iOS 15 Impact on Email Marketing: Go back to basics

iOS 15 and its feature, Mail Privacy Protection, are expected to have quite a large impact on email open rate reporting.

This version of iOS will allow users to “Protect Mail Activity” which will cause open email data reporting to be inaccurate for emails processed through an Apple Mail App regardless of the email service or device used.

Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection keeps senders from knowing if an email has been opened. It also blocks senders from seeing recipients’ IP addresses.

Instead of caring about open rates, here are some better metrics to monitor:

  • Click reach rate: percentage of subscribers driving clicks. Calculated by dividing unique clicks by unique sent over a given period.
  • Click-through rate: percentage of unique subscribers who click on an email. This is an obvious, yet important metric.
  • Revenue per subscriber.
  • Revenue per email.

In this case, we recommend isolating Apple Mail users to continue tracking open rates reliably and also finding ways to normalize other types of engagement in your emails – whether that’s through one-click email feedback or encouraging subscribers to “Reply”.

[Via]

5 Proven Ways To Grab People’s Attention With Your Email Subject Lines!

5 proven ways to grab people’s attention with your email subject lines. #Thread When you first met your significant other, what was the attraction? I bet you’re smiling now. Exactly the point I’m about to drive.
Something attracted you to them, right? Now, imagine you scrolling through your mail, and boom! A headline catches your attention, what do you do? You open the email! Yes, that’s the feeling I want you to give your reader.
Let’s get right into it: 1. Introduce a bit of mystery! Why do you think people watch such movies? It’s because they like to have a thrill about what’s going to happen next. Are you getting it now? 🎬
2. Use the “Fear of missing out” tactic. Let me ask you, how do you feel when you receive an email from your favorite online store that sales ends in 30 mins? Yes, that is it! *nods*
3. Leave out words that scream “Hey I’m trying to make a sale” Here’s why; people generally don’t like to receive promotional emails. They like to be educated, to be informed! Don’t you get it? 😱 Write a promotional subject line, and you’ll lose them at Hello! 😞
4. Trigger an emotion! See what I did at the beginning of this thread? Forget hard guy, human beings are emotional people. A study says that over 50% of human beings make decisions based on emotions. You now see why?
5. Include their first name in the subject line. This makes them feel like they’re getting a mail from someone who knows them. An automation should do this for you🙅
Bonus: Avoid lengthy subject lines!🙆 Incase you didn’t know, a good number of people receive their emails on their phones, so there’s a high chance some parts of the subject line will break off. You want to make a good first contact.
Now tell me, do you feel like an email marketing expert with these tips? Drop a comment if they are helpful, I’ll really love to read from you 🤲🥺

» NextBigWhat’s #Threadmill brings you curated wisdom from Twitter threads on product, life and growth.

What are some of the other great email subject lines that you like? Share with us and we’ll share it with the masses!

Read more posts on Entrepreneurship and Leadership here. For podcasts, click here!

Quickly validate and verify your email lists with Proofy

Quickly validate and verify your email lists. Just drop your contacts directly into the PROOFY interface. We’ll sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You can also verify email addresses within your application using the Real Time API.

Proofy : Verify / Clean Email
Proofy : Verify / Clean Email


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Email Validation: Why and How to Do It

We talk about email validation, the reasons why it is required and how it works, and we talk about how to check the presence of the domain and IP in the spam lists as well as what to do if they are already there.
Email marketing is a very popular communications channel on the Internet. Its conversion is the highest when compared to other Internet marketing tools. According to the Marketing Insider Group, 59% of B2B marketers believe that email distribution is the most effective channel for increasing revenue. The advantages of email marketing lie in a direct and fast communication with potential customers, a relatively inexpensive cost of implementation, automatization, growth of targeted actions from subscribers, and having a growing loyalty to your brand.
But companies are faced with the problem of being marked as spam, which greatly undermines their reputation as the informational email sender. If you do not prevent the domain and IP addresses from getting into spam and blacklists, this will lead to the inability to use email marketing effectively in the future.
Experian’s research (USA) has found the following:

  • Over the past year, 61% of companies that deal with email marketing have faced the threat of their reputation as an email sender.
  • 35% of the emails from these companies go into spam folders.

Reasons for getting into the spam folders:

  • There are many nonexistent email addresses in the database.
  • The letter contains many links to external resources, especially suspicious ones.
  • There are a lot of spammy words in the body as well as exclamation marks and capital letters.
  • The domain is new and without a known reputation, so mail servers treat it with suspicion.
  • The subject of the letter is not related to the content, and users mark such letters as spam.
  • DNS records for the domain, used for mailing purposes, are typed incorrectly.

We will take a closer look at Cause #1 – a low-quality database of email addresses, and how to avoid being counted as spam because of this reason.
It is vital for successful sales via email to have a clean and high-quality email database. However, eventually any database will get duplicates, addresses with errors, and broken or unsupported emails. That is why an important step here is the validation of email addresses.

What is the purpose of email validation?

  • Obtaining a clean, up-to-date client base.
  • Reducing the risk of getting into the spam folder.
  • Maintaining the mailbox (or the domain) trustworthiness.
  • Increasing the delivery percentage.

85% of US companies use email-validators in order to protect themselves from invalid addresses in the client database. They constantly check and update the existing data, and replenish the databases for emailing. As a result, investments justify themselves to the fullest. According to Campaign Monitor in 2016, the return on investment in mailings was $44 per each dollar spent.
How often should you validate databases?
It is important to maintain the quality of the email database. It is recommended to clean it at least once every six months, depending on the size of the database. The larger the database, the more likely it will have invalid email addresses over time, and the more often it would need to be validated.
How exactly do the services validate the emails?
Most validation services do the following:

  • Email de-duplication. This means the email validator helps to get rid of duplicate addresses, and will show you only the unique ones.
  • Syntax check. The list of email addresses is completely cleared from addresses with syntax mistakes.
  • Domain check. The service marks all emails with inactive or inaccessible domains.
  • MX records ?heck for each mailing address.
  • SMTP check. Service connects to SMTP servers, imitating the sending of an email message.
  • Checking the mailbox. If the box is full, this email will be marked as a risky one.

Why is the low-quality database dangerous?
Exceeding the number of invalid addresses and complaints leads to the limiting of the mail delivery to the inbox. If the email contains more than 5% of mistakes, the risk of getting considered spam is very high. Letters can be completely rejected by a mail box. Therefore, it is very important to control the percentage of mistakes. For example in Yahoo and Rocketmail, the amount limit of nonexistent addresses in the emailing is 10%. It is better to keep the rate of getting into the spam folder within 0.1%. However, some mail services allow the 0.3% rate.
Now, there are several services for domain and IP checking. Among them are:

  • http://multirbl.valli.org/lookup/
  • https://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx

What to do in case of getting into the spam list?
In case you decided to take a risk and skipped the validation of the email database, getting into the blacklist because of this, do not despair. There is a way out. Most spam and blacklist services are automated. So if your domain is blacklisted, stop sending emails using it for at least 10-14 days. In this case, it can be excluded from the blacklist automatically.
For example, you can manually remove the domain from the blacklist using the site https://www.spamhaus.org/lookup/. This is a large spam database that tracks suspicious activity in real time, and immediately places an IP or domain into spam. If you are blocked, the service will send you to the page with an explanation of the reason for the block and a guide about what to do next.
Before applying for an unblock and removal from the Spamhaus.org database, it is necessary to eliminate the very reason for the blockade in the first place. Learn how to resolve the issue to the spamhaus.org email by using the special number that is displayed in the address bar.
The second option is to buy a new domain and an IP address. This will protect you from the future getting into the blacklists as the responsibility for the reputation of the IP address and domain will depend on your actions only. But it will only work until the first mailing to the invalidated database.
To avoid unpleasant consequences and to increase your profits from email marketing, use the email validating service Proofy.io.

