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How to Keep Your Email Content Fresh

Keeping Your Email Content Fresh

1920 703 Colin Smith

Email marketing is an effective way to engage with your customers, drive traffic, and increase sales. In a previous blog we talked about the benefits of making your emails visually appealing, but what about the meat of it? It’s not easy keeping your emails full of fresh and creative content, but your audience sure will appreciate the effort. Here are some new ways to add content to your email.

Video

It probably seems like videos are everywhere you look, and that’s because they get people’s attention. They are visually stimulating, interesting, and they provide a great opportunity for your company to try something new. Whether you make a fun video about the history of your company, find a creative new way to announce a new product’s release, a useful tutorial, or a personal way to meet the team, videos give you a lot of options to branch out. Plus there’s no better format for your company’s personality to shine.

Reminders

A friendly reminder is always acceptable because your intention is clear. Have an upcoming event or a sale? Keeping your customers up-to-date is a genuine and thoughtful way to reach out. The key here is to not flood their inbox. Certain reminders won’t pertain to your entire mailing list, but for the most part your customers want to know what’s going on.

Progress Updates

Non-profits, small start-ups, and large businesses can all benefit by keeping customers in the loop. It can make for a fun way to roll out a product, or just so customers can see how well your company is coming along. People like being a part of success, so share yours with them.

Get Social

An email campaign dedicated to building your social following is clearly self-promotional, but if you are effectively using your social accounts then there’s a good chance your customers will be interested. Share examples of what they’ll see if they decide to follow you, and include some buttons to make it easy for them.

Collaborate

Use your mailing list as a place to get exclusive email content. Collaborate with another company to come up with creative, fresh, and interesting content that aligns with your audience while exposing them to something unique. No two collaborations will be the same, so your content is guaranteed to be original. Plus, the added exposure will be mutually beneficial.

The main takeaway is to keep things interesting. If your email marketing is becoming redundant, then it will become forgettable. You’ll lose the interest of your most loyal customers, and risk diminishing a valuable avenue for engagement. Before you click send, ask yourself “Would I want to open this?”

How To Create Well-Designed Emails

842 452 Colin Smith

A few months ago, we did a post for our favorite Attention Grabbing Email Marketing Campaigns. As was mentioned by a few team members (myself included) a well-designed, eye-catching email is something that we found to be the most attractive aspect of different campaigns. Being able to grab someone’s attention is the first step in getting the engagement you hope for in email marketing. But what makes for a well-designed email?

 

The goal is to motivate, not intimidate.
When we talk about good email design in a marketing sense, we are mostly referring to design that marries form and function. The reason this is so important is because it will motivate action, leading to a higher conversion rate. If an email is designed well, a viewer will clearly and calmly be able to locate and utilize a call to action, understand the incentive or promotion, and know who it’s coming from. As a marketer you want to make it as stress-free and appealing as possible. The consumer assumes all of the risk: lost time, doubt in a company, or doubt in security. Using design appropriately can reduce these concerns, and bridge the gap between you and your customers. Here are 5 ways to create an effective and attractive email:

Example Email from IFTTT

Example Email from IFTTT

 

  1. Use a Header– Put your logo or company name at the top of your email, making it clear who is sending the message.
  2. Create a Hierarchy- Just like any other form of content, having a hierarchy allows a reader to skim and quickly decide whether they are interested or not. It also helps to break up your content (someone is more likely to skim or ignore a large block of text.)
  3. Easy to Navigate– If a reader wants to learn more on your site, make it easy for them to get there. The easier you make this, the more likely you are to see conversions. One of the best ways is to have a Call To Action that is pronounced and clear.
  4. Use Imagery-The power of a picture has been praised repetitively. Using photo and video assets will always help. But it is important not to overcrowd and clutter with visual aids, using only what you need will also keep the file size down.
  5. Less is More- While this is usually true in most of design; it especially applies to email design. Having a clear message, promotion, or incentive tells your viewer exactly why you were contacting them. Keep your email simple, legible, and organized. This is the best way to get the attention you deserve for your content.

 

On average, viewers spend around 15 seconds looking at marketing emails. With such a small window of time to make the right impression, use your space wisely. The less clutter, excessive content, and clickable areas there are, the easier it will be to navigate and understand.

