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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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June 9, 2014

How to Reach Top Decision Makers in 5 Minutes

June 9, 2014 | By | No Comments

Executive woman tablet carYou want to reach top decision makers? It’s easier than you think. Just as with any marketing or e-commerce initiative, the key is to reach customers where and when they want to hear from you. Easier said than done, you say? Not really. The one place that executives and senior management pay attention to more than anything else remains their email inbox.

Now, it’s probably no secret I’m a big fan of email marketing, long calling it the forgotten social network and including posts about improving its value in the top e-commerce and digital marketing posts for the last two months.

Don’t believe this? Check out this excellent Marketing Charts study that shows global executives rely on email to consume and share industry information:

“Email newsletters also significantly outpace social media accounts as news sources, with social platforms generally used more for sharing than sourcing content. Even so, results from the survey show that executives are far more likely to use email (80%) to share content than they are to turn to specific social platforms such as Twitter (43%) or LinkedIn (30%).”

This data underscores the importance of email for reaching key decision makers, particualrly if you’re a B2B enterprise looking to converse with managers and executives. Yes, social and search often represents best practice for reaching customers. But as I talked about last week, best practices only truly live up to the name when they work for your business.

Now, how can you make this work for you? Simple. Here are three key steps to keep in mind:

  1. Talk in their language. Think about who you’re talking to. Your customer has a set of needs. Talk in terms of benefits that matter to drive opens and click-throughs.
  2. Don’t waste their time. As I’ve talked about before, your customers don’t really have time to care about you. It’s not that they’re bad people; they’rebusy. Focus on addressing their needs immediately. Solve their problems first and that will help you solve yours, too.
  3. Keep the conversation going. Finally, don’t give up on email. Its value is in creating an ongoing dialogue. Your customer needs to see your message when they’re ready for it and if you’re only sending irregularly — or not at all — you won’t be found when they’re ready to hear from you.

Email is far from dead. And, as this data illustrates, it can be the very best channel for reaching key customers. Which, really, is what your digital marketing and e-commerce efforts are meant to do, isn’t it?

Interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Digital Marketing Directions: Three Trends Shaping 2014 Hospitality Internet Marketing:

Finally, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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May 22, 2014

How to Improve Your Email Marketing in Just 5 Minutes

May 22, 2014 | By | No Comments

Mobile email marketing

Interesting study out this week from Yesmail (and discussed at length by Marketing Charts) showing how marketers use responsive design in their email marketing — or more accurately, don’t:

“A majority 52% of email opens occurred on a mobile device in Q1, according to the latest quarterly report [download page] from Yesmail… [which] found that among emails opened on mobile devices, those using responsive design had a 21% higher click-to-open rate than the rest (11.9% vs. 9.8%).”

Pretty cool. So, you’d expect most marketers use responsive design for their emails, right?

Nope.

“Indeed, only one-quarter of marketers tracked use responsive design in a majority of their emails, and that includes just 1% exclusively sending responsive emails. Some 31% don’t use responsive design at all.”

Wait, what?

Let’s just outline those numbers again:

  • Responsive design had a 21% higher click-to-open rate than non-responsive design
  • 75% don’t use responsive design a majority of the time
  • Almost a third don’t use responsive design at all.

Which, I guess is fine, assuming your customers don’t read emails on their phone.

Oh… except they do.

A lot.

Checking email is the #1 activity cited by smartphone users for their device, with 91% checking email at least once per day (also according to Marketing Charts).

I’ve called “email the forgotten social network” for years now, but it remains a hugely valuable e-commerce and marketing channel. Everyone has an email account. Hell, most customers have more than one. And, as the numbers cited above show, they’re checking those accounts at least daily (though, let’s be real: usually it’s much, much more).

Someone recently called mobile “the mortar in bricks and mortar.” And I’d argue that email represents a healthy ingredient for that mortar. But only if your customers can actually see it, read it, and act on it when and where they want if it works on their mobile devices. Ignoring mobile is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in 2014 whether it’s your web presence, your search activities and, yes, your email marketing.

The good news here is that odds are your competition isn’t doing a good job of email marketing to mobile customers. The bad news is if they get there first. If it were me, I wouldn’t wait.

