Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Two Options for the 21st Century Small(er) Business

If you own a small(er) business, and most of us do, you have probably managed your business like we all have. Except for managers and mechanics, we hire “industrialized workers”. 

That is we hire cogs in the system; people who want to be told what to do, who are hired and trained to obey. These are jobs that get outsourced or people who work cheap. This team needs a manager, a manager patient enough to instruct, teach and measure.

The Downside: Sometimes you, the boss, are also busy getting new business, inventing new products and generally working outside the organization. As a result, you’re hoping that you have built the kind of organization where people will do as they are told, do it on time and do it in a professional, courteous and kindly manner. 

Because if you’re not the leader of this type of organization and haven’t built it in such a manner (you inherited it and never bothered to change it), you will be disappointed, over and over.

But there are a couple of other ways to run a “small business.”

One Other Way Is to Look at Employees as “Being Equals”. That is an organization staffed   with people who have particular skills, marketing and digital marketing, finance, personnel/training and operations. Now I’m not saying that you need four people for this, but I am saying you have four different functions that need to be covered, perhaps by 3 existing people. 

You could say that the Beatles were organized as "Being Equals". To make this happen, each person who takes on the function has to be really talented in that field, gifted and unique; he or she has to feel that his/her function are essential to the ongoing success of the business

The Downside: Sometimes this team of equals may forget that their job is ALSO coordination and communication with other team members and just because each of them have unique skills, becoming a prima donna is a trap that is far too easy for one or some of them to fall into.

The Second Way To Look At Employees Is “Your Merry Band of Men and Women.” This is a group of people with similar goals, perceptions and approaches to business. As a result, you can say to them, “use your best judgement" and they go off and do the right thing. 99% of the time

As a quick sidebar, Nordstrom’s, has this one line in their employee policy manual, “Use Your Best Judgement".  They can do that because they hire people who have been screened to match the organization’s goals, approaches and perceptions.

The Downside: This isn’t cheap or easy. You literally have to re-evaluate your whole staff and decide what your goals, approach and perceptions are and who matches or doesn’t match with what you want.  If you don’t spend the money to recruit, hire and train, then you will be disappointed when they “use their best judgement.”

The point is:  You do have options to organize and manage your business in the 21st century to meet a new set of employee and consumer criteria.  

In fact, there are many options. 
These are just two of them. 

What would you do or want to do?  
Let me know, please, and I’ll publish it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

7 Tips for Creating a Functional Email Experience

Chad White is one of the all-time gurus of email marketing Chad is the Research Director at Litmus and the author of Email Marketing Rules and thousands of articles and posts about email marketing.

His research and commentary have appeared in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Advertising Age, Adweek, Fortune, and MarketWatch.  

He recently wrote an article entitled called 7 Tips for creating a Functional Email and I wanted to pass on some of his insights as well as a few “KaploeKomments” interwoven in the mix.

Expectations are steadily rising in the inbox, and everyone agrees that sending more relevant messages is the key to staying in subscribers’ good graces. However, “relevance” is often talked about in vague, mystical terms or discussed within the narrow context of company-specific examples.

While relevance is indeed in the eye of the beholder, that doesn’t mean it’s indescribable or immeasurable. Relevance is about fulfilling all four levels of the Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs—that is, creating a subscriber experience that is:
1.             Respectful - the bottom tier used to email permission, activate accounts or customers and to set expectations, measured by open rate
2.             Functional - can be viewed acriss multiple platforms, measured by number of clicks to site
3.             Valuable - for testing, for segmenting, personalization and communicating live content (podcats, webinars, etc.) measured by number of conversions to a sale or a customer
4.             Remarkable - for exceptional deals, captivating content, measured by the number of forwards and social shares

 Whether you’re meeting each of these needs can be gauged by measuring common email activities: opens, clicks, conversions, and forwards.

Delivering relevant messages is a key to email marketing success. While relevance is typically talked about in terms of targeting and personalization, relevance is much bigger than content and targeting.

The Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs (above), provides a big picture view of relevance and illustrates the need for marketers to create a subscriber experience that is Respectful, Functional, Valuable, and Remarkable.

While marketers must respect their subscribers’ wishes by only emailing to those that have opted-in to receive communications, your emails can’t be valuable or remarkable if they are not first functional.

Functional email experiences are key for your subscribers to easily read and interact with your campaigns. If your emails aren’t functional, you run the serious risk becoming irrelevant to your subscribers.

Functionality is all about quality assurance. Or put another way, it’s about eliminating friction that can degrade the effectiveness of your messaging, erode the subscriber experience, and ultimately damage your brand image.

To create functional email experiences, ensure that:
1.    Your emails display appropriately across mobile, web, and desktop applications that your subscribers primarily use. You can use Litmus’ Email Analytics.  to determine where your subscribers are most frequently opening your emails. Then, use Email Previews to verify that your emails are displaying as intended in those email clients.