What Makes A Really Good Email?

What makes really good emails? Lot of visuals? Too much of content?
Some interesting perspective:

Emails with a single, clear CTA are shown to increase sales. Short CTAs that motivate people to act are key. Makes it obvious what a consumer should do next. Also easier to A/B test one CTA to optimize performance.

10 Trends That Will Drive Email Marketing Strategy in 2014

Email will not be the same as you have been looking at it till now. With the changing technology & the changing behavior, we will see lot of new things coming up in 2014. So how will you drive your email marketing strategy this year? Let’s take a look.

Pic 1 Email

Segment of One

The email marketing in 2014 will be heavily driven by the individualization we can bring in to the content. The individualization will not be limited to the static demographic data. It will be a much more complex system which will derive data from demographics, transactions, web behavior, etc. The old rule used for segmentation will go away. The new era has begun, where no one is alike & everyone will fall is completely different segment.

Personalisation

The content needs to be personalized to everyone based on not only the demographics, behavior, etc. but also the data which is not available while sending an email, viz. location where email was opened, time when email is opened, device used to open an email, etc. Gathering live data & personalization based on this live data will be very important. As people will be travelling more than today & will have more than single device.

Creativity – Images, Music, Video & MorePic 3

We email clients like Gmail caching the content, there is now no limitation on the creativity used in the content. Initially Marketers used to send low quality creative so that they load faster. Now with caching, high quality creative can also be loaded in a fraction of a second. In addition, creativity will not be limited to the images. Much more involving content like music, videos, etc. will play a very important role in email marketing.

Live Social Angle to Email Marketing

Pic 4

Email we no longer be a boring static medium of communication. It will now be possible to see live feeds from Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can see which of your friends opened or clicked on the emails. You can also share the emails with your friends on social networks. This will also open up a new angle to email marketing which will be more fun to interact with.

Advanced Analytics

Email has this awesome property to be personalized based on who is seeing it. This allows us send unique content to their inbox. More we can analyse the data, better we can understand the behavior & hence we can communicate with people in much better way. With so much of data being generated every day, analytics will play an important role in email marketing.

Predictive Email Marketing

Gone are the days of email broadcasting. Today you have to predict what your clients want. And prediction will not be done at the group level, but at the individual level. We will see lot of tools coming up who will predict what a person is going to buy, even before that person knows it. This will really help email marketing to be more relevant.

Pic 7Multi-channel Marketing

Email marketing will be used in conjunction with many other channels in 2014. A single tool which will support many channels of marketing will be very important. The data from various channels will be used to support email marketing & vice versa.

Single view of customer

With so many ways to interact with the brand, having a single view of every customer will be very important. This will help marketers to understand what their customers do at various other places & take quick decisions to keep them happy.

Data Enhancement

Most of the companies take only email ids to make the checkout process faster. This creates a lot of problem when we have to communicate with them. Lot of tools will come out which will help marketers understand their customers much more than what data they have. Marketers will try to find out about their customers from other data sources.

Pic 10 Responsive DesignResponsive Design

Emails will be read on Mobile devices, more than the desktop. Additionally it will be opened on any size of mobile & in any mobile client. So the email sent has to be intelligent enough to be responsive & readable on mobile.

All this will make email marketing much more interesting & relevant for the Marketers & even the recipients.


Recommended Read

Impact of Gmail’s Latest Image Loading Change on E-mail Marketing [Demystified]

Top Gmail Tools Every Sales & Marketing Wizard Must Have

How to Save Your Business From Gmail Outage

[Guest Article Contributed by Vinny Abhishek of Kenscio team]

What I Learned from 10 Months of Starting Up: Social Media Isn’t Great for User Acquisition

[Guest article by Rachit, founder of Youth4work. Rachit shares some of the key lessons learnt,]

At Youth4work, we face the usual challenges that most Startups face: no money for advertising, no big team and an interesting product which is still being developed and evolved.

Now the challenge is how to build the critical mass on a product which is still not completely finished and quite frankly not 100% clear (admit it, you as a founder do not know ‘exactly’ what you are building and should be accepting and understanding this fact).

But we’re still making good progress. Sharing some of the things I learned along my journey.

1. Social Media isn’t good for user acquisition in a StartupUnlike

Facebook and Twitter are good to have. But they are more of brand building tools rather than user acquisition mechanisms. We have seen a very low click-through rate for the time and resources spent on it as compared to other options (I admit that our limited knowledge and expertise to use them might be a factor). The point, clear to us was that, to make the social media strategy successful, we had to work on building a ‘critical mass’ on your Facebook and Twitter profiles. We would rather spend that much time on building critical mass on our StartUp directly than on platform X, and then from there, have people come to our platform. Also, instead of making an awesome image/communication for sharing and getting few clicks we are better off then emailing it to a large group.

Facts

i. On Facebook, only ~10% of your fans on your official pages get to see your update.

ii. On Twitter, your followers have to be active when you post your tweet. Reach per tweet probably lesser than 10% of followers.

iii. Building a fan base or followers on your Facebook and Twitter account is a painfully long and time consuming process.

Disclaimer for above facts:

i. Above statements are not valid if business is based on social media.

ii. There are plenty of examples of StartUps based on API and algorithms of social media getting crushed after the platforms made changes to their policies/algorithms. e.g. the likes of Coke and Pepsi invested millions of dollars on getting millions of fans, assuming that forever they can be sharing updates on their page and communicating with each one of their followers. Facebook changed its policy and reach of updates and asked for further payment to make the page owners reach out to their own followers.

2. SEO + Email Marketing + Content = Works Beautifully

SEO may be a long term tedious work. But it’s long lasting, gets you the right traffic looking for something you are about to or have written about.

Email marketing is clear results. You may preach that it’s unethical, but tell me how many mails you do receive from ‘top sites’ of the world? Companies do spam. We did that too, just sensibly.

3. Launch the un-perfect product

As a founder and product manager you may not be happy launching that unfinished product, and always crave that you perfect it just a little bit more before launching it. But get the facts right, there are 0.0001% chance that it will go viral (even if it does, I can assure you your servers will not be able to handle it). So don’t fret over finishing it, polishing it.