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also like these slides that list three key digital marketing trends shaping your customers’ behavior right now:

And, finally, you might want to check out some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 5, 2014

Internet Marketing to Make You Happy – Thinks Out Loud Episode 64

March 5, 2014 | By | No Comments

Happy marketing tips

Internet Marketing to Make You Happy Headlines and Show Notes

And, as promised, here are the slides from my presentation that talks about “All Marketing is Social.” Enjoy:

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 17m 14s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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March 5, 2014

How to Use Emotion and Storytelling in Digital Marketing (Travel Tuesday)

March 5, 2014 | By | No Comments

Happy family shopping on tabletPicture this: An injured football player hobbles down the tunnel, leaving the field in obvious pain. A young boy steps forward, offers him a Coke… and history is made.

If you’ve never seen this commercial, you probably weren’t alive in the late ’70′s/early ’80′s. (And if you weren’t alive then… man, I’m getting old. But I digress).

If you were alive, you undoubtedly remember this ad. It was hugely popular, not only airing originally during a game in October, but several more times during the 1979 season and during that year’s Super Bowl.

Now, here’s a question for you: Why do you remember a 60-second spot from 35 years ago featuring a player and child actor who both retired not long after the spot first aired?

And, what in the world does this have to do with marketing a hotel, resort, or any other business online?

How about we answer those in order.

“Have a Coke and a Smile”

The reason you remember the Mean Joe Green commercial ties back to one of the lessons from last week’s HSMAI conference:

“Customers remember how you made them feel, not what you said.”

Coke’s classic ad demonstrates that message perfectly, fueling warm feelings towards the actors, the commercial, and, most importantly, the brand. Hell, they didn’t even disguise the intent: The whole ad campaign was called “Have a Coke and a Smile.” Subtle.

Of course, you do the same thing every day in the hospitality industry, helping your guests have a great day, no matter the circumstances. A restaurant owner I’ve worked with talks about “nailing the rolls and coffee,” suggesting that guests will remember their first interaction at the table (a server bringing rolls), and their last experience (a cup of coffee with/as dessert), more than the rest of the meal. The message for his employees is clear: Guests may forget a small error or two during the meal, but a bad first or last experience will stick with them — and will keep them from coming back.

It’s easy to overlook the emotional aspect of the guest experience online though, given how difficult it is to drive emotional engagement in popular digital channels. Search, for example—with its limited character count and “10 blue links” appearance—kind of sucks for serious story-telling designed to elicit emotion. Happily the increased use of images in search results may change this. And other channels, such as social, work brilliantly for story-telling and enhancing an emotional connection. Social, at its core, is people. And people are emotional beings.

More to the point, pretty much every purchase decision is an emotional choice. Even the most logical shoppers won’t reach for their credit card until they’re satisfied, emotionally, they’ve made the right choice. Even business customers want to be sure they’re aligning with corporate policies and, often more importantly, making their boss happy. Fear is a powerful motivator because it’s a powerful emotion.

Speaking of fear, a number of psychological models for emotions exist. Here are some of the most common emotions marketers seek to evoke, along with some examples of where you’ve seen them before:

  • Happy. Used all over the place. Very common in travel marketing (picture a couple on a romantic getaway, blissfully relaxed, or a happy family frolicking in a pool).
  • Excited. Frequently used for adventure tourism, skiing, that sort of thing. Laughter can elicit a similar response, which is why there’s so much humor in advertising.
  • Tender. Go ahead, watch that iPhone commercial with the kid making a video for his family at Christmas and tell me you’re not touched. No, I’m fine. That’s just something in my eye. Like a twig, or a branch.
  • Calm/Serene. The bread and butter emotion for many resorts and spas. When done well, it’s brilliant. However, can easily slide into self-parody or, worse, boredom (worse, because at least people will remember the unintentionally funny one).
  • Scared. Think about how most security companies promote their alarm systems, or those images of elderly relatives who’ve fallen and can’t get up. Not usually a great travel marketing play.
  • Sad. The go-to emotion for many charities. Picture Sarah McLaughlin singing a tear-jerking song while images of hungry children or animal shelters appear on your screen. Almost always the wrong choice for marketing your hotel or resort. (Rough rule of thumb: Sadness usually doesn’t lead to immediate action).
  • Angry. I can’t think of many examples from “traditional” marketing, but fairly common in political/cause marketing campaigns. Get your target audience pissed enough at your opponent and they’ll vote/march/rally/what-have-you to change the world.

