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Content Rules Book Cover

Not an ON THE GRID newsletter subscriber? You’re missing out on monthly updates from Scott Creative, including my recent design work and marketing news & resources you can use to grow your business. You’re also missing out on chances to win FREE resources, like this month’s giveaway of Content Rules.

Written by Ann Hadley (MarketingProfs) and C.C. Chapman (Digital Dads), Content Rules provides you with the guidance you need to create irresistible blogs posts, white papers, ebooks and other content, interwoven with case studies of companies successfully spreading their ideas online. Content Rules will show you how to use content marketing to establish credibility and build a loyal customer base. A $25 value, I’m giving this book away for FREE to one newsletter recipient on Monday, April 30th.

What are you waiting for? Subscribe to ON THE GRID today and keep an eye out for this month’s newsletter for your chance to win!

Win a FREE copy of “Outrageous Advertising that’s Outrageously Successful”!

If you’ve been paying any attention to the Scott Creative Facebook page over the last few months, you may have noticed my giveaways that feature useful resources that make for great reads if you’re looking to grow your business. This month’s giveaway is a free copy of Outrageous Advertising that’s Outrageously Successful – a $20 value!

Written by Bill Glazer, a marketing consultant, coach and copywriter, Outrageous Advertising contains over 100 ready-to-use examples of how to use creative marketing and advertising strategies online and off, including samples of:

  • websites
  • emails
  • newspaper and magazine ads
  • signage
  • direct mail

Also included with the book is a bonus certificate for a free CD, containing over 100 full-color images of advertising examples from the book!

This giveaway ends Tuesday, January 31st. Visit Scott Creative on Facebook today for your chance to win!

3 Tips for Modern, Effective Direct Mail Campaigns

In the age of iPads, smart phones and social media, are more traditional means of marketing, such as direct mail, still effective? While the role of traditional print marketing has undoubtedly become more supplemental in nature, recent studies have shown that marketers are rediscovering direct mail as a means of marketing products, services and other unique offers to their customers and prospects.

“Everything you hear in the media is basically counter to what the consumers are actually telling us, which is that direct mail is still the preferred channel.” (Warren Storey, VP of product marketing, ICOM)

Direct mail spending is on the rise. In 2011, direct mail spending totaled nearly $45 billion dollars, representing a 2.3 percent increase over 2010 (Winterberry Group, Outlook 2011). Response rates of postcards (3.99 percent) and letter-sized direct mail pieces (3.42 percent) has remained high enough for marketers to consider using direct mail as a larger part of their marketing mix (2011 DMA Statistical Fact Book). This growth in direct mail spending is due at least in part to two simple facts: consumers get much more e-mail they are able to read and that they question the trust-worthiness of e-mail.

“More than 64 percent of consumers still attach a high value to messages communicated through the mail, but many marketers have turned away from the mail in favor of communicating through digital channels.” (U.S. Postal Service)

According to the 2011 Channel Preferences Study, direct mail is preferred over e-mail when it comes to receiving brand or product information in nearly every category. Based on the findings of nearly 5,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers, this study also found that 50 percent of U.S. consumers pay more attention to postal mail than e-mail. Even tech-savvy Millennials (those born between 1985 and 2004), see the value in the mail they receive. According to one study, 73 percent of Millennials have used the coupons/offers they have received in the mail.

So what does it take for a direct mail piece to truly stand out nowadays? Here are some tips:

Appeal to the Senses

Despite how flashy your website or e-mail marketing campaigns may be, direct mail is able to provide the emotional and personal elements that these digital avenues simply can’t replicate. Direct mail that appeals to the senses can create memorable experiences for recipients that lead to an increase in your direct mail response rates. Of the five senses available to us, appealing to one’s sense of smell and taste are among the most powerful way to stimulate a memory.

One example of using sensory mail to engage an emotional response can be seen in a recent TruGreen campaign. TruGreen used a portion of their mail piece to mimic the scent of freshly cut grass. Customers who received the mail piece commented that the smell was enjoyable and made them want to be outside. While there really aren’t any hard numbers or facts to go off of, direct mail campaigns that appeal to the senses can etch their products and services indelibly into customers’ minds through sensory association.

