When to send email campaigns for best results

As part of my routine for some of my clients, I am responsible for the creation and distribution of their email campaigns. I stumbled upon this useful post on Buffer Social by Belle Beth Cooper, highlighting the best times of the day and week to post tweets, Facebook posts, emails and blog posts.

Here’s an excerpt that I extracted for the purpose of focusing on email campaigns:

There’s been lots of research done on the best time to send emails, particularly in the case of email marketing. Some research done by Dan Zarrella from Hubspot broke down each time of day and worked out which type of emails work best for that period. Here’s what he found:

  • 10pm–6am: This is the dead zone, when hardly any emails get opened.
  • 6am–10am: Consumer-based marketing emails are best sent early in the morning.
  • 10am-noon: Most people are working, and probably won’t open your email.
  • Noon–2pm: News and magazine updates are popular during lunch breaks.
  • 2–3pm: After lunch lots of people buckle down and ignore their inbox.
  • 3–5pm: Property and financial-related offers are best sent in the early afternoon.
  • 5–7pm: Holiday promotions & B2B promotions get opened mostly in the early evening.
  • 7–10pm: Consumer promotions are popular again after dinner.

What I thought was really interesting about this breakdown is why each type of email is more popular at certain times. From 3–5pm, for instance, the reason people open financial and property-related emails is that they’re more likely to be thinking about their life situation and how to improve it. Understanding how these time blocks work can be a good start to sending your emails at just the right time.

And since 23.63% of emails are opened within an hour of being received, this is something we definitely want to get right.

For more general emails, open rates, click-through rates and abuse reports were all found to be highest during early mornings and on weekends.

How much do typos cost?

6433350979_6dc8523b87One thing’s for sure. Typos happen. No matter how cautious you are, no matter how many times you run spell check and proofread, one of those suckers will slip through.

Maybe that’s why whenever I catch a typo in someone else’s marketing I’m suddenly a little bit happier. Sounds a bit cruel, I know, but other people’s mistakes just makes me feel a little less alone in this crazy world.

In all fairness, not all typos carry the same weight of embarrassment. Some errors end up costing companies much more than shame.

Check out these 10 very costly typos

 

The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing

If the concept of content marketing still seems a bit wooly, you’ll love this detailed guide that Quick Sprout has created.  This useful resource is filled with practical, ready-to-use ideas that will help you to increase engagement and traffic to your website, and to drive sales.

From planning to writing to promoting your content, you’ll have handy information at your fingertips to be successful and prosperous on the Web — all in one place!

Whether you’re a novice or a pro, this guide provides tons of actionable tactics you can put to work today to begin engaging your ideal customers with high-value content.

Without further ado, view the guide now

Clean up your digital act

Social-Media-Trends-2014Earlier this year (February 5th to be exact), Technorati published its 2013 Digital Influence Report. The bold headline was quite clear that digital spending was not equal to the influence of blogs.

According to brand marketers, social spend in 2013 will increase substantially. Despite this increase, however, spending on social makes up only one-tenth of brands’ total digital budget. On the flip side, blogs still are one of the most influential mediums, ranking high with consumers for trust, popularity and influence. The disconnect between brand marketers and influencers is a result of a challenge they both face – a lack of uniform metrics to effectively measure the success of influencer marketing campaigns.

While preparing your marketing/PR plans for 2014, it’s important to take stock of what you’ve achieved this past year as you pave the way forward. Use Technorati’s report to see what you may have missed out on, need to improve upon, or perhaps remove because it doesn’t fit your brand or personal identity; remembering, for example, that you don’t need to be on every  social media outlet if it doesn’t necessarily fit your brand, or your efforts just don’t reap the rewards. Be realistic.

I recommend digital housekeeping at least annually, and what better time than the present?

Not sure where to start?  I can help!

What tools do you use to gauge where you’ve been and where you’re going for your online marketing/PR plans?

10 ways to ruin (and protect) your business’ reputation

Image Source: getsynchronicity.com

Reputation is everything when it comes to any business, but smaller businesses make take particular precaution. According to O2,

  • Seven out of ten customers never forgive a small business if they experience bad service
  • Over half of consumers believe all businesses, no matter what size, should have a website
  • Four in five now go online to research a small business before they use them

Here are some common yet easily preventable mistakes that can cause a small business’ reputation to crumble.

1. Making empty promises

Expect some serious backlash if you’re offering a warranty on your product without ensuring the permanent availability of its parts; or offering to fix an error that appears on a website you have designed that has since been managed by another party.  

2. Providing bad customer service – or no service at all

Gives the impression that either you don’t care about your customers, don’t know how to help them, or don’t have time to address their problems. This will cause customers to lose confidence in your company quickly. Make sure to allocate sufficient time and resources to customer service.

3. Lackluster updates

If your company is has joined social media, keep in mind that your fans are the best judges of whether a post is valuable or not, as they read hundreds of posts every day. Your posts have to resonate among your competition.