 2. Text is legible, particularly in the uncontrolled lighting environments where mobile rendering often takes place. For example, if you don’t use at least 13 pt. font sizes, Apple will auto-adjust anything under that size, often breaking navigation bars.

3.  Links are spaced far enough apart so they can be accurately clicked with a mouse or, more importantly, tapped with a finger.

4.  The content is clear and free of errors. Read—and re-read—your emails before sending. Also, it never hurts to have a second or third set of eyes look over it, as it’s more difficult for you to catch errors if you wrote the text.

5.  Any special email functionality has a good fallback for when that functionality isn’t supported by a particular email client. Using advanced techniques, like HTML5 or CSS3, should have proper fallbacks in place.

6.  The links in your emails take subscribers to the intended destination. You can use Link Check to ensure your links are working, being tracked, and going where you intended.

7.  Email landing pages greet subscribers with wording and images from the email so they know they’ve arrived at the right place to continue the interaction.
Creating a functional email experience requires a sustained effort because of the patchwork and non-standardized environment that is today's email inboxes. So what works in Apple Mail may not work in Outlook 365 or Gmail.

The email environment is further complicated by the number of devices that can now read emails—which currently include desktops, laptops, tablets, ebook readers, phablets, smartphones, and the Apple Watch, which recognizes a new version of HTML, watch for a new version ofHTML.

And thanks to the Internet of Things, email reading devices may eventually include your car, refrigerator, toothbrush, and light bulbs. (I’m exaggerating, of course, but time will tell just how much I’m exaggerating.)

You may not understand some of the technical stuff in this article, just understand the concept of functional emails and the need to measure how they are doing.  After all, emails are still the choice of communication among 72% of the population. So if you want more information on this or just want to get it done, hand it off to some of your “twentysomethings” or “thirtysomethings”.  They get it…and you will too.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Essential Elements of "Content" That Effectively Sells Your Product

1.   “Content” is King. Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and engaging information to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined audience with the objective of driving a profitable customer transaction.”  That’s the long version.

2.   The short version is, “all of the ways we communicate online…Website, Blurbs, Email, Newsletters, and Social."

3.   60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading their custom content.

4.   70% of consumers prefer to know a company via their articles rather than their advertisements.

5.   Google reads your content and based on its findings ranks you higher on its search engine.

6.   Your content doesn’t have to mimic William Shakespeare; a paragraph coupled with a picture is enough to get results.

7.   You should distribute and communicate information whenever:

a.   You have a special event and after the event as well.
b.   Launch a coupon special offer (accompanies the lead information article and comes at the middle or end of the information.
c.    Volunteer or contribute something to the community.
d.   Launch a new “product.”
e.   There are many other industry specific or local content ideas that will work as well.

8.   Now that you have all that "content", what are you going to do with it?  We’re going to address only One Method in this blog. There are at least 5 other ways that we will address in future blogs.

9.   Emails. 145 billion emails are sent every day. And email is required for all online activities. Bottom line: email works.

10.  Emails let you market to existing customers which is 8X more effective than trying to acquire new ones.

11.  88% of people used an email coupon or discount in the past year.

12.  Email still rules direct marketing. When you absolutely need it to be read,(by people who have given you permission to send them information and not by someone whose email you just “happened” to get!) email is the most effective method. It blends the best of direct marketing with the speed and power of online marketing. One click and your message is sent to everyone on your list.

13.  When sending an email, the key points are:

a.  The subject line The should convince viewers to read the message.
b.   Your logo is prominently displayed so everyone who reads it knows it is from your company.
c.    specific call to action (CTA) that asks the person to do something, even if it is to like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter or add you to their Google+ circles or print out the coupon.
d.   Beautiful imagery placed at the top of the email. Left, right or center or taking the whole page, it doesn’t matter. Just be sure to have a “professional” image. Please no cartoons, unless you own Disneyland!

Datasource: On-Line Report, Localvox, April 2014, DMA

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

One mid season league tip guaranteed to get you more sign ups

We all know how difficult it is, these days, to get new people to join a league, regardless of the length of the season, although shorter is better. You know the reasons. We have spoken of this before.

However, like other decisions we make, we don't mind making a decision, we just don't want to make a bad one. 

A bad one is one that costs time, money, status or the "loss" of something that is of value.

To get more sign ups, simply promise a "guarantee." Yup, a guarantee. 

"We guarantee that you will have so much fun that, after the first week, if you're not happy we will give you your money back. Guaranteed"

if you're concerned about losing money, think about increasing your 8-week league to 9 weeks or your 12 week league to 13 weeks.

You might even pick up some additional revenue. 

After all, not everyone will stop after the first week.  In fact, experience tells us that less than 4% will ask for their money back.

In that way, you can look someone in the eye and say, "Susie, why not join the "women bowling with wine program. Try it the first week. If you're not happy, I will refund all of your bowling leagues.  What do you have to lose?"

"Nothing", says Susie. "Nothing at all."