Tips

i. Understand that you have too few users who might get affected by the bugs your launch might have, or be affected a lot by the font or pixels that you want to perfect.

ii. 99.99% of the time your first customer will not be completely satisfied with your product. You simply have to satisfy & support him personally.

iii. Most of the time, your market research and understanding of business is imperfect, and what you launch ‘will undergo change’.

4. Hire fast, hire what you get

Too many times I have heard the jargon that hire the best lot, build the best team. Being in the business of recruitment ourselves, there have been innumerable occasions wherein I tried to make my prospective team members understand and get real about their expectations. The fact is we are a StartUp, and thus more work, less pay, very less stability, almost no perks is what we offer.

You, as an entrepreneur, should get hold-of and hire the first reasonably talented person who is willing to work with you and is a bit excited about the product and vision.

5. Don’t spend too much time chasing investors and making plans

It’s easier said than done. I can understand the need of raising capital for your StartUp and the time it consumes. But what I have learnt is that the investor who really invests in you will not invest by seeing that perfect investor-deck or a very detailed business-plan. Any good investor, investing in early stage StartUps, knows that whatever is planned will be different from what the business eventually becomes.

Rachit Jain
Rachit Jain

My learning: Your vision about your product and the understanding of the market and competition are key things that will get you funds. What you talk matters more than the deck you present.

And quite frankly, if the investor is asking for too many details and plans, stop wasting time on him. Most probably he is just collecting info for his other investment.

About the author: Rachit Jain is the Founder and CEO of Youth4work, a skills platform for those at the outset of their careers, to help assess and map their talent and join an expanding community, in preparation for their career journey.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Impact of Gmail’s Latest Image Loading Change on E-mail Marketing [Demystified]

Google announced on December 12th 2013 that the behavior of images loading inside Gmail messages is changing significantly. This has significant implications for email marketers world-wide.

Gmail's Image Load Feature
Gmail’s Image Load Feature

First, some context

Gmail has well over 400 million users. With that sort of size, any feature change in Gmail is bound to have an impact on an email marketer’s strategies.

Typical email marketing platforms insert a 1×1 sized tracking pixel inside every email newsletter to enable open and click tracking. When the end user opens the email and clicks “Display Images” inside Gmail, the pixel gets loaded from the email marketing platform’s server and hence the open is recorded, along with information like recipient name, operating system, device, location, IP address, etc.

So, what’s changed in Gmail now?Gmail New Loading Behavior

With this change, images inserted by you in your email newsletters will get stored and served directly by Gmail servers to the end user.

The end user will not have to click on “Display Images” anymore to view the images in an email anymore. Images will load by default as soon as the user opens your email.

Opinions from around the web

A lot has been written about this change in the past few days.

  • Ars Technica says this will hide any open tracking, unless a user clicks on a link the email.
  • Marketing Land says this will display previously unseen opens – the ones who opened your emails but didn’t click on “Display Images”.
  • ClickZ says these changes are terrific news for email marketers.

There is some confusion on the exact impact this has on email open monitoring. Things are getting clearer though as the change rolls out to more Gmail users around the world.

How this affects the end user / reader

  • Gmail users will now see your images by default.
  • Since the images are being stored and served by Google’s server, the images should load faster. Google has forever been obsesses with speed and they will use optimized delivery networks to ensure your images load from the nearest servers.
  • Gmail users have higher protection from websites sending malicious emails with spammy images.

How this affects you, the email marketer

  • Since images load by default, the open rates you see will be more accurate and probably higher than before. Earlier, you were missing out on open rates from people who opened your emails but did not click “Display Images”
  • You will not get visibility into the second or subsequent times the user opens your image. It’s only the first open that you will be able to track.
  • There should be no direct impact on click-through rates. There may be secondary impact on clicks as your email will appear different (better) than before.
  • You will not get visibility into Gmail users’ device and IP/location information any more.

You need to focus on content

This change puts even more focus on your content (images and text). Gmail users will see the entire email as you designed it right from the start. This puts more emphasis on the first impression your email creates as it loads. If you create high quality content, your emails will get opened and you will see an accurate statistic on your open rates. This will help guide you on what content is working well with Gmail users.

Using high quality and useful images in your email will help you engage with your users better as they will by default see your images. So pay close attention to your images.

This change is intended to make life easier for end users, which it surely will succeed in doing. So as an email marketer, this is good news for you. Your users will likely engage with your email more after this change.

Happy emailing!


About the author

Rahul Lakhani is the CEO of Canvass, which helps businesses with its all in one marketing software. Prior to starting Canvass, Rahul spent time getting inspired by great minds at Google, Advanced Micro Devices, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Indian School of Business.

Recommended Read: Top Gmail Tools Every Sales & Marketing Wizard Must Have

Kenscio Launches Tool for Email Marketeers To Personalise & Target Customers

rtpersonalisationDigital marketing solutions company Kenscio has launched RealTime Personalisation, a tool to allow email marketers to actively change the content of the email post mailing.

The content can be changed based on time of opening, recipient location, available inventory, weather, social media content and other factors.

One of their customers, Mandeep Gulati of Indiatimes Shopping, faced a bit of an issue after the new Tabbed Gmail Mailbox was introduces, especially for one of their crucial ‘Midnight Deal’ communication going out. The communication was landing into the Promotion tab and by the time a user checks that, the deal had expired before he actually landed on the product page.

Mandeep says, “Using the tool we put a clock on the head of users with the help of the fantastic tool that dynamically shows the actual time remaining. They helped us create a sense of urgency by letting them miss the deals and they ensure they should not miss it the next time onwards.”

The tool is system agnostic and will work along with any email service provider and email client like Gmail, Outlook, iPhone, Yahoo, etc, the company said.

“The launch of the tool is being synced with the Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF – an initiative by Google India). The company will be offering a special pricing for all the participants of the festival where they will be not charged on the impressions/opens but flat fee Rs 20,000 (till GOSF 2013 ends),” said Saurav Patnaik, Co-founder & CBO, Kenscio.

Some of the companies that have adopted the tool include Ford India, Basiclife clothing, Indiatimes shopping, Firstcry, Rummy Circle and many more.

Top Gmail Tools Every Sales & Marketing Wizard Must Have

So you’ve sent out an email to a prospective client and don’t have the slightest clue if it has even been opened. Or say you’ve received an email from someone and have no clue who he is. What follows is a pointless wait and time consuming searches whereas you should be busy closing deals or moving on. With a few nifty tools, you could be secretly tracking if the target has nibbled the bait.  Or you could be scheduling automatic reminders and managing the entire deal flow right form your inbox. Your inbox could pull up details of a sender automatically. Your Gmail account can be turned into a sales powerhouse with the help of a few tools we’ve listed here. Of course there are more out there, but these are some that we’ve come to like.

Streak

Streak

One of its main features is the ability to group together emails, files or contacts into ‘boxes’ that you can create for different projects or channels. Streak will then create a spreadsheet like list for your customer activities and the stages they are in. This also make it an easy way to generate reports on various customers or channels.