4. Lack of respect for timeframes

Basically, if you can’t deliver the goods, don’t give unrealistic deadlines. You should be at least on par with your competitors. Or, if timing isn’t within your company’s unique selling points (USP), highlight the ones that can help you win over potential clients. My favourite piece of advice that was given to me when I first entered the job market many moons ago, was to under-promise and over-deliver. If a project or quote will take you two days to complete, promise three days, and deliver in two. Always best to leave your clients pleasantly surprised than unexpectedly annoyed.

5. Debating controversial topics

Your customers will undoubtedly have differing views on politics, religion, or current events. Focus on keeping an objective view of these topics or anything that can isolate your stakeholders. Social media is too vast a platform to engage in topics that divert attention from your business or service, and will simply have a negative impact on those who want to business with you.

6. Unhappy workers

The online world makes it very easy to give people a voice, anonymously or not. This includes disgruntled employees. Treat these essential components of your business fairly and give them the opportunity to be heard the right (offline) forum. It’s equally important that your human resources department is equipped with information to protect both parties to avoid defamation.  

7. Constantly modifying your user interface

I think most of us can agree that there’s nothing more irritating than getting used to a certain platform or experience, and then having to get used to a complete overhaul – especially if it’s worse than what you started with. Of course, you will have naysayers either way, but if you keep challenging your audience, it’ll only threaten likeability (no pun intended!). So, try to stick with the tried and true, and make only necessary changes. After all, enhancements should make engagement easier, not more difficult, so keep that in mind.

8. Complaining

Bottom line, save your complaints for family and friends. Your customers don’t need to hear it, and chances are, they don’t want to. When you’re seeking a product or service, the last thing you need to experience is that disgruntled employee I talked about in #6.

9. Selling and communicating too much

There is a fine line between engaging with your customers and being down-right annoying. As a professional organization, daily text or email blasts will do you more harm than good. Eventually, people tune out, and you’ll never get them back. I once had the displeasure of dealing with a sales rep who would try to meet me for coffee on a weekly basis, or casually drop into my office assuming I had nothing better to do.  It got to a point where he got the best of my friendly demeanor and my dark side had to come out. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Plan your communication calendar and sales calls carefully so that you can monitor how often and much you are interacting with your clients.

10. Shock advertising

“Shock advertising or Shockvertising deliberately, rather than inadvertently, startles and offends its audience by violating norms for social values and personal ideals.”  Shocking advertising content may also entail improper or indecent language, like French Connection‘s “fcuk” campaign.  While recognized as a form of art in Poland, German and Dutch, it is still quite a sensitive form of advertising, so be sure to evaluate whether this is the right approach for your business before you employ it.

Your reputation is a delicate asset. Of course, there will be blunders, trials and errors along the way, but how you handle these blunders is what will ultimately help you realize your ultimate success or failure. If you spend too much time rectifying a problem that could have been avoided in the first place, you’re potentially denying new and fruitful opportunities, not to mention damaging the integrity of your business.

Andrea E. Antal is a corporate communications consultant for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), interested in marketing, public relations and the digital social landscape. She is certified in marketing communications from the University of Toronto, Canada, and has worked with a variety of leading brands. She currently lives in the Kingdom of Bahrain since 2010. She has a blog and you can find her on LinkedIn and on Twitter @andreaeantal

Content Marketing? There’s a checklist for that!

If you’re anything like me, you love checklists! There’s nothing more satisfying than accomplishing mini tasks within a larger project, and tracking results along the way.

Siege Media has come up with a handy dandy tool to help track your content marketing process at each stage, from idea generation all the way to post-launch.

You can also print and email it as needed.  Go to the checklist

SiegeMedia

Workplace fraudsters beware… We’re onto you!

Would you have assumed that small businesses (less than 100 employees) are more at risk for internal fraud than their larger counterparts?

The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Adam Courtenay recently published a stunning article entitled Top five frauds small businesses face, and it’s well worth the read.

Here are the top 5 fraud risks for small business from Courtenay’s article:

1. False invoicing – most popular with fraudsters is the payment to fictitious suppliers or making payments to valid suppliers but diverting them to the fraudster’s own account.

2. Transferring money by EFT to one’s own account – is on the increase in both small and large businesses as online banking technology is adopted.

3. Cheque fraud – this mostly incorporates writing cheques to cash, or overwriting cheques in the fraudster’s favour. The risk is heightened if the same person who writes cheques also completes bank reconciliations, which in small companies can often be the case.

4. Payroll fraud – especially if there is a poorly segregated, or larger base of between 70 and 100 employees. It’s easier for payments to go undetected if not properly scrutinized by someone other than payroll but with requisite knowledge of the payroll. Overpaying overtime is also a problem, especially in collusion with an employee.

5. Skimming/theft of cash. This happens in businesses with less formal receipting processes (the ability to receive cash without issuing a receipt), or where the receiver can manipulate the debtors’ ledger and apply other receipts to the cash transaction that was misappropriated (also known as lapping).

