marketing a business, regardless the size or type of business. Online businesses must have a plan in place as an anchor and a guide. Plans can be as complex or as simple as businesses themselves, but for our purposes today we will talk about the components in a simple, basic plan.

 

effective marketing plan

 Avosb/Thinkstock

1) Pick your channels.

The Internet offers many marketing channel choices:

  • social media marketing
    • Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter ads and sponsored posts
  • online marketing
    • content creation, search engine optimization, blogging
  • online advertising
    • online display ads, search engine marketing (Adwords)
  • offline advertising
    • print ads, TV, radio
  • events marketing
    • trade shows

You must pick those that make sense to your particular business. The shotgun approach of trying everything and throwing as much as you can to see what sticks makes no sense. This leads us to the next important point:

2) Do a few things extremely well.

Having picked your channels, now is the time to define what you are looking for from these channels and to execute them effectively.

The quick answer to what you are looking for is “more sales”. This is in no way specific enough. You wouldn’t tell your sales staff to just go forth and make “more sales” without being more specific on what’s expected of them. The same holds true for your selected marketing channels.

Examples of further goal definitions include:

  • increased visits to the website
  • requests for demos of products and/or services
  • click-throughs to online offers
  • increased engagement with potential clients/customers
  • downloads of unique content specific to your business

Obviously your end goal is to sell, but these specifics help to define which channels would be the most effective with these mini-goals. In online, rarely does a visitor go directly to a sale without involvement of the above.

Execution of these channels and tactics must be done effectively. Every detail possible. It’s far better to do something thoroughly and properly that doing lots of things half-assed. The key approach is take your time and learn this stuff really well.

3) Measure, tweak, and measure again.

Measure the results of your efforts. Is there room for improvement? What needs to be tweaked or changed?

The eventual results (or lack thereof) will either lead to your happy place or to the realization that this or that channel is simply not working.

The greater the expertise you have in these areas the easier it will be to get the results and the more efficient you will be with your time and resources. There are some really great tools for measuring how things are going at any time in the process. A common complaint is there are too many tools and no one has the time to learn them.

A simple, basic online marketing plan, in concept, is not that difficult to conceive or execute. There are many online resources to assist in learning all the details. The channels, themselves, such as Google Adwords and Facebook advertising, are deceptively simple to use by just about anyone.

Why, then, are there agencies and specialists that offer help in these areas? The answer lays in the details. Specialists know this stuff, inside and out, and can deliver these services effectively and efficiently. You can do it yourself, but it’s like those TV ads of the guy holding a scalpel to his chest while on the phone with a surgeon – should you really be doing this?

Regardless if your online marketing plan is DIY, or supported by the pros, simple and basic is a good starting point. Often, a simple approach is the most effective approach.

How to Unleash Your Content Marketing Superheroes

In marketing your organization online, “content is king” is more truth than cliché. All the advertising in the world cannot compensate for a lack of substance on a website. As Bill Gates observed back in 1996, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

Generating original, relevant content can be a daunting task for many organizations. Transmitting expertise and knowledge, in just the right online doses, can be difficult to start, edit and polish. It can cause procrastination and neglect in building a website beyond something that just looks good. The power to rise above your competitors resides in your own staff. These tips will help shed reluctance and release their inner content marketing superheroes.

Content marketing superhero
Image Credit: cyano66/Thinkstock

Commit to a Content Strategy

At a minimum, everyone should commit to extending your organization’s expertise and value to your online presence. This will help bring the internal perception of your website to something more than just an online brochure and as something that is important to everyone in the organization. This can get staff thinking about what needs to be online to reflect what your organization is really about and how to attract and impress new visitors.

Draw up a Content Calendar

A content calendar is your plan on how your business will deliver its expertise and uniqueness online. It is the details on how to implement your content strategy.

A content calendar describes the topics, details and schedule you will follow to keep an ongoing delivery of your organization’s value online. Content delivery needs to be consistent with no gaps. Visitors need a reason to return to your website. Each time they do is your opportunity to further a relationship. A calendar keeps you focused on your online commitment.

