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3 EMAILS YOU SHOULD BE SENDING

by ZestNet on November 29, 2012, no comments

Widespread interaction with brand pages on social media sites is clear evidence that consumers want to engage with companies they support. Email is a highly effective channel for not only nurturing this engagement, but for cultivating customer relationships.

From the Abandoned Shopping Cart email, to the “We Haven’t Heard From You In A While” email, it can be difficult to determine why or when to reach out. When in doubt, here are 3 types that every business should be sending:

E-Newsletter
Give your company a “voice.”  The weekly, monthly, or quarterly e-newsletter gives you the opportunity to personalize your company.  Be helpful.  Be informative.  Become a resource.  Let customers know what’s new with your company, what changes are being made, and how it affects them.  Use your newsletter to introduce yourself to new prospective customers and to connect with your current ones.

Thank You
It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom-and-pop shop or a mighty corporation, and it certainly doesn’t matter what your product or service lineup is – if someone gives you their business, you should send a “Thank You.”  The purpose of the “Thank You For Your Order” email can be two-fold.  It should show your appreciation for their business, and it also should assure them that everything related to their order is under control.

Promotions & Discounts
Everyone loves a good deal.  From American Airlines’ frequent flyer miles to Ebay’s Deal of the Day, consumers are always on the lookout for ways to save money.  Offering your email subscribers special discounts or advertising upcoming promotions is a good way to appeal to your audience’s sense of frugality and also to encourage action… but handle with care.  The “Promotions & Discounts” email can be a little tricky.  Subscribers have very little patience for any email that resembles “spam” so it’s critical that what you’re offering is worth the time it takes to read.

4 WAYS TO INCREASE OPENS AND CLICK-THROUGHS

by ZestNet on October 29, 2012, no comments

Despite the shiny new marketing channels that have popped up over the years, email marketing remains a constant in consumer preference. According to a recent ExactTarget study, email remains the favored permission-based communications channel by consumers.  At 77%, email marketing is dramatically preferable over all others, with the next closest channel favored by only 9%.

However, simply knowing this is the preferred method of marketing communique, doesn’t guarantee that your message won’t go from Inbox to Trash without ever seeing the light of day. To prevent your brilliant marketing message from being wasted, here are 5 tips to help increase email opens and inspire click-throughs:

Create Compelling Subject Lines – Try to pique interest when formulating subject lines.  They should be eye-catching, but concise. If short subject lines seem impossible, make sure they are front-loaded to avoid cutting off important messaging.  Effective subject lines often call out a need or pain point, enticing recipients to learn what it is you have to offer.

  1. Practice Segmentation – Segment your recipients into categories that will make your marketing messages more relevant.  This enables tailoring messages specifically to those who’ll appreciate certain content.  The more relevant your message, the more engaged your audience, which will in turn, decrease unsubscribe rates.
  2. Provide Stimulating Content – Your email should grab the reader’s attention.  Granted, not all products are “exciting” but if you can present content that is useful, or even entertaining, you can just as effectively catch their attention.  If you’re promoting lint rollers or zip ties for example, a funny or helpful story about your product may be more effective than a simple sales or promotional message.
  3. Begin Testing – Test different components of your campaigns to see which garners the best response.  Aside from actual content, consider testing who your message is from, your email length, your call to action, and your delivery timing. There isn’t a “best time of day” or “best email length” that holds true for every organization, so test campaigns and adapt accordingly.

When monitoring email metrics, pay attention to where your emails are landing. A low open rate may mean a failing campaign, but it could also be related to placement.  If your emails are landing in the Bulk Folder instead of the Inbox, this could account for a poor open rate as well.

MOBILE EMAIL

by ZestNet on October 19, 2012, no comments

 

With the adoption of smartphones growing every day, marketers are becoming aware of the need to optimize email for the mobile device. In the first half of this year, more than 1 out of every four emails (26%) was opened on a mobile phone, and 1 out of 10 was opened on a tablet – a 20% increase from last year.  When implementing a mobile email strategy, here are some takeaways to consider:

Streamline Your Layout – Your content should be highly readable and ideally capture the recipient’s interest in the first few seconds.  Since mobile screen real estate is a fraction of a PC’s, the challenge is to be concise without losing your message.  Also, remember that an adult-sized finger takes place of a computer mouse, so make sure that any links have adequate space in between.  Having to navigate back and forth after hitting the wrong links won’t do anything but frustrate users, and any well-thought-out messaging points will be lost.

