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Robert Davidson

Total posts: 4
Last post: December 2, 2020

How to choose the right email marketing and marketing automation platform for your business

How to choose the right email marketing and marketing automation platform for your business

By Robert Davidson on  December 2, 2020

Choosing the right email marketing platform is not that different from choosing the right digital marketing agency. Making the right choice can serve as a launchpad for growth and customer relationship development. The wrong choice, on the other hand, can leave you stuck in the mud, searching for where you went wrong and how to get moving again.

But with over 400 email service providers to choose from—which may or may not play nicely with any of the remaining 7,500+ marketing solutions you may also be using—how are you supposed to know which platform is the right for you?

Because we're routinely helping businesses find the right solutions for their marketing efforts, we've distilled our more complex process down to just a handful of questions and action items that will help you build a shortlist of qualified email marketing platforms.

Itemize and Prioritize

Grab some sticky notes and, with one item per note, start listing every feature that you're using with your current platform, every other solution that it connects to, and anything else you want from a new solution. Your sticky notes should look something like this:

Now that you know what you're doing with your current solution, and what you're looking for in a new one, it's time to prioritize. Start rearranging your sticky notes into three different groups, labeled: "deal-breakers,” "should-haves," and "bonuses."

  • Deal-breakers - elements that must be supported natively by your new platform.
  • Should-haves - important components of your marketing processes that could be supported by third-party platforms or other integrations.
  • Bonuses – these should only come into play as a tiebreaker between other solutions that satisfy all of your "deal-breakers" and most of your "should-haves."

With your priorities in hand, here are four critical questions to help you reach your shortlist of qualified platforms.

Feature Set: Does this platform's feature set align with your business's processes?

Consult your list. Does this potential solution check off all of your "deal-breakers?" How about the rest of your current marketing elements? Can this new platform, through existing integrations or native capability, slot in with the rest of your tech stack, or will you need to invest in some additional software to plug a hole that's been left open?

If you feel good about the new solution picking up where the old one left off, it's time to check out your "bonuses" and see if it can replace anything else in your tech stack. With more solutions like ActiveCampaign, HubSpot, and even MailChimp offering "all-in-one" marketing platforms, it's likely that you'll have opportunities to move your email, CRM, social listening, and more under the same umbrella.

As appealing as an "all-in-one" solution sounds, it's not always the right move. In some instances, it really is the perfect fit and can save you time and money. But it's just as likely that these additional features, outside of email and contact management, aren't as robust or intuitive as your previous standalone solution and carry opportunity costs that might outweigh the perceived benefits.

Usability: Can your team hit the ground running with this platform?

Now that we know the platform can do everything it needs to, let's think about the people responsible for its day-to-day operation. Whether you're the power user or the person making decisions on behalf of your power users, you need to be certain that those doing the work can step in and do their jobs on day one.

For those of you who aren't the power users, let them drive the investigation process. If they are not leading every call or demo, you're increasingly likely to end up with a subpar solution. Your power users understand your processes as well as anyone and they know exactly what they need to see in each potential solution.

If you are the power user, make a list of the necessary tasks, large and small, that you complete every day, week, and month in your current platform. Ask each platform to demo as many of these tasks as possible, especially the things you do most often and those that are most critical to the success of the business, no matter how simple or straightforward they seem. Take note of what's different from your current platform. What looks more cumbersome and what looks easier? What did the demonstrator struggle with and what did they try to avoid?

Support: Does the platform offer the kind of support you expect from your technology partners?

This is another critical and often-overlooked element of switching platforms. An emergency situation is not the time to learn you can't call support at 3 p.m. PST on a Tuesday, so it's imperative that you understand how any new platform's support options differ from the support you're currently receiving.

The first thing to investigate, with regard to platform support, is how robust or searchable is the platform's help documentation. Think of a recent or common problem you experienced with your platform, search for "[my recent problem] [potential new platform name]" and see what turns up. Some platforms have such stellar documentation that you'll rarely need to submit a support ticket. Others have hardly any useful documentation, which means you'll be hard-pressed to troubleshoot problems on your own.

"Technical support" also means something different to everyone and every platform, and it's not always clear what kind of support will be available to you. Here are some questions to consider in your research:

  • Is there a support line you can call when you have issues?
  • Is web support offered through online chat or email?
  • How responsive is the support team?
  • Is the support team available during your typical business hours?
  • Can you upgrade your level of support without moving up an entire feature tier?

Cost and Flexibility: Can this platform grow with you?

By now you undoubtedly understand the complexity of platform migrations. So, in the interest of avoiding a new platform switch in a year or two, it's time to see if the platforms on your radar can keep up with your business over the coming years.