Start With an Outline

Content can be in any form that your target audience finds engaging; blogs, guides, videos, case studies. All of these formats begin with an outline. Begin by answering this question: What is it that you are saying and to whom? Answering this should lead to what would be the most effective format for your message.

After the “what” and “who”, make notes of the major details to deliver your message. Point form is fine. The idea is to capture your ideas without a lot of censoring at this point. Editing and polishing are the last steps.

Get Help if Needed

If your organization has the necessary skills in copywriting/editing, graphic design, video production, website maintenance, and content promotion, you are ready to polish your content and publish it via (or linked to) your website. If not, you’ll need some help.

Many businesses do not have all of these skills. Not having all of these may have held them back from producing original content in the first place. The point is that the guts of original content best comes from your organization, regardless if you have all of the resources to complete the package. Your organization’s expertise and knowledge is the foundation to all original content creation, and original content is the best content.

You may need help with the strategy, or the calendar, or the polish and promotion of the content. Regardless, your own staff can be content marketing superheroes by tapping into the knowledge they have and use everyday. They just need to commit to it and get started. They may be surprised and proud of what it can end up as. Some of the greatest superheroes are those that didn’t know they had it in them.

3 Tips on How to Weather the Economic Storm in Your Marketing Plan

Economic forces in Canada and changing business conditions have left us all concerned about our existing marketing plans. While changes may be necessary to adjust to this new order, some may be tempted to abandon their marketing plans entirely. While every business is unique, here are three points of marketing advice to consider:

traffic in winter storm.jpg

 Thinkstock/ aetb

1) Don’t Panic

Panic is an emotional response that usually doesn’t serve a business well when clear thinking is needed. Pundits agree that panic reactions are exacerbating a jittery business world and have only contributed to its problems.

A panic reaction may be to excclude marketing efforts as part of cost cutting to keep a business running. I would argue that if rising costs, lower profits, and decreasing customer base need anything, it would be new prospects and additional new business. Marketing is the spark to drive new business your way. New markets can’t be efficiently uncovered and exploited without marketing of some sort.

2) Do Change

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same think over and over and expecting different results. In today’s economy this is particularly appropriate. If the results of your existing plan need to improve, change is necessary. Be it a wholesale change or minor tweaks, at least you will open an opportunity for different results.

Persistence, while a strong personality trait, needs to be viewed differently in the context of a nimble and relevant marketing plan. How about persistently tweaking your marketing strategy and tactics until you arrive at something that works?

3) Don’t Wait

The Canadian business landscape is rife with casualties that took booming markets for granted and sat shell-shocked waiting for things to improve. (Personally, I don’t want to be a victim, I’d rather be a fighter.)

Trying to wait things out and battening down all the expense hatches may not be an option for many businesses. Many large enterprises have deep enough pockets for mass layoffs and then a switch to “sleep” mode, ready to rise again when things improve. For medium enterprises, change is needed now and a recharged marketing plan should be front and centre. Why wait if you can’t afford to wait?

Conclusion

Rather than panicking and totally stopping any marketing plans completely, now is the time to review and refresh your plans to meet changing conditions head on. Not to say that dollars shouldn’t be carefully spent, but in most cases new customers and additional business are the key to success, or at least, to survival.

A sound business strategy includes marketing.  “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

Looking to implement or change a marketing plan for 2016? Check out Donna Kind’s Planning for 2016: Inbound Trends & Patterns Worth Noticing.

Content Creation: How Hard Can It Be?

The recent release of State of Inbound 2015 hi-lights a number of key takeaways, such as:

“Marketers should create compelling content that reflects their company’s voice and brand while helping the consumers of this content turn into website visitors, leads and customers.”

A nice statement that speaks both on the importance of being true to your brand, and on the importance of helping your audience. All delivered through the wonder of creating online content.

If you’re an expert in your niche and loyal to your brand, you may think it should be easy. But, it’s harder than it sounds.

man putting on ladie's high heels

The reality is that many small to medium business enterprises find it difficult to consistently fuel a content pipeline.