Use Caution With Images – Image blocking isn’t an issue exclusive to desktop email.  Android and Blackberry users, for example, won’t automatically see images unless they’ve change their email settings in their phones.  Others may choose to disable images in order to save on mobile data plans, so make sure your content is understandable even if your images don’t show up.

Remember Your Next Steps – Whether the goal of your email is the sharing of your content, purchasing of your merchandise, or driving traffic to your website, don’t lose the user in the transition.  Mobile-optimized emails should also lead to mobile-optimized landing pages.  For example, last week a major beauty retailer sent out an email blast promoting their latest sale.  The email itself was beautifully optimized for viewing on a mobile device.  Upon clicking one of their links however, the user was taken to a landing page that was not.  Instead, the user was presented with bold text that read:  “Sorry this page is not supported on the mobile site, if you would like to proceed to this page, please visit the Full Site.”  The retailer neglected to think through the next steps, causing this eye-catching campaign that started out promising, to end up failing miserably.

Think about the user’s overall experience when formatting your email. If you have trouble following the conversion path from beginning to end, so will they.  Use space wisely.  A good mobile user experience won’t result in having to stretch, rotate or zoom in on your content.  The harder you make your recipients work, the less likely they’ll be to convert.

ZestNet designs latest edition of Caring for Community Memorial Health System

by ZestNet on October 2, 2012, no comments

In this issue of Caring, we take a look at the Community Memorial Health System and its impact on the community in the past, present and future.

From the Bova Family, Ventura County’s only quintuplets, delivered over a decade ago at CMH, to Jurgen Gramckow, Ojai resident and co-founder of Southland Sod Farms who was expertly cared for during his heart attack – we see how the health system has played a crucial role throughout the lives of the community.

In August, the first anniversary of the building project for the new Community Memorial Hospital was celebrated.  Slated to open in 2015, we see the efforts being taken to ensure that the healthcare needs of so many will be met in the foreseeable future.

You can read this issue online here: http://www.cmhshealth.org/caring.shtml

 

PART 2: BEING SOCIAL – 5 TIPS TO BOOST SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT

by ZestNet on October 2, 2012, no comments

As many companies that use social media for marketing discover, simply “being there” isn’t enough. We know that it’s essential to actively contribute to the conversation in order to increase audience participation, but then what?  Here are 5 other tips to help you stimulate engagement:

  1. Delegate social media to the same person or group – Maintaining a consistent “voice” or point of view helps deliver a more memorable persona.  If your voice changes from post to post, your audience will have trouble relating to you.
  2. Be patient and move forward – Social media, especially when starting out, can be a very slow and tedious process.  People discourage easily because they expect instant results.  Remember that social media is about relationships, and relationships take time to cultivate.
  3. Make your marketing campaign comprehensive – Social media marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought.  Put the “share” function on your marketing materials, and let your prospects know where they can find you.  Don’t segment your efforts.  Having a cohesive campaign across all platforms will deliver your message more effectively.
  4. Adapt to your audience’s preferences – Just because you like something doesn’t mean your customers will.  Their personal preference may not align with yours.  This doesn’t mean you need to change your marketing message, but you can alter the delivery.  Try questions instead of statements, or short posts instead of long posts.  Use an image with a caption instead of text to get your point across.
  5. Announce an offer – Many different platforms can facilitate or promote offers.  Whether you’re announcing a discount, giveaway, game, voucher or contest, offers are one the most effective ways to increase engagement.  Offers typically generate more tweets, shares, and likes than most other content.

The bottom line is that successful social media marketing takes time and effort. Give your audience a reason to interact with you.  If you don’t personally belong to a social network, consider joining one, and dig deeper into who these people are, what interests them, and what types of content they find most appealing.  You can use your personal experience to fine tune your professional one. ZestNet, Inc. can help you develop your social media marketing strategies and define an implementation mechanism that will get results.