Now, what does any of this have to do with digital or e-commerce? How can you use these emotions online?

Glad you asked.

Emotions + Digital = Successful Modern Marketing

Driving an emotional response — and one that leads to a booking — takes some doing. Here are four tips to get you started:

  1. Who do you think you’re talking to? Your customer data is a hugely important, strategic asset. Even if you can’t do “Big Data” yet, you know tons about your guests. Part of what makes digital marketing and tactics like behavioral targeting and email marketing so effective is that they allow you to put the right story in front of the guest most ready to listen. Use your guest data to segment your email list (low-rated vs. high-rated business, business travelers vs. leisure travelers, repeat vs. one-time guests, longer-stay guests vs. transients, and on and on and on). Test behavioral retargeting campaigns to recapture guests who’ve visited your site without booking. Then use those channels to tell a distinct, emotional story to engage each segment and drive more bookings.
  2. Align emotions with your brand story. As Josh Johnson says, “Stories are vehicles for values.” I’ve often talked about how your brand story is all about your values and the value you offer guests. Different types of properties (or non-hotel businesses, for that matter), have different stories to tell. A hip, four-star hotel in the city center’s hottest neighborhood is going to tell a vastly different story than a luxurious beach resort removed from the nightlife and neither will tell the same story as a family-owned ski resort that’s been part of its welcoming mountain community for generations. The emotions each property’s marketing team seeks to elicit among its guests should reflect the values of the property, brand, and community to attract the right type of guests and drive greater guest satisfaction overall (to say nothing of the reviews those highly satisfied guests will share with their friends, family, fans, and followers on social networks and review sites).
  3. Craft compelling copy. How many times have you seen website copy that states “…located in beautiful downtown…” and so on? Sure, it’s inoffensive. It’s also boring. Now, isn’t this better: “…The Wentworth Mansion embraces guests with warm, intuitive service. Like the greatest family traditions, it preserves its original intrigue and ensures that each guest is not a mere witness to the magic, but integral to it.” (Full disclosure: Wentworth Mansion is a client, but we used a local copywriter to capture the true spirit of the location). “Embraces… warm… family… traditions… intrigue… witness… magic… integral.” Lively, engaging, welcoming words. And ones that tell a clear story about the type of property its guests will enjoy. And, judging by the property’s TripAdvisor ranking, its guests do enjoy it.
  4. Use bold images. By bold, I don’t mean, “bright colors.” I mean images people give a damn about. If I see one more loosely cropped beach photo with a palm tree waving lazily in a gentle breeze, I might cry. Yes, sadness is an emotion. But not one that typically drive action. You have a pretty beach. Why should your guest care? Why not show people having fun on that beach? Or relaxing? Or dancing? Or something? Use images to tell a compelling story that lets your guest picture themselves achieving their goal—serenity, excitement, fun, family bonding, you get the idea.

It’s worth noting that Coke’s “Mean Joe Greene” and Apple’s “Misunderstood” spot hit all the right notes here, too. There’s a reason Coke and Apple get such high marks for their marketing. And such loyal business from their customers.

Speaking of storytelling, you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 3, 2014

6 Simple Subject Line Tips for Boosting Email Open Rates by Megan Totka

March 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

Email marketing open ratesYour email marketing messages have a lot to compete with. Some estimates state there are more than 144 billion emails sent every day—and while your subscribers aren’t receiving all of them, just about everyone with an email address suffers from information overload. The right response isn’t for you to stop sending emails. Far from it (In fact, some tests indicate a possible response is to send more emails).

No, what really matters is this: How do you get your email marketing message to stand out?

It turns out that one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase your email open rates is to write better subject lines. They’re the first things your subscribers see, and if you can grab their attention while they’re scanning their inboxes, you’ll get more eyes on your actual content—and ultimately, more conversions.

These simple tips will help you craft subject lines that snag more clicks.

Short and Sweet

Long subject lines tell subscribers more than they need to know about the contents of the email. Usually it’s enough to suggest that they ignore the message, or just delete it unread. A short, snappy subject line stands out better and heightens interest.

Another advantage to short subject lines: More people are reading email on mobile devices. If you can keep your subject to one line on a smaller screen, your click rate will improve.