In many cases internal experts are just too busy. Perhaps they know a lot but have difficulty in focusing in on specific ideas and topics. There’s a level of organization and planning required to consistently generate fresh stuff — blog posts, videos, white papers, or help guides. And it takes a lot of time. Every week.

Enter the freelancer or marketing agency.

Those that create valuable and compelling content don’t always have to be your own employees.

Freelancers or agencies specialize in working with companies to co-create content and take some of the burden off. They have processes and schedules built around both independent research and working with your experts to organize and publish relevant content.

You don’t’ have to do this alone.

In fact, many don’t. Turning again to the State of Inbound 2015 report, HubSpot found “leading marketer’s content comes from both in-house and out”. This is the sweet spot that can ensure your brand and voice is present but gives you time to look after other parts of your business.

Get the biggest bang for your buck.

It makes sense to use your expertise and best people in a way that delivers the biggest bang for your business.

A lot of content required is to help your online business to “get found” and to help people learn about your stuff (and decide if it is what they want or need). At this early stage people may not be ready to buy yet.

It makes sense to spend your expert time with those that are nearer to buying, after they have consumed some of your remarkable content. Have your out-source work on the “top-of-the-funnel” content while your best people are working on closing qualified leads.

Whatever the case, in-house or out, the experts agree content is the lifeblood of online marketing. Your audience must be impressed with you online and satisfied enough with what they have found in order to give you their business.

Notice I haven’t said that you don’t have to do anything. That would be too easy.

Do-It-Yourself Online: Yes or No?

They say that a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. In the case of building on the Internet, this is particularly true. What used to be infinitely complex to create is now made simple by a myriad of software platforms that allow almost anyone to build stuff online. For an online business, doing it all yourself can be dangerous.

Websites, e-commerce, and social media business pages are possible for any business, regardless of technical skill, to create, publish and update. Content management systems such as WordPress, e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, and social media for business platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook are inexpensive and easy-to-use for any commercial enterprise. Even the elements of design are handled through the availability of numerous templates where you literally fill in the blanks.

The question is; just because you can do-it-yourself, should you actually do it?

Do it yourself hammer accident

Thinkstock / iStock  

The answer lies not in the technical execution, but in the effectiveness of your efforts. A website or online store that does a better job of turning people away rather than selling your products and services is perhaps worse than not having anything online at all.

Much of it boils down to the writing.

Writing for the web is both easy and hard. Let’s review both sides for some context:

The Easy

In some ways, writing for the web is easier than writing a lot of other business stuff, especially stuff for print. The difference is in the way people read online vs. the way people read offline.

Online reading is more like scanning. People are after something specifically when online, searching for information. Decisions need to be made as to whether the online reader is in the right place or not.

Because of this the writing should be simple and brief. Short sentences and paragraphs. Don’t make the reader work to figure things out. There is no shortage of alternative websites and online stores if your reader should they choose to leave you.

Most lay people overwrite when writing for the web. Maybe it’s not so easy.

The Hard

You would think the messages you are trying to convey online would be easy, but it’s not. It can be very difficult to get right.

The challenge is in writing for your readers and not yourself.

Your readers should be personified as “your ideal customer”. The more real you make this persona the more targeted and effective your writing will be. Describe them in detail; demographics, wants, and problems they are trying to solve.

Another difficulty is in leaning towards what you like to talk about (and write) instead of what your web visitor wants to read. Business people love to talk about their accomplishments and their perceptions of their businesses, like proud parents.

The writing perspective needs to be that of the reader and what’s in it for them. The reader is interested in themselves, their needs and problems. In reality, they are not interested in your company or the fancy features of your products.

Should you do-it-yourself?

This depends on how focused you are on your online message, your target audience and the behavior of online shoppers. You know your business, no doubt, but this does not guarantee success in building a website or an online store.

Anyone can get something up using WordPress or Shopify but there is much to consider in what you say and how you say it through these platforms. You needn’t be a journalist or a novelist to be effective — just convey the right message from the right perspective.

If effective online writing seems daunting, you likely need some help. Don’t risk being misunderstood. Prospective customers are too precious. Seek help from a specialist.