Break Through Writer’s Block by Pre-Writing Your Content

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Having a great idea for a post is a huge first step, but then you actually have to write it. Imagine that.

So what happens when you sit down with your great idea, your blog title or ebook subject and you proceed to stare at a flashing cursor for the next several hours with nothing to show for it?

It’s ok. Writer’s block happens to all of us. And it can stem from a number of things like distractions, being tired, being hungry and so on. But so many times writer’s block simply means you’re not ready to write yet. Now this doesn’t mean you sit and let the idea age like a good bourbon, no.

You can break through writer’s block by pre-writing your content. You address it. You walk up slowly, remove your glove one finger at a time and slap writers block across the face and say, “I accept the challenge.”

Here’s how to pre-write your content in order to break through writer’s block:

Talk it out

Tell somebody about your great article. Tell them what it’s all about. No one around? Tell your dog. Tell your cat. Tell yourself in the mirror. The goal here is to make communicating your big idea more casual. To take the pressure off yourself. Plus, sometimes you just need to hear the information out loud.

Write Down the Key Points

After you talk it out you still need to get it down on paper so you don’t forget it. Almost like an outline, quickly jot down the key points of your article. This is the basis for its existence – the what and why. The foundational ideas. For this article as an example I wrote down:

  • The idea that walking away from writer’s block doesn’t have to be the answer
  • A revival of preparation, the old fashion article outline
  • Take the pressure off of the content writing
  • Organizing all those swirling thoughts and giving them purpose

Now, what’s the benefit of the content?

Great, so you have those big ideas down. Consider those the veins for your paragraphs but now they need some life’s blood and some purpose.  This is the big value statement for what you want this piece of content to be to your readers. For me for this post it was:

“To act as a framework and plan of action for not only overcoming writer’s block but creating better content because of it.”

Give It a Voice

We talk about voice a lot here at Shout Out, more in the context of overall brand voice, but individual pieces of content can have variances in voice as well. Almost like accents or dialects. Consider this the best way to deliver your great idea when considering audience and context. For the article, as with almost all of our posts, I’m aiming for: Friendly guide. Semi-professional. Conversational.

So there you have it; pre-writing. Informal, low pressure, yet still making progress. Let us know how it works for you or other steps you might add to the content pre-writing process.

photo credit: Drew Coffman

Is There a Formula for Viral Content?

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Over $46,ooo and counting for potato salad on Kickstarter. For potato salad.

Zack (Danger?) Brown decided to make some potato salad and enlisted the help of Kickstarter to raise funds. Whether it was the sheer curiosity of where it could go, or the entertaining description and goals set by Zack, or that hungry people really just wanted some potato salad, word of the Kickstarter project spread. Fast.

Of course it’s not just potato salad that has this effect on the internet and all too often, a highly popular event online sparks a number of copycats. So it brought up the debate with our team, is there a formula for viral content?

Luke Pierce

In my opinion, there is a formula for going viral. That formula is:

1. Be genuine.
2. Be in the right place at the right time.
3. Don’t TRY to go viral. Just hope.

With point number three lies the problem. How can you get something to go viral without trying? The answer is, you really shouldn’t even try. If we are talking marketing for a company, you time is much better spent doing the tried and true processes that have been proven to work.

Nathaniel Seevers

I distinctly remember at one point last year sitting in a local coffee shop waiting for a client to arrive, enjoying my coffee, checking emails, when a group of folks came in and sat at the 4-top table near me. They ranged in age from early 20s to late 40s by my estimate. They sat down with their drinks in buzzing conversation, full of energy. They’re conversation bubbled over about a video sweeping the internet. I soon realized the group was made up of marketing professionals from a local bank and what they were discussing was how they could make they’re own Harlem Shakes video so they could go viral.

If there ever was a formula for creating viral content “me too marketing” was never part of it and never will be. All one can hope do to is start with a compelling message/product/story/introduction and then think through the best method for delivery that matches the purpose of the brand.

Gretchen Ardizzone

There’s no true equation as to what will make content go viral. I think if you look at some of the most notable things that have gone viral though, there’s an emotional element whether it be something genuine, laughable, memory invoking or just plain unexpected.