Use QR Codes

Nowadays, QR Codes are popping up everywhere; on posters, billboards, magazine advertisements and even on product packaging. Scanned using a smart phone, QR Codes can be used to direct customers to online sources of additional information about a specific product, service or offer. In recent years, QR Code scanning has seen a 1,200% increase. Studies show that 87 percent of people use QR codes to get additional information about products. As a huge segment of U.S. consumers – including Millennials – currently own smart phones, integrating QR Codes into your campaign provides these individuals with the ability to take advantage of your offers while they’re on the go.

The recent Nielsen 2011 third quarter survey of mobile users reveals that over 40% of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own a smart phone. In addition, over 60% of mobile phone users aged 25-34 own smart phones. QR codes serve the marketer with an effective, economical and measurable way of supporting direct marketing initiatives. When used effectively, QR Codes can serve as an immediate call-to-action at the moment of consumer engagement. Marketers can view measurable results of QR Codes provide marketers with measurable results to gauge how enticing an offer, product or service might be. These include statistics such as the number of scans, the time of the scans and what/which mobile devices are doing the scanning.

To maximize your QR code initiatives, start by ensuring that your QR codes link to the proper web pages and that these pages are optimized for mobile devices. Also be sure that the online content you’re providing access to via the QR code has perceived value to your customer; serve them only with content, offers, surveys, etc. that matter to them. The QR code should also be prominently displayed on the mail piece and provide a brief description of what the customer will get if they scan the code.

Go Big

The average person receives 23 pieces of mail per week. In addition, 87 percent of all standard mail sent to households in the U.S. contains at least one advertising message (DMA Statistical Fact Book). With this information in mind, marketers should be doing whatever they can to make a direct mail piece stand out; going big is just one way of doing that.

Large format direct mail represents only one-quarter of all mail that consumers receive, so opting for a larger direct mail piece, such as a 6 x 9″ or 9 x 12″ has a great chance of standing out amidst other, more regularly sized pieces. If you want to go really big, the largest direct mail postcard allowed by the U.S. Postal Service today is a piece measuring 11.5 x 15″. Although ultimately more expensive, marketers can use the additional “real-estate” a larger format allows to the emphasize copy, images, QR Codes and coupons/offers that are integral to the success of their direct mail campaign.

Tips or tricks that you would like to share?

7 Keys of Successful Email Marketing Campaigns

Essentially, email is a copy-driven medium, but the design considerations of your marketing email campaigns are just as important as their message. Not only does a well-designed email enhance a campaign’s message, it can actually lead to higher open and click-through rates, and potentially a higher return on investment. Whether you’re launching your first email marketing campaign or are looking for ways to improve them, these seven keys can help you make your future email campaigns a success.

Pick a Frequency and Stick to It

An integral part of planning ongoing email campaigns is choosing when to send them. Whatever the frequency, it’s important that you stick to a regular campaign schedule. If recipients have opted-in to receive your emails for a source of relevant content, than it’s likely that they are going to be looking forward to receiving your emails regularly.

First, determine what time email campaigns will be sent. Generally speaking, email sent in the morning (specifically between the hours of 6:00 – 7:00 am) has been shown to produce higher click-thru rates than email sent later in the day. It makes sense that if a campaign is sent early in the morning, recipients probably have reserved some time for email at the start of their day. If you have been sending your email campaigns later in the day or into the evening, put this theory to test in your next campaign and see if your open and click rate is higher earlier in the day.

Next, determine which day you will be sending each email campaign. Though you would think that the best time to send an email campaign would be early in the week (Monday or Tuesday, for example), results of studies conducted by Hubspot show that the click-through rates of email campaigns appear to be much higher on weekends. Email campaigns sent on Saturdays carry one of the highest click-through rates and the lowest unsubscribe rates of the week. It’s understandable that people have a lot more time to read through their emails on weekends; target your next campaign for a Saturday or Sunday and measure the results.