If you're looking to grow your business 2x, 3x, or 10x, over the next few years, be sure to understand how the cost of a new platform will grow with you. Some questions to ask yourself include: Does it charge by contact or by email? Does the platform's price per contact hold, shrink, or grow as you add more contacts? Does it cost you an arm and a leg to add additional sales or marketing users?

Does the platform offer features that are on your marketing roadmap in a year or two? Does it check the boxes of your most forward-thinking "bonuses?"

Can you easily tier up or down to suit your contact and feature needs? Are you locked into long-term contracts?

What's next?

You've put innumerable platforms through the wringer and come out the other side with your shortlist of possible solutions. At this point, you're left with a math problem. Sometimes it's as simple as figuring out which platform checks the most boxes, but it's often not so straightforward.

If you're struggling to decide which platform is right for you, let us know. We work with over a dozen of the industry's leading email and marketing automation platforms and would be happy to help you move into the right platform for your business.

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7 Tips for Online Forms that Convert

7 Tips for Online Forms that Convert

By Robert Davidson on  July 15, 2020

Forms are all around us. They welcome new users, collect useful information, measure the success of digital marketing campaigns, and so much more.

Their omnipresence means they often go unnoticed as we navigate the web, but bad forms can also stop us dead in our tracks.

Who among us hasn’t started a form, only to abandon it seconds later? You want my phone number? Fine. My home address? Hmm, I don’t know... My maternal grandmother's maiden name? Nope, I'm out.

Bad forms are frustrating, and frustrated users don’t remain users for very long.

On the other hand, easy-to-complete forms offer a slew of advantages. Well-executed forms increase conversions without sacrificing lead quality. They can also create what Nielson Norman Group has dubbed, the “halo effect.” Good design in one element of your website can improve the way people feel about other parts of a site and the company as a whole.

To increase conversions—and keep your forms from scaring off potential customers—here are seven tips to keep your forms in tip-top shape.

1. Put labels where people already look for them

Eye-tracking data shows that users look above and to the left of fields for instruction and focus on the labels and fields while ignoring the rest of the form.

Nielson Norman Group also found that using labels as placeholders in the form fields hurt usability more than helping it. People look for empty fields, so placeholder text can actually make fields easier to miss. Read all seven reasons why placeholder text hurts usability.

2. Validate the field once the user is done and be specific about errors

Trust that people know what they're doing. Give them a chance to complete their entry before showing a stressful alert.

When fields are completed improperly, be sure to provide specific error messages, explaining how to fix an entry. We've all had the displeasure of guessing why a form won't submit, so spare people the aggravation and give them guidance on how to fix their entry.

3. Have the field size match the amount of content needed, and give guidance on what input you're looking for

If you're asking for an email or telephone number, you don't need a big text box. Size the field to match the expected response.

And for phone numbers, and other fields with many correct formatting options, show people how to format their entry. This will save them time and keep you from having to clean up messy data later.

4. Let users know what's required (and/or optional)

Marking every field with an asterisk isn’t the sexiest approach, but it does increase conversions.

Aside from the information you're requesting, the largest obstacle between you and a conversion is the brainpower it takes to complete your form. Telling users what information is and isn’t required minimizes the work put into completing your forms.

5. Don’t get greedy, only ask for the information you need

Leaning on research from CXL, your forms should have enough fields to achieve the following:

  • The form is easy to understand and complete; there’s limited friction. (We already covered this in Tip #4)
  • The value of the information you're asking visitors to provide is equal to or less than the value you are going to provide.
  • You can qualify incoming leads and provide your sales team with enough information to close deals.

6. Don't settle for a boring "submit" button

Say hello. Download the eBook. Get Started Today. There are so many button text options you can use to get users to submit their information.

Carefully crafted button text can also help increase your conversions. Through testing, you can see what gets your visitors' attention and helps them take action. Go ahead and get creative but be sure that your call-to-action aligns with what your users want to do.

7. Close with an informative thank you

We could all use a little more acknowledgment and affirmation, so take a moment to thank people for their effort. Let them know what will happen next and follow up as appropriate.

This is also a great chance to offer helpful links or a way to contact you if they need help or have more immediate needs. Check out these examples of successful thank you messages.

Need help optimizing forms to increase conversions on your website? Contact us today to talk about how we can help you reach your web design and digital marketing goals.

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Creating Useful Content to Generate Quality Leads

Creating Useful Content to Generate Quality Leads

By Robert Davidson on  March 16, 2020

A recent article in Forbes cited a pair of studies that identified that lead generation as a significant growth challenge for CEOs and business leaders across the U.S and U.K.

We’re not surprised. Marketing teams are often left between a rock and a hard place, knowing that one of their most difficult tasks, generating quality leads, is core to their organization's ability to grow. Although negatives compound when lead generation is slow, there’s also a compounding positive effect when we get things right.