Signals

Signals

This Chrome browser extension notifies you with ‘read receipts’, informing you that the recipient has opened your email or clicked on any links in them.

The app is free to use for personal accounts and gives you 200 notifications per month. I you have a larger requirement, you can go for the premium version for a price of $10/month/user, without any limitations.

mxHero Email Toolbox

mxHeroToolbox

mxHero toolbox is a multi faceted tool for a sales team. Some of its features include Reply Timeout that lets you set automated email reminders for recipients that have not yet responded and Send Later feature that lets you compose an email and set a time when to send it, ensuring that it reaches the recipient at the right time.

Expire Mail is another feature provided by the app, that will help you set access-expiration for time sensitive mailes like proposals and contracts.

Yesware

yeswareThe team tracking and activity report feature of this tool helps you monitor your teams sales activity and productivity.

Custom Templates is another feature of the tool, that lets you send personalised and customised email templates, that you can create or choose based on their reply rate percentage. The tool will also connect your sales email to other sales solutions like Salesforce.com and others.

GrexIt

grexit

GrexIt is a collaboration tool for sales and customer support teams. The service will help you share emails using Gmail labels, assign tasks and track the status of the tasks. Teams can also share notes on the emails making it easier to collaborate with the team.

Rapportive

Rapportive

Rapportive is a contact management tool for Gmail, that displays social media information of email contacts like LinkedIn and other social media accounts on your Gmail sidebar. You can see information like photograph, job description, company, location etc on the sidebar.

AwayFind

AwayFind  will ensure that you don’t miss out on your important mails even when you are away. The service delivers email notification on your mobile device via a call, SMS or their Android and iOS mobile app when you receive an important email.

Boomerang

Boomerang

Boomerang is another tool for the Gmail inbox with features like Send Later, Follow Up Reminder. The app is especially helpful in following up with sales leads. An interesting feature that app has is that it will help you bring back emails to your inbox on a pre-specified date and time, more like a reminder.

Right Inbox

Right Inbox is a tool that integrates with your Gmail inbox and helps you with email scheduling, email reminders and tracking your emails and mail links.

ToutApp

toutapp

ToutApp integrates with your Gmail and helps you send batches group mails to your leads or customers. The service will then help you track the status of the email and links in it and follow up with customers who have engaged with you based on their previous interaction. You need not re write the same email multiple times as the template feature allows you to personalise existing templates making mail composing faster.

A lot of the tools mentioned here can also work with other mailing services too. You can access the details like pricing and other compatible services on their official websites.

These are just some of the tools that I’ve have come across the internet. If you are aware of any other essential Gmail sales tools you can suggest it in the comments below.

Recommended Read: 9 Killer Tools Every PC Ninja Must Have

Digital marketing in Social Times – Where Your Focus Should Be

Digital MarketingOn July the 29th, I saw my Facebook wall inundated by a series of posts by friends around the world. The post in question was a 5 minute 21 second video created by British Airways. The sheer volume of shares compelled me to watch it, and multiple thoughts came together compelling me to write this post.

In the last decade, marketing has seen a paradigm shift. Increasingly changed patterns of information consumption and competition have necessitated the evolution of marketing approaches. Marketers and brands are struggling with how to attract, engage and retain customers.

Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Work

Traditionally, there were few channels that could be used to communicate with audiences – television, newspapers, radio, billboards and cold calls. Thanks to the limited number of media outlets, marketers could predict the best way to reach their customers. It was easy to do this when the channels were limited, and information consumption was systematic and predictable. Advertising costs were dictated by simple rules of demand and supply. The best way to go about getting a message across to potential customers was to buy as much space as possible on these channels. The more people you could reach, the more people you were likely to convert. In fact, the biggest brands could become just that with only one thing – huge budgets spent to acquire advertising space.

With the advent of the internet, consumption patterns are no longer predictable, aided by search engines, social media, mobile devices and digital applications. Traditional channels have exploded too – starting with one channel 20 years ago, now there are over 690 television channels and over 70,000 newspapers in India alone. In the midst of this mind boggling number of information sources, the chances of a marketer’s message reaching her customer decreases, and precious marketing dollars no longer deliver required ROIs.

Declining attention span combined with more options to turn to have led to a lack of tolerance for any information that one is not seeking. Television campaigns, print advertising, radio, cold calls and mass emails are being seen as intrusive, interruptive and above all – irritating.
Additionally, the empowered consumer likes to be kept well informed – one-way communication and a standardised mass message will no longer make the cut. Consumers will only pay heed to relevant information, which is of value to them.

This is not to say that traditional marketing is obsolete; it just isn’t as relevant or cost effective as it once was. There is only so much latent demand that can be converted- only few  people are likely to know what, why, where and how to buy your brand- so you’re likely to waste quite a bit of time, money and resources chasing people who aren’t actively seeking your product.

Clearly, the magnitude of information consumption and the variability in its patterns, coupled with the inherent power of the internet-wielding consumer have led to the near obsolescence of traditional mass messages.

So What Works?

For marketing to be effective today, it needs to be relevant and it needs to add value to the audience. Consumers will sit up and take note of your message only if it interests them, entertains them, educates them or fulfills a need of theirs directly or indirectly.

Going back to the British Airways video, look at the brilliance of it all. It’s more than a 5 minute video, clearly no amount of editing would ever make it fit for Television. It’s made for the Internet. It touched all the emotional chords of someone who has been away from home for some time. The love of the mother, the longing for home made food and the destined trip back home give this video a compelling ethereal shareable quality. And the wonder of it all, the intended target audience is engaging and spreading the word, engaging with the brand firmly placing British Airways into their consideration set.

Create for Pull, not Push

This focus on relevance and value has led to the rise of a ‘pull’ mentality, as opposed to the traditional ‘push’ mentality. Traditional marketing strategy focuses on pushing its message out to consumers using various media platforms and forms of communication. It does not single out its target audience, so there is considerable wastage of resources on marketing one’s product to the relevant audience. Today the best way to get your message to your target audience is to let them find you, instead of trying to seek them out yourself. You will attract or ‘pull’ those who are actively seeking your product or the information you provide if you make your message easily accessible across various digital platforms. The idea is to provide information of value to your target audience, which would imply creating relevant content, customised to satisfy their information needs, and making it easily accessible through blogs, video, social media, etc.

British Airways was not selling tickets, it was merely highlighting the romance of the long travel back home. Back to comfort, safety and joy. The audience was automatically pulled into this marketing effort.

Be Relevant, Fresh

When you’re creating content that’s fresh and valuable, you earn interest rather than trying to buy it. Your credibility increases when your target customers come to you voluntarily, and you’re able to distribute information about your brand in a non-intrusive way. Good content creates its own readership, and boosts engagement by encouraging discussion.

Along with the obvious advantage of providing a filter to get in touch with your target audience, one very important advantage of generating good content on digital platforms is the easy way it provides to establish relationships with one’s audience by engaging in dialogue with them over various social platforms. Communication on social media platforms is a lot more personal, and enables a brand to answer individual questions, tackle complaints, and encourage discussion about its products and the industry in general. Those with a presence in the digital realm can keep track of what is being said about their product and their competitors, and can to some extent influence such discussions.   Look at some of the comments on the video again, they make for some delightful reading.