Lastly, after launching an email campaign, evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign schedule and make changes when and where you see fit. Service providers like MailChimp offer data on opens and click-through rates over the length of a campaign. When you begin to see a slip in open or click-through rates, use this data to help you fine tune your campaign schedule.

Use a Strong Subject Line

Every time you launch a campaign, that email is competing for both space and visibility in your recipients’ inboxes. For that reason, developing a strong subject line is integral to a successful email marketing campaign. Strong subject lines are built to resonate with your audience through the use of relevant keywords. Before opening your email, recipients should be able to easily identify who is sending the email (use a sender name that your recipients will easily recognize), what the email is about and why it’s important to them.

Identify what it takes to keep your emails out of the spam/trash folder. Subject lines containing words like sale, rewards limited time offer, and/or containing percentage values are often filtered as spam. Want proof? Just take a look at what’s currently in your own spam folder. One way to easily avoid the spam folder is to remind your recipients to add the sender’s email address to their contacts/address book. This can be done easily through a separate email or on your sign-up form.

Consider serializing your email campaigns. According to data collected by HubSpot on over 9.5 billion emails sent using MailChimp, the most clicked subject line words mention “newsletter”, or reference a “digest/bulletin/edition”. Serialized content provides recipients with an easy way of archiving/filtering your emails. An additional strategy to develop a strong subject line is A/B Testing. This involves developing two different subject lines for the same email campaign. Emails are first sent to a portion of recipients to determine which is most effective. The subject line with the highest rate of opens is then sent to the remainder of the recipients. CopyBlogger’s The Three Key Elements of Irresistible Email Subject Lines is an excellent source for research into drafting an effective subject line.

Content is King

Understandably, your recipients don’t have hours to sift through a marketing email. There’s work to be done and a full inbox of other messages waiting for them each morning (or evening). Stick to the point of what you’re trying to accomplish – and do it quickly. Easily digestible, highly relevant and valuable bits of content that utilize simple functions of design can result in a higher click-through rate.

As marketing emails are usually just skimmed over, put important bits of content in bold/italics as this design trick effectively draws the eye to that information. As the eye is also drawn to images, use them appropriately to enhance your email. For example, place a photo/image that’s strongly associated to a portion of copy (a sales pitch, information on a product, etc.) where it is seen before – not after – the copy itself. Enticing, relevant images will entice the recipient to read the copy associated with it.

More Links Equal Higher Click-Through Rates

Providing links within your content is another way of engaging your recipients, but the number of links also determines the success or failure of an email campaign. Using data provided by MailChimp, email marketing professionals at Hubspot also found that there’s a strong correlation between the number of links in an email and that email’s click-through rate: emails containing a high number of links have a high click-through rate and a lower unsubscribe rate than those containing a low number of links.

When it comes to placing links, don’t limit yourself to segments of text. Internet users are accustomed to clicking on graphics/images, so include links within these as well. Consider links to be a litmus test of an email’s content: If and when people aren’t clicking on links, it’s likely that you’ve failed to engage your recipients, or you simply provided too few of them. If that’s the case, make some adjustments for your next campaign.

Optimize Your Emails to be Seen and Read Everywhere

Recent surveys tell us that a large number of mobile devices are used to check and read emails. One recent survey by HubSpot found that over 80% of respondents use mobile devices for reading email. Considering that the market for mobile devices is such growing so rapidly, optimizing your email campaign for viewing on these devices is a necessity. Owners of smart phones and/or tablet computers will tell you how frustrating it can be to decipher a website or email that isn’t optimized for a mobile device: use or develop an email template that is suitable for this audience.

As a great deal of email is still viewed on a laptop or desktop computer, you must still optimize images to make them suitable for viewing on the web. This keeps loading times of graphics and your recipients’ frustration with slow loading speeds at a minimum. Popular third-party photo editing/manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop can be used to alter, manipulate and optimize graphics for the web with ease.