PART 1: BEING SOCIAL – 4 TACTICS TO IMPROVE YOUR SOCIAL CONVERSATION

by ZestNet on September 20, 2012, no comments

Social media isn’t going anywhere. Since its inception, the different social platforms have only grown and evolved.  Whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram, these networks have become so mainstream they are completely intertwined in our daily lives.  Businesses have caught on as well, leveraging social media to increase their bottom lines.  Like any other tool used properly, social media has the capacity to enhance your business.  Here are 4 tactics to consider for achieving those results:

  1. Be on the same networks as your customers – Literally hundreds of active social media and social networking sites are available today.  Keeping up with the ins and outs of even a portion of them can be overwhelming and incredibly time consuming.  Be picky.  Learn where the majority of your customers are and focus your efforts there.
  2. Integrate multiple social platforms into your campaign seamlessly – Social media dashboard tools allow you to manage multiple social networks, your blog, and email at once.  These tools enable the marketer to monitor, update, and manage the flood of communication all from work, at home, or on the go.
  3. Stay up-to-date and maintain relevancy – Entice your audience regularly with fresh content to keep them coming back.  Be a valuable resource.  Engage your customers so not only will they visit your sites, but refer others to them as well.
  4. Test, refresh, and re-test – Social media is not an exact science.  Magic formulas for instant success don’t exist.  If your efforts are not getting the results you want, regroup and try again.  Test a different approach and measure those results against previous attempts.  Tweak different elements until you find the overall method that works for you.

Think about your goal for social media… Attracting likes?  Driving traffic to your website?  Creating awareness? Regardless of your end game, it’s critical to keep your purpose in mind.  Most importantly, don’t forget to look at the big picture, and how social media best fits into your overall marketing campaign. ZestNet, Inc. can help you develop your online social media strategy and integrate it into your other marketing efforts.

PART 3 OF 3: SOCIAL COMMERCE – VOLUSION FOR YOUR FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE

by ZestNet on September 18, 2012, no comments

These days, it seems that everywhere you turn, social media – Facebook especially – is there. It has saturated not only our personal lives, but our professional ones as well.  According to a study by Merchant Circle, about 70% of small business owners have begun utilizing Facebook to further promote themselves.  They are taking advantage of the potential exposure to the 900 million subscribers of this social network.  Sure, exposure is great, but what about conversion?  With the entrenchment of social media in business, comes the concept of the “Social Store,” as presented by the e-commerce software, Volusion.

For many, shopping is a social pastime, and with more and more people spending a significant amount of time on social networks, it follows that consumers would begin purchasing through this type of media as well. A Booz & Company study conducted in January found that social commerce spending is expected to almost double this year, hitting the $9 billion mark, and go on to reach $30 billion by the year 2015.  Volusion’s Social Store allows merchants to extend their business to the ever-growing Facebook community by facilitating online purchases not only through their online store, but through their Facebook business page as well.

Your Facebook storefront is built according to the theme of your choosing, reflecting your brand and the feel of your website. Your Social Store only displays the products you wish to feature; you can highlight a “deal of the day” with or without displaying your other products.  You might also choose to reward customers with a percentage off of their purchase for “liking” your page.  Customers can add items to their shopping cart while on your Facebook page, and when they are ready to order, the process is completed on your main website in one smooth checkout process.  This is just one more way Volusion can help expand your bottom line.

If you would like to further explore the value of online selling using Volusion, contact ZestNet, Inc. for more information and a free consultation.

PART 2 of 3: VOLUSION VS. “THE OTHER GUYS”

by ZestNet on September 7, 2012, no comments

Whether you’re just beginning to dive into the e-commerce world, or you’re a veteran online retailer looking to switch platforms, Volusion has the ability to transform your business into a successful and streamlined operation. With an assortment of resources and services, and a variety of security and fraud protection items to select from, this shopping cart software provider has something to offer every merchant.

Throughout the company’s history, Volusion has racked up an impressive array of awards from industry experts such as Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, and Inc. 500. Considered the authority in e-commerce, Volusion is the winner of TopTenREVIEWS Gold award, which was given based on the software’s design, administration and inventory control, marketing, and security.

Using this e-commerce platform, your online storefront can be completely customized to adhere to your company’s branding, and can accommodate an unlimited number of products and categories. Volusion also utilizes Content Delivery Network (CDN), so wherever in the world your customers are located, your site is pulled from the server closest to them, which can make your site load up to 60% faster.  Volusion offers in-house credit card processing and a built-in Point Of Sale system.  It also assigns each transaction a fraud score, by examining over 15 areas in order to detect certain features and patterns linked to fraudulent orders.

Volusion provides many features that do not come standard with other shopping cart software. Retailers are offered the ability to maintain multi-language storefronts, daily deals, and product comparison.  You have the ability to offer your customers a loyalty program, where they can receive incentive points or cash in return for products.  Another unique feature is the “abandoned cart email” which allows you to send an email to customers who abandon their shopping cart, before completing a purchase.  Volusion does not charge transaction fees, unlike major competitor Shopify.  They also offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and of course, your online store will be fully search engine optimized.