The mantra is pretty simple – find out what your target audience is looking for, publish content that corresponds to their interests, and you’ll attract traffic that you’re far more likely to convert. Actually creating good content on a regular basis is easier said than done, but those who’re getting it right are at a big advantage. Globally, the importance of integrating a brand’s inbound marketing strategy with its overall marketing strategy has been acknowledged for quite some time now. In India, a large number of organisations are using digital platforms, but the importance of focusing on content instead of direct selling hasn’t quite hit home yet for a sizeable portion of these. Slowly but steadily, the marketing scene back home is catching up with the times and is coming to recognise this new age of marketing.

About the Author: Jatin Modi currently runs FrogIdeas, a Digital Strategy and Marketing firm. He is a 4X Entrepreneur whose last company madeinhealth was acquired by Healthkart. He was also the Head of Strategy at Yebhi. Reach him on jatinmodi@frogideas.com or @PoornViram.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Of SAAS Founders and Fake Emails : Is There a Better Approach?

I subscribe to a whole lot of SAAS products – almost 3-4 per week. Not that I am a SAAS-addict, but as part of running a high growth company (i.e. NextBigWhat), we need a lot of products off-the-shelf and we totally prefer a SAAS approach.

And as part of that, one ends up trying out new service and yeah, new pricing plans.

Fake

Here is an observation I have had with most of the SAAS startups – founder’s emails are FAKE.

For example, an email like this is bound to increase your interest in the conversation:

“I noticed that you started on <X> recently, and I just wanted to check in and see how things are going. Please let me know if you need any help or have any questions. I would be glad to assist.

If you have any questions about your implementation, let’s hop on the phone.”

TILL you figure out the sender’s id, which is either @amazonses.com or well, a white-labeled (sendgrid) account.

What’s wrong with that? Well, this is same as talking to an automated call center, assuming it to be a human*.

I am not complaining. After all, founders are busy people (and reply-to id could be founder’s id, but in most of the cases, it’s support id). But the truth is that once you start reciving similar emails from pretty much all the SAAS products, you know that there is an overdose of ‘personalized fake’ emails that are doing the rounds.

Again, I am not complaining – but hats off to those who started this entire communication protocol. The challenge is that the ‘followers’ are mostly copying the ‘personalized-yet-automated’ concept without giving it too much of thought.

What’s the big deal?

I have stopped replying to founder’s emails asking for feedback. Not that I don’t want to share my feedback, but somehow finding that the other person turned out to be a bot suddenly disconnects you from the conversation (plus the brand) and one stops giving personal feedback/suggestions.

Talking about personal communication, CEO of a very well known US based Email marketing company recently (as in 2012) replied to my query (regarding a few edge use-cases) and knowing that the reply wasn’t an automated one (he actually helped me solved the query with suggestions more specific to my use-case), I ended up appreciating the company and till this date, we are paying for the service.

Not that I am saying that every founder needs to spend the entire day sending personal replies, but being aware that you are faking is important.

After all, no A/B test will ever tell you if your faking was caught or not.

So chose your communication cleverly! The receiver is a human, who has swiped his/her credit card for your service. Provide a human interface, if you can.

Faking human as a bot interface with predictable content and frequency may not go very well with the audience. Not all the time.

What I am trying to drive is that there has to be a better communication protocol and not all emails should come from founders who are trying to fake it. Creating a sense of ‘hey! you are talking to activation/on-boarding team etc is okay – customers aren’t really looking for a P2P conversation, but for sure, faking doesn’t make it.

 * : To give you an idea of fake conversation, watch this section from the movie Ctrl Alt Del

 

Basics of Email Marketing : 3% is Average Open Rate, Keep it Less than 50KB

email_marketing_thumb.jpgFor startups who can’t afford expensive marketing, email marketing plays a crucial role. But e-mail marketing needs to be done right to get noticed or even be read. Last time around, we’d written on how simple design tweaks increased our email newsletter subscriber base by 4X. Here are 4 things you must know to stay on top of email marketing.

These were some of the findings in the study “ Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study” conducted by Silverpop.

1. Improving Click Rates

Click rates are a key measure that tell your campaigns success. To have a higher clicks per clicker rate, message content needs to give consumer several options to generate multiple unique clicks or useful content to retain the subscribers attention.

2. Optimizing Message size

Email size is of little consequence on a computer connected to a home or corporate network. However, optimizing email size is important when recipients view them on smartphones connected to a cell network.

Keep most important content higher up in the email as long email messages get truncated and forces the reader to click again to read the full message.

The new thumb rule is to keep messages in the 50KB range to ensure quick loading. Keeping the email size too small will also significantly under perform against a HTML designed message many times larger.

3. Track your Churn Metrics

  • An unsubscribe request might mean that your messages are no longer relevant, or the receiver wants to change email address or preferences but see no option but leave. Too many of them in a day means you aren’t doing something right.
  • A spam complaint is a red flag and might mean that the subscriber doesn’t want your email anymore and doesn’t trust your unsubscribe process to get off the mailing list.
  • A high bounce rate indicates inaccurate data collection at opt-in as well as email address churn among subscribers.
  • An unsubscribe rate that increases over time or remain constant while spam complaints increase likely signals subscriber discontent.
  • Abuse or spam complaints are an important factor that ISPs consider before deciding whether to deliver , junk, mark them spam or block your messages completely.

4. Open rates

Only 3% of email users view an email message in more than one device. Emails that are long, include offer deadline or are otherwise relevant and have a “shelf life” are more likely to be opened a second time.

5. Industry level Email Marketing Rates

Open rates

  • Education segment had the highest unique open rates and Nonprofits the lowest.

  • Education segment had the highest gross open rates and financial services had the lowest.

  • Consumer products segment had the highest opens per opener rate and real estate and construction had the lowest.

Click-through rates

  • Education segment had the highest click-through rates, followed by health care, among all the industries.

  • Healthcare segment had the highest click-to-open rates, followed by education, among all the industries.

  • Retail segment had the highest clicks per clicker rate among the industries.

List churn metrics

  • Media & Publishing segment had the highest hard bounce rates and Education had the lowest.

  • Computer Hardware, Telecom & Electronics segment had the highest unsubscribe rate and Education had the lowest.

  • Real Estate & Construction segment had the highest spam complaint rates and Computer Software had the lowest.

You can find the full report here.

Recommended Read: Crafting A Bulletproof Marketing Strategy for your Startup

Crafting A Bulletproof Marketing Strategy for your Startup: My Experience Of Failed Startups

“Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought” -Sun Tzu

SunTzu Quote
Sun Tzu : One of the greatest military strategists

What’s with Startups and Success?

The ultimate success of your startup depends upon the awesomeness in your products. Period. What If I tell you success depends upon other factors too and not just on your product?