Many viral creations are like a splash in the pan though. They’re hot for a minute and then gone. And does it really help you achieve your goal? One of the viral campaigns that comes to mind is the Devil Baby’s Attack promoting the movie Devil’s Due. Promoters used a possessed animatronic baby to scare passersby on city streets. The video spread like wild fire online, but in the end the goal was to generate interest around a movie, and unfortunately the ticket sales weren’t there.

If you are successful with having your content go viral, the big question is what next? If you can manage to tell a story with your content then there’s a repeatable factor that can be recreated if done right and not worn out. I think of some of the successful campaigns like Old Spice and Dove who started with one campaign idea, but then realized if they could capture those same elements but in a different context, then they had a winning formula.

One of my favorite examples of a piece of content gone viral is Warby Parker’s Annual Report. Why would an annual report ever go viral? Because they made a story of 365 days of the company culture and events in a visually engaging way. It’s been such a great tool that they’ve continued to invest in its development annually.

Shannon Blair

Lebron just announced about 3.5 seconds ago that he will be “coming home” to Cleveland, and the news has already gone viral around the world. I don’t believe there is a formula for anything to go viral, but we are humans, we are constantly starved for entertainment and information. Quite frankly, we can never get enough of it.

At this point we have all seen just about anything and everything go viral and such content is helped by trending features on Twitter and Facebook that provide this information daily. There are no answers to why a hamster eating a piece of pizza goes viral, and there never will be. All we can do is sit back and enjoy it.

 

Photo Credit: zhouxuan12345678

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz

880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

If you’re a young brand looking to grow, but don’t have the capital to pay big bucks to get your product out there, word of mouth marketing in today’s terms might just be the right thing for you. What am I talking about? A blogger outreach campaign.

According to Nielsen Media, there are somewhere over 181 million blogs on the Internet with 6.7 million people publishing content on blog sites. That’s a whole lot of blogging going on, and a whole lot of opportunity to create some buzz. Using a blogger outreach campaign as a part of your marketing strategy can be beneficial to create brand awareness and exposure to relevant, targeted consumers.

Why does a message coming from a blogger sometimes have better reach than your marketing message? Trust. 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs, and 61% of online consumers have made a purchase based on a blog’s recommendations (Source: BlogHer). One of the ways that you can utilize this influence is by getting your product in the hands of these bloggers to conduct a product review and post content around their experience with the product. Here a few recommended steps for a successful approach:

Establish your goals: First things first with any marketing initiative it’s important to understand what the goals are for your outreach campaign. Do you want to increase foot traffic to your website, gain a following in social media, build brand awareness, introduce a new product, etc. Understanding this upfront will give you something to benchmark and determine if your strategy was a success.

Find the influencers: Next, establish your criteria for qualified bloggers. You can use Technorati, Alltop or even Google’s blog search to help you locate them. Use tools like Pagerank and Alexa scores to determine what kind of traffic the identified blogger is getting. This will help you save time in the long run. Why waste energy pitching to someone who isn’t relevant or the end result won’t get your reach.

Establish rapport: You don’t ask someone out on a date before you get to know them. Establish rapport first before you approach. This means following them, engaging with the on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), commenting on and promoting content that you like (honestly).

Outreach: After you’ve had some time to “get to know” them, you’re now ready to reach out. This is a big step though. Depending on how well known the blogger is they might receive thousands of emails just like yours. Your message needs to be genuine, personal to them, and creative. Something has to make them want to read it. If it sounds like a blanketed message, then chances are you’re just wasting your time. This part of the process does take time, but it’s worth it to put in the extra effort to connect with someone. That’s what will get you noticed. The key is not to be long-winded. Yes, what you’re sharing is great, fabulous and awesome I’m sure, but anything too long might get ignored. Be concise and to the point as far as what you’re asking for them to do.

Provide incentive: Be prepared to offer them something in return. What are you going to do for them that gives them a reason to even respond? Are you offering a complimentary product, are you willing to sponsor/fund a post? Sometimes bloggers (especially with greater reach) will only participate if you’re willing to provide a financial investment. It’s important to know upfront if that’s something you’re willing to consider. And if not, it’s good information to know and could be useful in the future.