Avoid Waste Words

You don’t have a lot of room in a subject line. This is premium screen real estate, so every word should count. This means avoiding words that don’t add value to your message—they’re just taking up vital character space.

Skip greeting words like “hello,” and empty descriptors like “amazing” (these can also land your messages in spam folders).

Pinpoint Your Message

A great subject line is both short and specific. Cramming every detail into a subject line results in subjects that are too long and not compelling—but going too far in the opposite direction is also no good.

Teasers and mystery subject lines won’t engage readers, who are pressed for time and don’t want to guess at what might be in your email. They want to know what to expect inside, so they can decide whether or not to keep reading.

Make the Subject Searchable

Even with a compelling email subject line, your subscribers may not be able to open your message right away. They might want to read it later—but with high volumes of email coming in, your message could get buried.

Make it easy for readers to find your emails by including memorable, searchable terms in the subject line.

Anxiety-Free Calls to Action

Your subject line should let readers know what they can do to receive a benefit from your message, in a way that doesn’t demand their attention.

Including a brief call to action—visit our site, contact us, or read this message—tells readers how they’ll be able to take advantage of your offering. However, using urgent language like “immediate response needed,” signals that you don’t respect the reader’s time, and won’t get your message viewed.

The Bottom Line: Write a Subject You’d Open

Email is a primary form of business communication, and it can be a powerfully effective marketing tool when used correctly. Your subscribers don’t want to stop reading email completely—they just want to be able to sort the intriguing from the annoying.

Writing subject lines that would make you as a consumer want to read the contents will help you improve your email marketing open rates, and run more effective email campaigns.

How do you write your email subject lines? Let us know in the comments!

Interested in more? Register to receive a free copy of Tim’s special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

About the Author:
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Image Credit: Darrel Rader on Flickr

Tim Peter

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November 1, 2013

Email Marketing: When & How Often to Hit Send by Megan Totka

November 1, 2013 | By | No Comments

Email marketing timingDespite the rise of social media and mobile technology, permission-based email lists are still the reigning champion of online marketing strategies. A recent study from ExactTarget showed that a staggering 77% of consumers prefer email for receiving permission-based marketing over other channels In fact, we’ve been calling email “the forgotten social network” for several years now.

Of course, you need the right strategies to make email marketing work for you. Your email marketing campaigns should have compelling subject lines, a professional and aesthetically appealing design, and great content to help you overcome Gmail’s tabbed inbox interface.

What’s missing from this list?

Timing.

Why Timing Counts in Email Marketing

In order to be effective, your marketing emails need to be opened and read. Your catchy headlines and fantastic content will be wasted if your emails get lost in the shuffle. There are a lot of reasons people delete emails unread, or open them without actually reading the content and subsequently forget about them. Many of these reasons are related to timing.

The trick is to send out your emails at the best time of the day, on the best day of the week, and at the right intervals to get as many people as possible to open them.

How Often? Finding Your Email Marketing Interval

The best send frequency for email marketing messages has long been a subject of debate. If you look, you can find evidence that less is more, more is more, and every range in between is the “right” one, too. So how do you decide?

Fortunately, there are a few basic rules to apply here. We know that if you send email too often (say, every day), your customers will get either bored or annoyed, and start deleting your messages unread—or unsubscribe. And if you don’t send often enough (say, quarterly or bi-annually), your customers will forget who you are and what you do. In effect, you’re starting at the beginning of the conversion funnel every time.

The right interval really depends on your business, your customers’ expectations, and the type of content you send. If you use email lists to send out information-packed newsletters with lots of articles and resources, monthly is a good interval—it takes time to put all that information together, and quality is more important. If you’ve got a list for new subscribers that you’re using to send a series of building content, you might want to get those out close together—say three times a week.

In general, once a week or once every two weeks is a good interval. That way you’re not burying your subscribers in emails, but your messages are arriving often enough that they’ll remember you.

When to Send: Best Days and Times for Marketing Emails

Knowing which days of the week and times of the day more people open emails can give your email marketing campaigns a boost. Recent research from MarketingSherpa asked email marketers to let them know which days of the week gave them the best results. According to the findings:

  • Weekdays are more effective than weekends
  • Tuesdays had the highest effectiveness, with 26% saying their campaigns performed best on that day
  • Wednesdays are a close second at 23%, while Thursdays at 18% beat out Mondays at 15%, and double the effectiveness of Fridays at 9%
  • Sundays are the worst, with 42% saying they’re least effective. Saturday is right behind Sunday at 39% least effective.