The above quote from Art of War is all about that success is pre-determined even before a battle begins. Similarly the success of your startup depends upon the things you do even before you launch your startup.

So You may loose a battle even before you start the fight. To make anything successful three things are prerequisite:

  • Proper planning
  • Preparing (acquiring) the resources and personnel to execute the plan
  • Executing the plan (The final Act)

Plans ! For My Startup?

A bad plan when executed properly may not yield the desired results; similarly a Good plan when executed improperly will do no good to the business.
Startups have fewer resources, limited funds and less time to get industry-validation so they are never in a position to survive any early on disasters and especially when its due to poor planning. Since startups have less backing when they fail so the chances of starting again are very lean in most cases. Thus a detailed marketing strategy is mandatory for a startup to avoid all fuck-ups at least in marketing the product.

If you don’t believe me then listen to this Ted Talk by Seth Godin about the story of Otto Rohwedder; the guy invented the ‘sliced bread’ perhaps greatest invention of his time and yet has to wait for 18 long years to taste success. Because the people (Wonder Breads) who planned, prepared the resources and executed the plan arrived 18 years later.

Let’s Start with a Marketing Plan

A good startup marketing plan must make sure that every step taken, every mouse click, every published word, in a nutshell every effort small or big has to be taken in such a way that it contributes to the overall success of the startup.
Now the problem is that the traditional marketing strategies do not seem to work. Internet and the Media have changed the whole game of marketing.
Trends are changing more rapidly than ever. What was trending a few months back (Gangnam Style) is now ancient; the things that are trending now (The Harlem Shake) will become antique very soon.

So we have to do more than making a traditional strategy and implementing standard marketing tactics.
“Think Different”

Start on a Solid Base: Don’t Commit the Stupid Mistake

It’s quite common for entrepreneurs to think that their product has a universal appeal and every last person on earth would want it. They are absorbed by an idea that the only thing that stands between a mass success and their idea is DISCOVERY.
“The moment the world discovers my idea, then the whole world will buy it”

The Ugly Truth

Let’s face it Mate! Only a small percentage of population is going to need your product and even fewer of them will ever buy it.

So why target the world and waste your efforts in making a product that everyone likes in the words of Airbnb Founder : “Make something that 100 people love rater than something that a million people kind of like”

So DON’T start by making a product for everyone and don’t even try to sell your product to everyone, for it is a waste of your startup’s time, money and efforts.

The Market’s Anatomy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
~Sun Tzu, The Art Of War
Of course the same applies for the battleground.

Ask the following questions to understand, identify and choose you market better. These seven questions will help you in choosing your targeted Market:

1. Customers’ need:
How badly people want what you are offering?
Is there a NEED of your product?
If yes, then how much?
If not, then why Not?

2. Efficiency:
How efficiently your product is solving the cunsumers’ problems?
Or how efficiently you will be fulfilling their NEED?

3. Customer’s Analysis:
Will People Actually Buy?
Do they have the money to buy the product?
How much money is there in the market for your product?

4. Competitors Analysis:
How strong is the competition?
How saturated is the market?
How much market share you intend to capture?
What portion of the market in untouched by your competitors?

5. USPs:
Comparison of your USP (Unique selling proposition) with that of your competitors.
The edge that your product has over others’
The edge your marketing campaign will have.

6. Future of the Market:
How much is the long-term value of the market?
What is the market’s growth?
Will the consumption be far reaching or will it decline?

7. The Last question has to be this one
“Is This the Best Market for ME?”

If there are tons of companies doing what you want to do in your targeted market then it’s a waste of your time in spamming the market with another not-so-different product. After all, we live once then why waste it, try doing something different.

Now the Customers in the Market

Once the market is selected, it’s time to move ahead. This section is all about knowing your customers and understanding them and finding about your ideal customers.
As always the best way to identify your Ideal customers is to answer a few questions.

-Who is your Ideal Customer?

  • Is your ideal customer a male or a female?
  • What’s the age group of your prospective customers?
  • What is your ideal customers profession? Student or lawyer?

Etc..

Do not hesitate to answer these questions as precisely as you can. For example, my ideal targeted customer for this post is someone that is about to start a new business or in other words founding a startup.

– Where are the ideal customers located?
Very few companies actually can target the whole world as their Ideal customers’ geographic location. So define which area are you most likely to find most of your customers and try and get them by targeting that area.

Example: My horse’s products business targets customers owning horses and residing in USA. At the same time Shell and British petroleum target all the oil-distribution companies all over the world. Similarly your startup is going to be different. So define the geographical boundaries of your consumers.

– How will they try to find you If they try to find you?
This Question is all about Keywords. Define your keywords:

  • What are the keywords that your customers will use to search you?
  • What are the keywords that you need to associate your startup with?
  • What words can make it easier for your customers to identify you?
  • What words your customers can use to reach you?

Answer these questions diligently.

Choose a set of core keywords that exactly match your product or idea. Expand your list to add some secondary keywords. In the same time keep in mind to include long- tail keywords and low competition keywords for they are easy to rank high on search engines.
-How and where can you reach out to your customers?
Just find out more about where your Ideal customers spend their time.

  • What are the social Media platforms they are active on?
  • What are the things they like watching on youtube?
  • What are the websites they frequently visit?
  • Your customers preferred medium of contact for sales pitches?

Once you know this you can advertise to them at these platforms (I am not talking about Interruption Marketing or irritating advertisements). I am talking about intelligent marketing. Use them White Brain Cells inside your head and find ways to market your startup that is interesting to the customers. Remember:

“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” ~Simon Sinek

Customers don’t care about what you are selling? All they care about is why you made this thing that you are selling? What’s in it for them? Listen to this Ted talk by Simon Sinek.

Define Success Goals

The most important goal of your Marketing campaign is to make your startup successful. Achieving certain goals does this. So what is your success goal?

  • 500 signups in the first month,
  • 1000 visitors in a month
  • $25,000 revenue in the first quarter

After you have carefully set a goal, the very next step is to communicate this goal to your team.
Tip: Make sure that you set your goal and then not bring major changes to it.

Define Your Marketing Budget:

At the end it all comes down to: How much you can spend on your marketing? Set a budget of your marketing campaign. Initially allocate more money and resources to the channels that you think will bring most of your customers.

Review your marketing results and then revise your startup’s marketing budget based on the success that different channels are bringing. If your blog brings you 50% of your Customers then in the next month increase the budget and allocate 60% of your marketing budget to the Blog. Similarly allocate wisely the budget to various marketing channels.

Make a Marketing strategy considering your Budget and keeping your goals in mind.

After you have made your strategy the rest is up to you to make sure it’s implemented properly.

Marketing your startup before launch: The benefits

There are lots of benefits of marketing your startup before Launch.
Why an entrepreneur must market her/his startup even before launching it?

A great start from day 1 of launch
Your Idea Gets Industry and consumer validation early

Marketing and hazards Learnt in the beginning

Sshh…Don’t Market the Copy-Cat is Always Listening

There are certain cases in which a startup should NOT be marketed ‘before’ launch. If your startup falls under any of the following two categories then you should just keep it zip and not go out and tell the world about what you are doing?