So, with this in mind, we provided a content production and deliverability road map to help you generate more quality leads.


Knowing that growth is both a top business priority and a significant operational hurdle, what’s a marketer to do?

There’s a reason we didn’t say any of this would be “simple.” Telling someone to “create great content” is a lot like this cartoon about how to draw an owl… It’s easy to say but, in reality, is incredibly difficult to do.

How to draw an owl

To simplify things a bit, let’s start where all great things once started, at the beginning.


Why do some pieces of content resonate while other pieces don’t?

Content resonates because it’s audience finds it useful. It tells them something true and important that they didn’t already know. Lying to your audience will get you nowhere fast, and telling them trivial things or things they already know is a waste of their time and yours. But, if you can consistently answer questions by delivering important and informative content, your audience will increasingly view your organization as a leader in the industry.


How do I know what my audience finds useful?

The best, and perhaps only, way to truly understand what your audience considers useful is to ask them! Your current customers are working with you or purchasing your product because it makes their life easier. So find some willing participants and ask them why they chose you. Some great questions to start with are:

  • What led them to choose you over your competitors?
  • What do they remember reading, watching, or listening to that led to their purchase?
  • Why did they need your service or product in the first place?
  • What was life like before they found you?
  • Did they try other related products or services?
  • Where were they looking for information about your product or services?

Any of these questions can be the foundation for building a content strategy that’s useful to other prospective customers or partners.


Some people know all about us, while others know very little. How can we create content that’s useful for everyone?

You can’t. Unless you’re launching a brand new product or service, there will be at least some knowledge gap between your most-informed and least-informed prospects. This means that you likely can’t produce any single piece of content that’s useful for everyone. But you can, and should, produce content for people along the entire customer journey.

Identify the distinct groups or personas that exist within your target audience. These personas will likely have some significant demographic differences (age, gender, education, occupation, professional experience, etc.) and will certainly have a different customer journey. It’s up to you and your content team to produce content across the customer journey that is useful for each persona.

If your content is only answering basic questions about your product or service, your most-informed persona may look to competitors who can answer their more specific, in-depth questions. On the other side of the coin, only answering the questions of the experts may leave your least-experienced persona with more questions than answers. To position yourself as a solution for the widest audience possible, you need a library of content that helps any member of your audience move through any stage of the customer journey.


How can I make sure the right people are seeing the right content?

Once you’re producing useful content for your different customer personas, it’s important to identify the channels that will give it the greatest visibility to your audience. One way to get the right content in front of the right people, especially when you’re just getting your digital marketing efforts off the ground, is through your social media channels. Because LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all cater to different people, these platforms have, in essence, segmented your audience for you!

LinkedIn tends to be the place for company updates, product improvements, and more technical content. Facebook and Instagram are usually where you’ll find brands sharing photos, videos, and more casual content. Twitter can sometimes be a bit of a wild-card. Some brands have used Twitter to establish a sassy brand voice, while others have found a very niche yet active community (like #EmailGeeks or public utilities).

While social media is, indeed, a great marketing platform for lead generation, if you really want to segment how you’re sharing your content, email is the way to go.

If you’re not collecting email addresses, you need to start ASAP. Whether it’s through product announcements, event registrations, contest entries, or something else entirely, you should be collecting email addresses and working to establish a relationship with your audience.

Ultimately, you need to show that you’ll bring value to your audience’s inbox. All of the above are great ways to capture emails on a one-off or ad-hoc basis, but to entice return readers, the people truly interested in your product or service, you need to demonstrate that you can consistently deliver content relevant to them. Having a blog full of fresh, useful content is a great start because it shows that you have the industry knowledge and can get the job done, but giving people a chance to view your most recent emails or newsletter is an even better way to show exactly what they’re signing up for.


How can I segment my customer personas through email?

Email is a permission-marketing asset. Unlike most forms of advertising and paid media, anyone that’s given you their email address has invited you into their inbox. They have told you, “Yes, please send me interesting things about your business.” Now it’s up to you to respect that privilege and not bombard their inbox with every single thing you write or produce.

Begin sharing your content with consistency, at a moderate interval, and you’ll soon get an idea for how your audience is engaging with your content. Use their engagement and page views to drive your content strategy and help you identify which prospects most align with which persona.

This kind of segmentation takes time but if you respect your audience, and trust them when they tell you what they want to hear, they’ll continue to repay you with their attention and, hopefully, their business.


Phew… okay, I’ve finally got useful content, viable customer personas, and a consistent email program. Now what?

Well, now it’s time to repeat and iterate. Track which pieces of content are performing well and make more of them. Track which emails are performing best and model more of your emails after those too.

This process takes time, and won’t overflow your funnel overnight, but as you share this content through email and social media, you should start generating quality leads that see you as a leader in your industry and the place to look for useful content.