Include a Text Only Version

Many email providers have settings that prevent images within an email from loading, may block images altogether. Obviously, if your marketing email consists of one graphic that contains all information of an offer or promotion, you have a big problem. Not only could the content of your email be temporarily blocked from view, it may not load at all. In such instances, a text-only version can be utilized as a fail safe of any email campaign. Usually, it’s simply a carbon-copy of an email excluding any graphics. Though it may not be as attractive as your carefully designed email, at least the content stands a chance of being seen, read and clicked through.

Won’t You Follow Me?

In the internet age, a strong online presence may be an integral part of your business. If you haven’t already, consider opening accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites before making email campaigns a part of your marketing plan. Once these accounts are established, include icons and links to each corresponding page/profile.

You may have doubts about the usefulness of these popular social networks, but audiences both young and old find a lot of use in them. In addition to your website/blog, displaying your social networks in email campaigns shows your recipients where for additional interaction with your brand/business. Utilize these social networking platforms as sources of additional news, sales and offers.

In 2011, Small Business Owners Still Rely on Print

In Spring 2011, over 500 small business owners lent their insight to the FedEx Office Fourth Annual Signs of the Times small business survey. Besides gauging the optimism of these small business owners, the findings support the notion many businesses – particularly those owned by individuals age 18-35 – continue to rely largely on print as a means of marketing and advertising to their customers and prospects. Here are some key findings from the survey:

More than half of small business owners (53%) are turning towards more traditional channels like newsletters and direct mail.

While many small business owners continue to turn to social media sites such as Facebook to engage with existing and potential customers online, more than half of small business owners (53%) are turning towards more traditional channels like newsletters and direct mail. This reliance on more traditional communications channels shows a significant increase from 2010 (44%). Plans to create/improve a company’s online presence (website, banner advertising, SEO) and plans to utilize social media and networking sites (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) have also shown a considerable increase.

Younger owners (ages 18-35) are more likely to use traditional marketing/advertising channels.

Additional findings confirm that many forms of traditional printed media continue to be a popular choice for many small businesses. Business cards, yellow pages ads and brochures remain highly used print advertising/marketing tools. Interestingly, younger business owners (ages 18-35) are shown to be the highest users of these more traditional marketing/advertising channels. Lesser used marketing/advertising tools that made the list include Newspaper ads, Out-of-store signs/banners/posters and coupons.

Over one-third (35%) of respondents plan to split their resources evenly between online marketing and print advertising.

The way in which these small business plan to distribute their resources for marketing and advertising makes a great case for print as a communications medium that isn’t going away anytime soon. While less than a third (29%) of respondents plan to focus their resources almost solely on traditional forms of advertising and marketing, over a third (35%) of respondents plan to split their resources evenly between online marketing and print advertising. The remainder of respondents (36%) plan to focus their resources primarily online. Four in 10 (42%) of small businesses say that their web-based marketing and advertising is supplemented by print material.

91% of small business owners believe that the quality of a company’s marketing/advertising materials reflects the quality of a company’s products and services.

Other interesting findings can be seen in the correlation between small business owners’ belief that the quality of a company’s marketing/adverting materials and the quality of its products and services. While a staggering majority of the respondents (91%) believe that the quality of a company’s marketing/advertising materials reflects the quality of its products and services, nearly one-quarter (23%) say that their own marketing/advertising materials do not reflect the quality of their products and services.

Surprisingly, nearly 40% of these small business owners stated that they are not concerned about the quality of their marketing/advertising materials. This number raises a lot of questions: Have these business owners evaluated the potency of these materials and have deemed effective? Do they simply see the need to have something in print and are just satisfied with them as is? Or, do they simply not care about the effectiveness of these materials? Unfortunately, the study doesn’t shed any light on the possible reasons.

Findings show that younger small business owners put even more emphasis on the connection between marketing materials and the perceived quality of products and services. 71% of these younger business owners indicate that these materials offer a strong reflection of quality, and 80% of them have concerns with the quality of their own materials.

Read or download the Fourth Annual Signs of the Times Report here.