If you would like to further explore the value of online selling using Volusion, contact ZestNet, Inc. for more information and a free consultation.

PART 1 of 3: BUILDING AN ONLINE STORE IS NOW EASIER THAN EVER WITH VOLUSION

by ZestNet on September 4, 2012, no comments

WHAT IT IS AND WHY YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS IT

This series will outline products ZestNet, Inc. can add to your website to enhance your online marketing capabilities. In this day and age, there is no reason to create products from scratch. There are excellent time tested products that can be integrated into your website for a highly reasonable cost.

With online sales growing roughly 20% each year, it is imperative that retailers take advantage of this sales avenue. Online shoppers are expected to spend a staggering $1.4 trillion by 2015. If your competition is merely a few clicks away from your target market, it’s doubtful your business will stand a chance, especially in today’s convenience-oriented society.

The good news is, building an online store is now easier than ever, and Volusion is just the tool to help.

Volusion has been around for over a decade, and is one of the fastest growing e-commerce platforms available today. They are a leading provider in shopping cart software, and offer a wide range of online services for retailers. This impressively versatile and user-friendly software facilitates in-house payment processing, shipping, tax calculation, security, and much more. It has been the e-commerce solution of choice for companies around the world such as 3M, Disney, Motorola, and the Chicago Tribune, and was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine last month.

Offering your merchandise through an online store can boost sales and enhance your customer’s shopping experience. By utilizing Volusion’s vast capabilities, you also have the ability to store and organize important customer data, which will allow you to streamline their future shopping, and more importantly allow you to target your marketing efforts with great accuracy.

Mobile commerce is just as important to a merchant’s bottom line as e-commerce. A recent study conducted by Arc Worldwide shows that half of all consumers are using their mobile phones to make purchases. With Volusion’s mobile commerce capabilities, you can provide your customers with a mobile-optimized version of your virtual storefront. Your mobile commerce site will be fully compatible with the widely popular iPhone and Android devices. This will allow consumers to browse through your products and make purchases whenever, wherever.

If you would like to further explore the value of online selling using Volusion, contact ZestNet, Inc. for more information and a free consultation.

PART 2 of 2: THE BASICS OF QR CODES

by ZestNet on August 31, 2012, no comments

 

In recent years, businesses have become more and more attracted to QR codes, their fairly large storage capacity, and the speed with which their content can be decoded. QR codes can lead customers to essentially any sort of content, such as webpages, coupons, contests, downloads, signup sheets, and more. The possibilities are virtually limitless, and companies are scrambling to capitalize on that flexibility.

Not only can some 2D codes be free to create, but to a certain degree, they’re also customizable. Companies such as Microsoft recognized that some may be aesthetically “put off” by the idea of using the stark achromatic codes on marketing materials. MS Tag Manager (a software program whose codes must be read by MS Tag Reader), incorporates logo and color into their designs. Ultimately it comes down to your stylistic preference, but this artistic flexibility should be weighed against the wider reach of standard QR codes.

Execution is critical. One of the most common mistakes in using QR codes is placement. Such is the case when ads are placed in subway tunnels, or in airplanes. Cell phone reception is spotty at best underground, and non-existent in the air. Something else to be cautious of is a QR code that is out of scanning reach. This has been the case when codes are placed on billboards, very high banners, and moving vehicles. Another common issue is a code that leads to non-mobile friendly content. Make certain that smartphones can display what you’re trying to lead consumers to. It is also important to make sure your linked content isn’t a waste of time. It should be relevant, and purposeful. Don’t use a QR code on your brochure to show store hours, when you could have just printed the store hours on your brochure. Think about the user experience as a whole.

Some companies are making excellent use of QR codes. In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, the Red Cross promoted their campaign using a red QR code in the shape of a cross with a simple “Help Japan Now” headline. Once scanned, the code directed the user straight to the donation page. Home Depot uses QR codes on their plant tags. A user can scan the code and instantly learn care-taking information about that specific type of plant.

QR code usage does not appear to be fading away. According to a press release last year, 2D code usage quadrupled, as over 20 million smartphone users scanned in a span of three months. Companies are discovering that using QR codes to easily connect people to specific digital content is extremely useful. When used correctly, their ease of use and ability to hold more information than traditional barcodes, make them a new and emerging marketing tool worth keeping your eye on.