As for the time of day, earlier seems to be better. Emails sent between midnight and 3 a.m.—so they’re waiting in your subscribers’ inboxes when they first check their email—are most effective, according to the latest Email Marketing Metrics Report from MailerMailer.

Of course, the best way to find your own most effective days and times is to analyze the results from your email marketing campaigns with send timing in mind. Find out when your highest open rates are, and adjust your mailing schedule accordingly.

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing in a multiscreen world? Register to receive a special report Tim produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, if all that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

About the Author:
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Image credit: Image courtesy of William Warby.

Tim Peter

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September 30, 2013

Does the Gmail Tabbed Inbox Impact Email Marketing? by Megan Totka

September 30, 2013 | By | No Comments

Tabbed inbox and email marketingMany email marketers view the Gmail tabbed inbox as a potentially serious obstacle. Designed to make people’s lives easier by giving them a way to sort and prioritize incoming email, the inbox design defaults to three separate tabs: Primary, Social, and Promotions.

Guess where all your marketing messages are probably ending up?

The idea behind the concern is that with a separate Promotions tab, Gmail users can and will ignore every email that gets filtered into this spam-sounding void—and open rates will plummet like Facebook stock shares. But are these fears really justified?

MailChimp, a popular email marketing service, took an in-depth look at historic data and found that Gmail tabs seem to have caused a small but definite drop in open rates, from 13 percent to 12.5 percent. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s significant enough for most marketers to take action.

Fortunately, there are a few proactive steps you can take to give your email marketing messages the best shot at seeing the light of Gmail users’ screens.

Deliver High Quality Content and Offers

This is the golden rule of email marketing, and it applies now more than ever. Gmail’s sorting algorithms are forever cloaked in mystery, but the platform is very good at categorizing messages. Great content always has a better shot at making it through.

More importantly, if you deliver content that your subscribers want to read, they’ll continue to seek out your messages—even if they end up filed in the wasteland of the Promotions tab.

Shine Up Those Subject Lines

Maybe you’ve been getting along with marketing subject lines like “My Company’s Monthly Newsletter” or “A Special Offer from My Company.” With Gmail tabs, there’s no doubt messages like these will be sorted as promotions.

If you’ve been slacking on subject-crafting, it’s time to brush up your skills and start coming up with sizzling, irresistible—or at least engaging—subject lines that will stand out from all the “Yet Another Message You’ve Read 100 Times Already” ranks that are filed under the Promotions tab.

Tighten Your Campaign Deadlines

Limited-time offers are a traditional, time-tested strategy for email marketers. With the possibility of increased competition for subscriber attention—hopefully sometime before they check the “Delete All” box in the Promotions tab—it may help to make your campaign times even more sensitive.

Be sure to include the expiration dates of your offers, contests, and promotions in your subject line, so your Gmail subscribers can clearly see why they should open your message right away.

Increase Your Mobile Marketing

In good news for email marketers, more than half of Gmail users read their email primarily on mobile platforms—none of which support the tabbed interface.

If you don’t already have mobile email strategies in place, make sure your marketing messages are designed to work with the mobile experience: short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and large, easy-to-tap calls to action are a good place to start. Here’s more on getting started with mobile marketing.

Ask Subscribers to Whitelist You

Gmail is all about personalizing the email experience—so of course, they offer ways for their users to change where their messages are delivered. In many cases, all you have to do is ask your opt-in Gmail subscribers to mark your messages as important.

You can include a brief note as part of your regular mailings, or send out a special message explaining that Gmail users might not be receiving your emails, and asking them to adjust the labels for emails sent from your address.

The process is simple: to change where emails end up, subscribers can just drag and drop any of your messages from the Promotions tab onto the Primary tab. Gmail will then ask if all incoming messages from the address should be handled the same way. When the user clicks “yes,” all your emails will be delivered to the Primary inbox.