Read the full article: Top five frauds small businesses face

How would you handle the situation if you caught a colleague engaging in any of the above fraudulent activities?

Fear of communicating? You’re not alone

imagesThe fear of public speaking still outranks any other fear – including death.

Generally, a sense of fear is absolutely normal and healthy because it activates our “fight or flight” reactions, which can often keep us from getting trapped in threatening situations.

Where communication comes into play, we need to be able to address the anxiety that may prevent us from being able to connect  effectively with others

FDR famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” His wife, Eleanor, the practical lass, said “do one thing every day that scares you.” In her meaning, it’s about recognizing your fear and simply doing it anyway. Easier said than done for many of us.

I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret. I have an irrational fear of birds, also known as ornithophobia. To have such an illogical fear doesn’t bode well for me at all. I am a person who needs to have an answer for everything, doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, hates being made fun of, and generally, is pretty conscious of my actions and appearance. While I’m very outgoing, I’m very much an introvert (yes, it’s possible to be both). I also have an almost desperate need to be in control of myself and the situations that surround me at all times. Okay, I’ll move on before I start sounding nutty.

I decided to take good ol’ Eleanor’s advice last year during a trip to Italy with my husband. Sure enough, my fear was realized, as it had been several times before, when I found myself involuntarily and uncontrollably kicking, shrieking, and generally causing an embarrassing scene, at a quaint square-side café (causing myself physical injury, I might add).  Obviously, my crazy reaction caused a stir, striking up questions from the other patrons who genuinely wanted to know if I was ok; but were also curious to find out how I could possibly be afraid of birds?  On the flip side, I couldn’t believe that no one else was disturbed in the slightest by the massive flying rats (a.k.a. pigeons or seagulls – I can’t remember since I’ve completely blocked it out of my cognitive recollection), that were scurrying around their feet and randomly swooping in for a bite of whatever was within reach. The gentleman at the next table said, “If you admit that it’s irrational, you shouldn’t have a problem getting over it.” Yeah, ok. Now that’s crazy talk.

Regardless of your fear(s), you’re not alone. Here are some handy ways to conquer a variety of communication-related fears.

Presentations
Practice your topic and material in advance, preferably in the same place that you’ll be conducting the presentation so that the space won’t be foreign to you when you’re up there for the real thing. If you can, practice with a few friends so that you can also get used to making eye contact and they can give you honest, constructive feedback. Most importantly, they’re there to help build up your confidence.

It’s important to think positively by envisioning success, rather than thinking about your failure. Stop thinking, “this is going to be a total bomb.”

One-on-One Conversations

Often our fear of confrontation or having a conversation with somebody about a sensitive subject can be worse than the dialogue itself. We delay addressing the subject because we are waiting for the “right time,” but usually, that rarely exists. It’s better to just let it happen. You can gently precede with a text message or possibly an email, stating that you need to schedule a time for the chat. This way, the other person is not blindsided and can manage their reaction a bit better because you’ve already put the talk in motion.

Email Communication
We may fear that we’re not going to express something clearly, powerfully, or effectively in email. This is particularly true when we need to reply to an email which demands some time, thought, and consideration. Sometimes, it’s better to reply, simply stating that you’ve “received the message and will get back to them with a proper response by {insert reasonable time frame} with your thoughts.”

This will afford you time to draft an appropriate reply, with time to review, before you send it off, rather than taking an emotionally charged approach. Now, how many people are guilty of that!?  It’s amazing how some cooling time can make a huge impact on how you react and ultimately respond. Now, aren’t you the mature one?

There’s also nothing wrong with responding to an email in person if you feel it would be more productive. You can bring your draft with you to the meeting, and then send a follow-up email which confirms what the two of you discussed. Just because the person expected an email reply, doesn’t mean that’s how you have to respond.

Written Documents 
When we freeze up before writing a proposal or document we often call this “writer’s block,” and when it hits it takes no prisoners, no matter the content or urgency. It can strike at any time!

To start, especially with business proposals or essays, I like to get all my research out of the way, so that I’m effectively left with a huge pile of information. I pick apart the points and create a “story board” of how I’m going to lay out my thoughts, fill in the blanks, and then I get the momentum going.  Surprisingly, I’m usually left with quite a comprehensive document.

Find your comfort zone. I often find myself more inspired when I’m by myself with a bit of easy listening music in the background to help get my creative juices flowing better. Eventually I have to let my fingers do the walking on the keyboard, but staring at a blank screen is daunting. Each of us has to find a strategy through writers’ block that works for us.

Pushing through our fears in communication (and life) with small and calculated risks, is what helps us to grow. Take a moment and do a quick self-analysis in the above four areas and consider where you may be harboring some fears of communicating. Then commit to taking one small action toward mitigating that fear.

Do you have any particular fear that you’re keen to conquer (like me with my ornithophobia); or perhaps you’ve already proven successful at nipping it in the bud? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below!