Need help? From content strategy and blogging to social media and email, Aztek’s team of digital marketing specialists can help you execute a comprehensive program that will drive more qualified leads for your organization. Contact us today to start a conversation.

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Email Marketing is Not Dying, it's Thriving

Email Marketing is Not Dying, it's Thriving

By Robert Davidson on  June 6, 2019

With the rise of mobile apps, social media, and artificial intelligence, it is easy to see how other forms of digital marketing may have fallen out of fashion. Marketing coordinators and managers can become so excited about "the next big thing" that they sometimes forget that older, well-established marketing tactics like email are still a great way to engage current customers and generate new leads.

Why has email marketing survived the test of time in an ever-changing digital landscape?

  • Mobile devices continue to be the most popular means by which people check their email. Apple’s iPhone Mail app alone accounted for more than 28 percent of all email opens in May 2019, according to the Litmus’ Email Client Market Share Report.
  • Email marketing offers straightforward performance metrics and Email Service Providers (ESP) like SharpSpring and MailChimp can create clear, custom reports for you.
  • You can tweak and test your email messaging to ensure you’re delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time.
  • Regardless of age or gender, US consumers prefer to receive brand offers through email compared to any other channel.
  • With recent consumer data protections – see GDPR in Europe and The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 in the U.S. – contacts on your mailing list will have not only opted into your marketing emails but also confirmed that their address is valid and they want to receive your emails.
  • As the benefits of behavioral ad targeting become increasingly murky, email marketers are getting better and better at delivering relevant, personalized content to the inbox.
  • For the last two decades, consumers have been trained to turn to their inbox for offers and information from their favorite brands.

 

Email Marketing ROI

Although oft-eulogized, email marketing remains the most consistent channel for ROI and isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

In 2016, Campaign Monitor reported that the average return for every dollar spent on email marketing jumped from $34 in 2014 to $38 in 2015 and then to $44 in 2016. Litmus confirmed the channel's consistency in 2018, noting that even "average email programs report a ROI of 37:1."

With stable returns year-over-year, it's clear that email marketing is here to stay. Although Millennials and Gen Z are the earliest adopters and most active age groups on social media, more than 3/4 of teenagers regularly use email and consider it to be a part of everyday life.

 

Email Marketing Best Practices for 2019 and Beyond

The best practices for email marketing have remained relatively unchanged over the years, but new opportunities for personalization, and legislation that limits how marketers can use that data, have only increased the importance of adhering to these best practices.

1. Build and maintain a clean list.

Whether you’ve been building your list for 20 years or 20 days, it’s more important than ever to know who your subscribers are, where they came from, and how they interact with your content. Clean, organically-built lists will yield significantly better long-term results than lists made up of purchased contacts.

2. Take a mobile-first approach when designing your emails.

With 75 percent of Americans regularly checking email on their smartphone, you need to make sure your campaigns look great on the small screen. If you’re just now optimizing your email for mobile viewers, start with a single column layout, keep the copy and calls to action to a minimum, and make sure your images are mobile-friendly (retina-optimized dimensions with small file sizes).

3. Subject lines are king but don’t sleep on preheader text.

Use short, punchy subject lines to get your customers’ attention and then use preheader text to draw them in. This is the perfect spot to include your contact’s name for a personal touch, to give additional offer details, or to ask a tantalizing question.

4. Keep emails short and to the point; nobody likes a blabber.

We’ll let this one speak for itself.

5. Track campaigns to learn what is working best with your target market.

Put your ESP’s reporting tools to work and monitor the campaigns and content that resonate most with your audience. Use these findings to hone future email campaigns.

6. Plan ahead for top sales periods like holidays.

As Ben Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” While it’s doubtful he was talking about holiday email campaigns, this is the attitude email marketers need to have for peak seasons. An easy way to accomplish this would be to take an hour each month to look back at the last 30 days and see how you can apply what you’ve learned to your campaigns in the next 90 days, six months, and 12 months.

7. Don’t send image-only emails.

All-image emails may look pretty, but sending a campaign without any live-text creates a number of user-experience issues. Not only are your campaigns not searchable, they’re useless for anyone (most Outlook users and as many as 40 percent of Gmail users) who has images turned off, and are inaccessible for the visually-impaired or anyone who uses a voice assistant (looking at you, Alexa) to read their emails to them.

 

It is important to maintain a well-balanced marketing mix and email marketing is an important piece of the online marketing puzzle. When done right, and in support of messaging on your other digital channels, email marketing continues to be a great way to engage customers and generate leads.

If you need help putting together an email marketing strategy for your business, let us know! Aztek has multiple email marketing partnerships and a team of certified email marketing experts with years of proven success.

 

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