Follow up: So you’ve sent your message. Next requires follow up, but make sure you’ve given them appropriate time to respond. Pay attention to automatic messages. If you get something stating, “Due to a high volume of amount of emails,” you have to take into consideration that if might take them some time to even see your email. Wait a week. A lot of bloggers won’t engage until the follow up response. Planning your blogger outreach campaign well in advance will help allow for the turn around time it sometimes takes to get a response.

Support content creation: Once someone has agreed to participate, make it as easy for the blogger to develop his or her content. Provide them with information about the product. Is there a unique backstory about how it was created? If so, make sure to share, consumers care not only about the product, but a good brand story can help capture someone’s attention. Are there specific product features or benefits they need to know? The blogger may not know these intimate details so make sure you include. Many times bloggers will take their own photos of the product, but sometimes supplying additional imagery helps to support content. They may be featuring one product style, but if you want to show the breadth of a product line, that can be communicated through an additional photo.

Track your results: So your product has been featured, it’s time to track your results based on what you established as your goals. Monitor your website traffic, social media following and engagement. Make sure to thank the blogger for their efforts, you could be establishing an ongoing relationship with a blogger that may be interested in featuring your product more than once as you introduce new styles, limited edition collections, etc.

Be prepared for the negative: Something to keep in mind with this type of program though is you don’t have complete control in the process. You have to be prepared to hear the negative. There’s always a possibility your product won’t be a hit with everyone. It may mean the product isn’t right for them or it could be an opportunity for improvement based on some honest feedback.

Consider alternative outreach opportunities. Blogs are not the only platform brands have an opportunity to conduct outreach. Each social media platform (Google+, Twitter, Instagram) has influencers that create a potential for you to connect your brand with consumers. An interesting Instagram example was one carried out by shoe brand Puma. With a goal to increase their followers the brand reached out to influential Instagrammers and sent to events (even some overseas) equipped with a camera to document “awesome places that shoes take you.”

Another unique example is how Audi utilized Twitter. After a raving Audi fan created a hashtag, #WantAnR8, around her desire to acquire an Audi R8, the brand made notice and gave her an Audi for the day to experience, document and share with her Twitter community. Audi promoted the event via twitter and encouraged others to do the same, resulting in a giveaway of eight more R8s. What’s interesting about that example is that the consumer created the opportunity, Audi was just smart enough to be listening.

The more unique the approach, the greater opportunity your outreach will standout in the crowd and gain a following. Start by considering what platform for outreach might be appropriate based on where your customers are spending their time online.

photo credit: Mylla
modified by Shout Out Studio

Hands typing

How to Deliver a More Concise Online Message

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Let’s get to the point.

Editing in writing and design is often the most critical step. In this age of instant information, instant access, instant gratification, here today gone yesterday attention span, it’s important to be concise with your communication.

Helping companies, and ourselves, get a message across we often find the need to streamline large blocks of copy. Even when there’s consensus that it should be done it can still become a laborious task where pride and feelings can become the defendant of sentences.

It’s easy for all of us, in the middle of a writer’s high, to fail to think about how we ourselves engage and buy online. Our time is precious. Our attention spans short. Our desire for the right information, right now, is great. Yet when it’s our turn to hit the keys, one more paragraph is no problem.

What if we could approach the online communication process better right from the beginning? What if thinking inside the box, a box, helped us to develop better content?

Here are some thinking and doing tips for delivering a more concise online message: read more

Movie Quotes to Market BY

Movie Quotes to Market By

880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

We all love movies, but what we love even more are those memorable one-liners that you hear repeated time and time again. Earlier this week as we were reciting some of favorites (of course with our best celebrity impression), we thought why not turn this into a useful exercise. So for this week’s Free-for-all Friday, we’ve selected our favorite movie quotes and what that means for marketing. Here are some Movie Quotes to Market By…

Luke Pierce

“You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.” – The Princess Bride
There is nothing more annoying than seeing slogans, ads and propaganda that is chock-full of trendy buzzwords that A) don’t apply to the message and B) have to be defined before you can understand the message. Trust me there are enough words in the English language that are available to help craft your message and get your point across. Use plain speak everyone understands.

“Damn! We’re in a tight spot.” – O’ Brother Where Art Thou?
You know why you’re in a tight spot? It’s because you are approaching marketing as a last resort. There are too many companies out there that read more

Finding Your Company Voice

Finding Your Company Voice

842 452 Shout Out Studio

Is It Hanks?