First of Its Kind: You are doing something that no one has done ever before. So keep it zip and just tell them you are coming but not with what? In this case you can have a mysterious marketing campaign with a email-subcription option based launch page. LaunchRock can be used to make email collecting coming soon webpages for free. Another good idea is getting your upcoming secret startup covered by Press.

Easily Replicable: Your Product can be copied very easily. You lose all the advantage that the First-Mover gets. Remember, “Early bird gets the worm”. In this case you should take some marketing lessons from Hollywood moviemakers. I am serious. They make all the money from their product (movies), which is easily replicable, in the first few weeks of the launch. So that even if someone copies they always get the advantage of being the original!

Conclusion

Though a bad product may not be a success in spite of a great marketing strategy but a good product may be a failure due to a bad marketing strategy. So once you are ready with your idea or product, always invest some time and effort engineering the best possible marketing strategy.

[About the author: Adnan Akhtar (@adnanakhtar99) is the Lead Inbound Strategist for Eegro, Digital Marketing Agency. He also heads PR and Communications of DecideQuick, a Social media based decision making platform. He crusades fro startups and enviroment and speaks his minds on his blog]

The Fifth P of Marketing

[ This one’s a little long. But worth it. And if you read through it all, there’s a ……. ]

Being consistent was such a virtue all these years for brands. Of course it still works for most brands most of the time. But there are diminishing returns on consistency for brands in the times in which we live. Of course we are not talking here of consistency in quality – that definitely needs to continue! We are talking here of the consistency in branding, standardised marketing and promotional activities.

In 2013, marketers, brand managers & agency folks must never forget that the consumer has become highly sceptical and bored of our messaging. Good service is expected and only the lack of it elicits a reaction. Hardsell is a put-off – there is far too much information & brand messaging overload. Everyone needs a break from the brands selling us all the time. One of the many reasons we lap up a Kolaveri or a Gangnam Style video is that it doesn’t try to TELL or SELL us anything.

And in those virals and memes there is a hidden message for us. There is an element of surprise and discovery in those seemingly inane videos.

That’s the 5th P of marketing – surPrise. (“Hey, that’s not a P, it’s an S”. “Well, surprise!!”)

Olacabs surPrises its customers on its birthday!
Olacabs surPrises its customers on its birthday!

Now, can we make it work for more serious stuff – like branding and marketing?

The scarcity of attention

Once upon a time in the consumer-land there was largely a scarcity of money, then there came a scarcity of time and now there is a new scarcity of attention that marketers must contend with, but refuse to acknowledge. How do you get across to the guy with a remote and a DVR and a shrinking attention span? The cutest ads and the corniest lines get a short shrift. Even Ogilvy can’t make Vodafone ads work all the time!

Today, branded communication is in competition with cute cats,  cuter kids from a billion posts and albums, in-depth and/or banal conversation and other stuff that the consumer  spends her time on across multiple screens. The same old communication strategies don’t get us the same old results anymore.

The New New Economy

Everything around is changing at warp speed. We are now in the middle of the New New Economy. And in this economy , the consumer doesn’t want the same things to be repeated to him. Many consumers expect to be shown a new idea every single ad exposure, sirji?

If you watch a full length film on any of the movie channels you will realise the enormous nuisance quotient of branded-advertising today!

Surely, going forward this interruption-by-annoying model of advertising is not going to give optimal results. And we are being very generous here. We need to invent a better mouse trap based on this glaring, growing reality in our face!

As we look around the brandscape in a consumer connected era, we find that the brands that get lapped up, liked on facebook, get retweeted on twitter have a common thread. In their brand story, marketing play customer interface and service, there is a strong dose of surPrise!

Whether it’s the quirky mega brand Google that constantly plays with it’s logo and has eschewed all established thinking on logos and branding, or our homegrown youth icon brand – fastrack that has challenged its followers on facebook to give it 10 mn likes in exchange for a name change or a start-up brand Ola Cabs that offered cab rides at auto prices, each of theses brands has managed to surprise the customer!

Using surPrise as a tactical or strategic marketing tool challenges our thinking. We grew up with a watertight model of brand consistency. Right from the brand colour ( just the right pantone shade 🙂 to the entire campaign having a similar look & feel, consistency in strategy and execution were always the hallmark of a successful advertising and branding campaign.

Even when media proliferated. When 360 communication was the reigning mantra of branding, it was lead by consistency.

But consistency often kills spontaneity. And today consumers are looking for their favourite brands to surprise them. Whether you are a mega brand or a neighbourhood brand, you can pack in a whole lot of surprises. And your consumers will love you for that!

surPrise with Stories

One of the things that most brands forget to factor in their marketing is how smart consumers have become over time – they are very smart at tuning out the noise of the brands. They use the remote, the Tata Sky recorder, youtube to filter and avoid all the repetitive, unnecessary brand messages.

The key words here are repetitive, boring, hyped, outright lies, unsubstantiated claims.  However, the same consumer is quite open to new stories about the brand.

Imagine a new high-end range of wooden furniture telling you about how the wood used is from the ‘renewable forest area’. It’s a new story. An authentic one. It adds to the allure, charm , story appeal of the brand for it’s TG. (by the way the brand is Mother Earth )

Using story-as-surPrise has always worked for hotels – big and small. People are very fascinated with the stories of who stayed in the room before – a Bollywood Diva, a princess, an ex President. The story is amplified when narrated with embellishments by the manager or the hotel chef!

And every brand in every category can surPrise its customers. Soap or chocolate brands can tell stories of ingredients ( and what they can do for you), mobile phone brands can share infographics on feature evolution, wine brands could share stories of a wine sommelier and so on…

surPrise with Context

A lot of ‘Post-Advertising’ advertising is about context. When brands ignore the context, to the savvy consumer (now also prosumer) their claims and messages sound hollow (which they often are).

Two societal events captured the imagination of people over the last year – first the Anna movement against corruption and recently the groundswell of protest over the brutal rape and killing of the Delhi girl.

Around both events, almost all the brands that had anything to do with women ( Femina, Dove, etc.) or even corruption (eg. Tata Tea – Jaago Re) largely stayed away from the events. They were busy staying married to their standard messages and their media plans.

Of course it’s difficult and very challenging for most brands to weave in context into their branded narrative. Their ad agencies , PR departments and communication managers were not trained for that . In fact we were all raised to stay away from real context. Brands were happy in their silo make-believe-happy-faces-self-centred world.

But consumers have moved on. In the same internet session, a consumer can like the facebook contest of a noodle brand, sign an online petition on cause.org and snap a deal at an e-commerce site.

Brands will have to recognise and smartly weave into this contextual world of the prosumer. Or else the more media monies they spend, the less they might get!

surPrise with Technology

Till a decade or so back , technology was a just a feature in most of the products we consumed. It was very important but largely hidden. We were happy looking at the shiny packaging of products  and many of us even built our identities around the branded messaging and icons.