Gmail’s tabbed interface may not have any significant impact on your open rates. In any case, implementing these tips will improve the overall effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns—and might get you delivered into more Primary tabs.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

About the Author:
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Image credit: Image courtesy of comedy nose via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Tim Peter

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March 24, 2013

The Surprising Marketing Benefit Now that Google Reader is Going Away

March 24, 2013 | By | No Comments

RSS logoLast week, Google announced it’s shutting down the much-loved Google Reader. As often occurs in these cases, the Internet—including me—lost its collective mind.

Why?

Well, without going into an overly detailed explanation of what RSS is, (you can check out Common Craft’s great introduction if you need it), RSS often brings “significant” traffic volumes to many blogs and other websites. And it’s an enormously helpful tool for knowledge management.

Except, you’ll notice I put “significant” in quotes up above.

Again, why?

Well, near as I can tell, Reader actually isn’t bringing me all that much traffic. Nor much to other sites I monitor regularly. And MG Siegler at TechCrunch notes that Reader is the #4 or #5 referrer to the site, accounting “…for a little over three percent of all visits.”

Um… what? 3%? That’s “significant”?

Now, as Siegler rightly notes, the folks using Reader may in fact represent a particularly influential category of users, far more likely to tweet and share and like and link. His “honeybee” metaphor underscores that the loss of this traffic may cause declines far out of proportion to the actual number of visits or visitors.

But, if your site’s traffic depends so heavily on only 3% of your total audience, I suspect you’ve got a much bigger problem.

I often talk about the value of developing an overall web presence, one that leverages your website, email marketing, and social channels to connect and communicate with your customers. In fact, I just dedicated a recent episode of Thinks Out Loud (our podcast), to building your web presence in detail and during that episode I noted the following three types of media:

  • Owned media
  • Paid media
  • Earned media

Owned media, of course, represents channels you actually own, such as your website or your email list. Paid media covers those channels you trade one thing for (usually money) in exchange for exposure. It includes such items as print and broadcast media, search engine marketing, banner ads, and similar efforts. And earned represents the likes and links and shares and tweets we all covet and work to build through our content marketing efforts.

Now, it’s common to think of RSS subscribers (and Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Google+ friends and the like), as “owned.” But they’re not. They’re “borrowed” or “rented” or “leased.” If any RSS reader decides to shut down (as Google’s doing with Reader), those subscribers, theoretically, go away. Forever. (The same is true for the folks following you on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, which is why I often argue against using these tools as the primary component of your web presence).

Your job in Internet marketing isn’t just to build your audience, but to build an audience you can keep over the long haul. Google shutting down Reader is a bummer, but it’s also an opportunity: to convert “borrowed” traffic to “owned.”

Over the next few months between now and July 1 (Google’s official shutdown date for Reader), create a few posts encouraging your Reader subscribers to subscribe to your email newsletter and to bookmark your site.

Additionally, now might be a good time to de-emphasize the importance of RSS subscriptions on your site and instead highlight your email newsletter (I’ve been doing the same for the last few months and will ramp up those efforts in the coming weeks).

In my experience, not only do these “owned” channels grant you more control, but visitors delivered via these media spend more time on site, view more pages, and convert at higher rates.

So, yes, Google Reader shutting down kind of sucks. Personally, I’m going to miss the value it provided me. And, yes, it’s possible that the potential loss of traffic from Reader could have downstream, “honeybee” implications. But you can take action to mitigate these risks by moving your customers from “borrowed” media channels to “owned” and by ensuring your web presence actively works to grow your email list. In the long run, a successful web presence cannot rely on channels it doesn’t control. Take this opportunity to improve the value of those “owned” channels to your business—and to your customers.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And, if you’ve got a minute, you might enjoy some past coverage on building a successful web presence:

Tim Peter

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January 29, 2013

Is Permission Marketing Still Relevant?

January 29, 2013 | By | One Comment

Mistakes happenYesterday I recapped my Finding and Following Your Customer’s Digital Footprint Twitter chat and I mentioned the following points:

  • Have a clear sense of what’s your data (aggregate usage information, opens, clicks, shares, retweets, etc). vs. customers’.
  • All personally identifiable information (PII) belongs to customers, always. Handle with care.
  • If you’re uncomfortable telling customers how you plan to use their data, ask yourself whether you should collect it at all.