If you had to choose a public figure or celebrity who most represented the company you work for, who would it be? The team at Shout Out Studio once asked themselves this very same question.

As a new member of the team, I am still getting a feel for who we are and how we talk about ourselves as a company. During my first internal marketing meeting I asked if there was a simple statement or question we could ask to make sure we’re staying true to our brand and consistent in our tone-of-voice. Someone suggested, “Who is our brand?” Immediately I heard them respond, “Tom Hanks.”

At first I thought of it as foolish being of the same vain as middle school games such as M.A.S.H. and that fortune telling game that uses a folded up piece of paper with numbers on the outside. However, the more they explained why Tom Hanks represented our brand, I found my perception of the exercise swaying towards relevancy.

Now, I wasn’t there for the original conversation, which I can only imagine consisted of intense debate about how Tom’s performance was better in Big than in A League of Their Own, or how the best movie of his career was hands down Saving Private Ryan rather than Forest Gump, but I know that they discerned two important characteristics of Mr. Hanks and the characters he plays; he is genuine and helpful.

For one reading this, these specific characteristics shouldn’t matter; rather it is the simplicity of the statement that is most important. The group narrowed it down to two specific characteristics, and like any good design there is beauty in simplicity. Don’t get caught up in how silly the exercise feels or the subject matter. Focus on the simple direction and the insight it gives to the company’s brand identity.

Tom Hanks represents Shout Out Studio’s most valued characteristics of our brand voice, thus giving us one simple question to ask before we send a tweet, write a blog post or give advice to a client. Is it Hanks?

So, if you find yourself asking, how do we go about finding your company voice? You just might find this exercise will provide clarity and consistency to your brand and communications.

Photo credit: Howard Lake

Image of businessman with a megaphone with title of Some Comanies Just Shouldn't be on Twitter

Some Companies Should Not be on Twitter

880 461 Marsh Williams

No matter how much we want to think otherwise, some companies should not be on Twitter and we’ve seen more than our share of people that burn out because they are just working against a system that doesn’t support social media for marketing. A lot of times these issues have nothing to do with social media per se, but has to do with the overall company culture.

Well, taking a cue from Letterman, here is our take at considering whether you should be paddling at all…

Reason 5: Your CEO asks once a month what Twitter is.

If your executive team doesn’t understand Twitter then they will never understand expending resources to use it.

If you think it’s valuable and it is helping build your brand, business or customer base, then prove it. Do the math and build a compelling argument for Twitter. If you can’t demonstrate its effectiveness, then maybe you should be asking yourself why you’re on it. read more

Image of clothing tag "One Size Fits All"

Is Marketing Automation Right for My Business?

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

With a number of marketing automation tools out there many companies are asking, is marketing automation right for my business? It’s a valid question. There could be a ton of benefit. There could also be a ton of cost with little return if you’re not ready.

To really understand when the time is right to implement marketing automation help it’s good to be clear about the real goals and the real purpose of using one, and that is to help you close business. If you haven’t had the time to get familiar with programs like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua, Optify and the like it may be easy to hear “marketing automation” and picture a glorified scheduler. “I can schedule my tweets, and my blog posts, and my email newsletters, and whatever right from one system!”

And, if you were to think that, read more

Image of LinkedIn pen

Basics for Getting the Most from LinkedIn

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Building a Solid LinkedIn Foundation

Just because you have a presence on LinkedIn doesn’t mean it’s doing things for you. LinkedIn is considered the world’s largest audience of influential, affluent professionals in one place, and they are gaining one new member every two seconds. Use this almighty information to your advantage. Here are straight forward, but often overlooked, basics for getting the most from LinkedIn.

4 kick-ass things you should be doing on LinkedIn?

Share Information.

You find a cool new tool that helps your business and you keep it all to yourself. Well, that’s selfish. Share it! And don’t do that ultra-mega social media blast unless it is earth shattering information. Pick what info you are going to share on which social network.

Why? Because each platform could mean a different type of audience for you. An awesome Ryan Gosling meme will be loved and shared on Facebook but on Linkedin, that’s not what your audience is looking for. And don’t just share your own articles, curate great info your connections and groups can use. read more

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