But this is no longer the case now. Look at a branded eco-system like Google. With it’s search, email, browser, maps, wallet, picasa, places – we the consumer have an intimate relationship with the brand based on pure technology and user experience. We don’t even remember ever seeing a Google or a Facebook or an Amazon ad. True Flipkart does a lot of advertising, but for many the brand relationship is built more on it’s technology supported ‘famed delivery system’, user experience rather than its initially interesting but eventually repetitive advertising!

And technology is now no longer just for mega brands or certain categories. Hotels can make surPrising apps to enhance their discoverability. Small vacation resorts can use the technology based review platform – TripAdvisor to build their brand and surPrise the off-beat traveller with their service. Neighbourhood mom-& pop brands can use technology to make their own neighbouthood newspaper using paper.li or pinterest  and surprise the consumer with their in-depth knowledge of the local stuff.

Most service brands must use twitter (some like Airtel are already using it effectively) to address customer complaints and surPrise with real-time (and, of course, useful) response.

surPrise with Humanness

The world no longer only operates on  an industrial era paradigm. Yes we do manufacture cars, trains, ships, chips and all kinds of machines on assembly line. But the branding infrastructure built on the manufacturing era of mass media and mass messaging is creaking and not working as efficiently as it did in the past .

The reason is not difficult to fathom. Rapid changes in technology, the existence of parallel information and creative economies and social media led connectivity has shifted a lot of value to human interaction and ‘humanness’!

Consumers want to be treated as audience of One. Many no  longer want to be clubbed as SEC A, age 35. A single fits-all tagline, headline or a single campaign crafted with strategic insight, care and perfection in ad agencies is unable to engage the customer for long.

Brands now need to display humanness in the last mile – surPrise them at the store (plan to keep a few ‘unplanned’ giveaways),  in the community in which they operate (offer to host something, or sponsor something with nothing in return), in their CSR initiatives, inside the films and video based entertainment they buy their way into, in the packaging. It’s even possible to surPrise consumers in the invoices (fortune cookies did a great job in a similar context!) that you make for them, definitely when you make them wait on call centre lines, on twitter, on facebook, and even in the Terms & Conditions of a product or service purchase!

Surprise consumers with humanness – Be ready to bend or even break a few rules for certain customers, or certain situations – and you will be surprised at the attention, loyalty, WOM publicity that they will shower you in return!

surPrise in Real-Time

Would you agree that ‘Real time is the new Prime Time’? Consumers expect brands to surprise them with real time information. Sometimes it’s location based in real time, other times it’s context based in real time. Its still about context, but the important thing is the ability to recognize opportunities and react on the fly.

Whether you are a cafe brand trying to retain a seemingly ‘disloyal and shifting youth audience’ or a micro credit  brand trying to get through the time starved donor, or a new local restaurant brand trying to do neighbourhood marketing, information and utility offered to the consumer in real time could be your best possible chance to achieve your goals. With enough technologies that let you figure out who the consumer is, a random positive surprise on their birthday will go a long way. You don’t need to do much – a gift wrapped delivery with a card is plenty, when done without too much fanfare or PR effort. Let the delighted customer do that for you.

As a brand owner/manager, do not ignore real time ideas from employees, real time conversations with consumers, real time feedback from vendors, real time happenings in the surroundings.  Surprise your consumers with authentic participation, benefits and random acts of kindness and see your business grow and WOM publicity shoot .

Everyone loves a surPrise. As the marketing edifice is gradually morphing into a more open, more participative, more collaborative one, have a surPrise or two up your sleeve! You might be pleasantly surPrised at the ROI it gives you.

[ … treat at the end! ] And as we leave you with those thoughts, here’s something we thought we should surPrise you with

______

With over 16 years of advertising strategy, branding and digital planning experience, across JWT, Ogilvy, Leo Burbett, Digitas, Manish Sinha is now co-founder at travel start-up – Oravel.com & curates neighbourhood brands in Gurgaon – Cinnamon Stays – a homestay and Tikdam – a quirky creative studio.

Webinars and Articles are Gold for Business. Here is how [UnCafe Notes on Inbound Marketing]

uncafeWe earlier shared notes from the previous UnCafe, a regular meetup we conduct in association with Accel Partners to facilitate collective learning in the startup ecosystem. Last time, Girish Mathrubootham, Founder & CEO of Freshdesk shared 3 Content Marketing Lessons to make Awesome Content work for you. This is the second set of notes from the previous UnCafe. In this edition, Paras Chopra, CEO of Wingify, shares how to get eyeballs and how make webinars work.

1.

One of the tricks we use is to customize the landing page depending on where the customer is coming from. We have a behavioral targeting function. For instance, if people are coming from Smashing Magazine, they get to see a special offer for readers of the magazine. Such customization really works. We also do a lot of personalization. For example if someone has come from Delhi to our page, we would show them a small widget on the side saying that we are hiring in Delhi.

2.

Interesting statistics will get you eyeballs. We haven’t tried infographics. But we have tried publishing statistics. For example, top 10 landing pages with highest conversion rates or what are the average conversion rates in a particular industry. We have also tried writing about tactics and a variety of other things. A mix of special content with appropriate visuals works better than just content.

3.

Question by Tejaswi Naidu, Founder & CEO of Tek Arena : We’ve heard a lot of startups say that Webinars work for them. What is your opinion?

Yes. Webinars have worked really well for us in the past. We would do webinars with our partners and customers. We would reach out to industry publications and ask if they are interested in webinars. In webinars, you would generally find that 50-100 people would come. But if 50-100 people are devoting an hour to what you are speaking, they will be interested in it. If you are able to do webinars, there is nothing like it. There should be a strategy to whatever you are doing though.

4.

Try reaching out to non overlapping audience. Say you are reaching out to a set of designers in California with a piece of content, in the next webinar, try to focus on a different set of audience like ecommerce companies. This increases your reach.

5.

Question from Krish of Chargebee: How do you reach out to the people you want at the webinar?

We never talk about our product. We talk about A/B testing or something which is useful to the audience. Once you are published on a popular site, you have the authority and people know what you are talking about. When you reach out to partners like trade magazines and tell them we want to conduct a free webinar for your audience and that I’m already a published author, it works. You have to make a case as to why their audience would be interested. They are always on the lookout for interesting new people. The leads you get from webinars are high quality leads.

6.

Question from Ashish of NextBigWhat: Do you use any tools? How do you measure RoI?

Reaching out to influential writers has become difficult these days. They get 500- 1000 emails every day. Convincing someone to spend 5-6 hours on your product and asking them to write about it is impossible unless you provide a good perspective. Because they probably have a lot more things to do and why should they give your product preference to 10 different competing products that are out there.

If we are contributing to other publication, you have to emulate the kind of content they have. We use things like keyword searches, to find out which keywords are maximally searched. You have to really keep up with the industry trends. We always have a spreadsheet going on where we dump all ideas and when we need new content, we use that to generate content. We measure ROI by keeping track of the leads generated by a piece of content.