Well, I got an email asking why these concepts are so important. I’m not going to quote the email in full (I want to protect the guilty on this one), but, as the writer asked,

“I’m not saying I want to be ‘evil,’ but what’s evil about trying to grow my business? How am I supposed to contact prospects if I’ve got to ask their permission all the time? Isn’t the point to drive more revenue?”

I’m going to answer these in reverse.

First, of course the point is to drive more revenue (assuming, of course, you’re a revenue-focused organization; if you’re not, insert your “business” metrics where you see “revenue,” “profit,” etc.)

But the point isn’t to drive more revenue today with no thought for tomorrow.

Yes, we live in an instant gratification society, one focused on immediate earnings and early exits. I myself am fond of saying that marketing is next quarter’s sales. But you can’t sacrifice your future for short-term gain (well, you can; I’m just saying it’s a bad idea).

This isn’t just “touchy-feely,” holier-than-thou stuff, either (though I’m getting to that in a minute. There’s a practical reason for this approach. Finding customers is expensive. Really expensive, in fact. So a customer who buys from you just once isn’t a great investment. Instead, you want to cultivate longer-term relationships with people, earn their trust, and also earn their repeat business. It’s much simpler to sell to people you’ve sold to before. And that’s much easier if you’ve demonstrated that you take their concerns into consideration.

It happens to be the right thing to do. But it’s also a good business.

Now, the second reason is this: It’s not your data.

Your customers entrust you with a limited amount of information, for a specific purpose. You should use it for that purpose and only for that purpose. If they want it back, or want to opt out, or want to move on and not hear from you any more, that’s their right. How would you like it if I borrowed your car, then wouldn’t give it back when you needed it? Or if I trashed it, spilling chili dogs and Diet Cherry Pepsi all over the floor?

So why do you think it’s OK to treat their data that way?

Seth Godin once wrote a fantastic book, called “Permission Marketing” about this very topic. It’s a little dated, but it’s well-worth the read. For me, it’s still the gold standard. And the reason is because, like all fundamental truths, they really don’t change over time.

So, yes, work to grow your business. Do what you can to drive your revenues. And feel free to push for better and better results. But do it in a way that’s good for your customer today and good for your business tomorrow.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy.

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Tim Peter

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January 2, 2013

A Digital Marketer's New Year's Resolutions

January 2, 2013 | By | No Comments

Digital marketing new year's resolutionsI’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I think it’s more important to evaluate yourself and your progress towards goals all throughout the year. At the same time, holiday downtime offers a fantastic opportunity to review where you are and where you’re going.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share several goals/resolutions for the coming year for my business that might work well for you (and feel free to keep me honest about how I’m doing throughout the year, too):

  1. Offer more valuable information to customers. Customers look for information that helps them solve a problem. They search and they struggle to find answers to their questions. And those searches, shares, likes and links help you understand what’s important to your customers. For instance, your most shared posts of 2012 showed people increasingly looked for information about digital marketing fundamentals, mobile, customer behavior, analytics and e-commerce. As such, I’m going to increase the amount of information on those topics for you. For starters, I’ve partnered with Mike Moran and Rob Petersen to create Biznology Jumpstart Workshops, digital marketing training programs designed around solving existing business challenges. The first offering focuses on search marketing and analytics and we’ll be adding more over the coming months. The information your customers will be different. But you can be sure whoever in your industry does the best job of helping customers find that information will win in 2013 (and beyond).
  2. Grow your email list. As I noted in my podcast a few weeks back, email remains one of the strongest marketing tools around, particularly given the growth of mobile. Offer your customers value to get them to subscribe to your email list. (Oh, and while you’re at it,
    subscribe to our newsletter, too).
    Just remember that the customers who have asked to hear from you typically engage more often, for longer periods and, most importantly, spend more. Your email list is only dead if you kill it. So let’s all focus on getting the most out of email this year.
  3. Listen. Finally, nothing’s more important to your marketing success than listening and understanding your customers’ needs. And while I’ve talked about this for a long time (for instance here and here), I need to remind myself to listen to what customers have to say, too. So, expect to see me listening and engaging on Twitter and LinkedIn (as well as here on the blog and a few other sites) over the coming months.

What are your resolutions or goals for this year? I’d love to hear what you think. Drop a line in the comments below and let me know what you’re looking forward to ini the coming year. And thanks as ever for reading.


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