December 14, 2014

Email Marketing as Easy as Webmail

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Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Chris AbrahamFor more than a decade, guys I respect like Chris Brogan, John Hlinko, Nicco Mele, CC Chapman, and Christopher Penn have been a broken record when it comes down to brass tacks: cultivating an email list is the only real reason to do social media marketing, content marketing, inbound marketing, guest blogging, or column-writing. I take that back, selling and making money is the only reason, at the end of the day, but just ask anyone in the world of fundraising, ecommerce, and sales the true value, in dollars, of a fresh, segmented, double-opt-in, targeted list, per subscriber, and I bet you’ll pop your wig (upwards of $3+ per-record for really desirable lists)

I have never started a list. I have everything else. I have never wanted to commit to wrangling the content needed to support a hungry list. Collecting a list is one thing but actually working the list, engaging the list, and setting aside the resources and creativity necessary to get an interesting, informative, compelling, well-written, entertaining, and salient newsletter out the door, checked and edited, every week is hard enough but actually shoehorning everything into a format that is both professional-looking and also deliverable.

I have gone through the discovery phase a number of times. I think I started, back in the day, with Mailman. I loved mailman because it was just an Open source Listserv software, not a proper broadcast list.. Of course, my next try was MailChimp.com, which is at least integrated with most every other app, but while it’s come a long way, it’s still more of a framework than it is a wizard.

I live in a world of Gmail,Wordpress and SquareSpace. I live in an app world. My tools should enable me to spend all my time writing content for my list subscribers instead of all sorts of post-production “splicing” — I want to do what I do when I blog: write it up, add some photos and a title, and then click [Post].

Easy peasy.

So, in my exploration, I have come upon GetResponse, which seems to me to be sort of like the SquareSpace of direct email. Everything’s drag-and-drop, everything is template-based. The job of a perfect app, in my opinion, is a service program that makes it so easy to get to 80% perfect — totally good enough — so that all the hard stuff — setup, design, branding, customization, production, post-production — out of the way as much as possible so that you and I can get to the business of trying to fit one or more weekly missives to my prospects, clients, fans, friends, and followers (okay, twice-a-month; okay, then, monthly).

Painless Email Creator — If webmail weren’t absolutely painless to use, nobody would use it. I believe that all web apps need to be as easy at Gmail or it’s a failure. As an app developer, you have about ten minutes of good faith and attention before a new user hits the eject button and leaves forever.  This all needs to be dead simple, template-driven, and every template needs to be professional, gorgeous, and good enough to only require a couple simple uploads, like a photo or two, a profile photo, and a logo and good-to-go. And, one needn’t care about file size, format, density, height, or width. You should be able to upload anything and the back end should be able to resize and optimize (hell, there are even server-based tools that can do amazing things with image-fu, including gifsicle, jpegtran, optipng, pngquant, etc.).  GetResponse seems to do it’s very best to get out of the way towards getting me on the road. Writing up newsletters for the wise and sage subscribers to whom I aspire to entertain, compel, and sell should not be any harder or laborious than writing a memo to my staff or writing my weekly blog post for Biznology.com. The easier it is, the more often I will engage with my followers and, presumably, the more top of mind Gerris and I will be (if I do my part).

Simple List Building — another thing that top-of-the-line email and social media tools offer is contact-slurping. First you register, then you validate your email, then Facebook, Stitcher, LinkedIn, and even Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail/Live.com/Outlook.com slurp up all your other contacts, onboarding them as completely, painlessly, and quickly as possible. GetResponse slurps up everything and anything from everywhere, it’s up to you to control your lust and be smart about who you really should be sucking into your list and who you should probably just leave alone. Do all 14,000+ of your contacts really want to be on your weekly Social Media Marketing and Digital PR missives? I mean, it would be pretty nice to start a list off with over ten-thousand members, but think about it: blowback’s a bitch. Don’t include anyone who might be interested in reporting your unrequested email to the spam police (called the “List Booster”)

Landing Page Creator — Chris Brogan, John Hlinko, Nicco Mele, CC Chapman, and Christopher Penn are smart. They realize that you can play patty cake with your subscribers and followers and friends on your email lists and social media all you want; however, if you want to convert folks to customers, you need to take them further into the funnel and a landing page is, generally-speaking, tailor-suited for selling and converting casual visitors to investors in your fruitful future of milk and honey.  But don’t be coy. A landing page is not the place to be all “shucks,” it’s where you can take the 7+ touches that your email marketing has proffered and turn that into a proper business relationship.

Autoresponder — I don’t use these very much but what they do do – if you’re the sort of person who is able to put the sort of work into setting up automated follow-up email cycles, birthday emails, 1-to-1 communications, and customized offers – is probably really very cool. I’m not that guy.

Responsive Email Design — this matters to me. Responsive design is one of those trendy buzzwordy trends you and I want to just dismiss out-of-hand — but don’t. It’s really something else. And, when it comes to grabbing peoples’ attention from wherever you reach them, you need it. What responsive design does is customize the look, feel, and usability exclusively based on what device, mobile or desktop, phone or tablet, big or small monitors, tiny iPhone 4 or phabulous iPhone 6+. So, since GetResponse offers responsive email templates, your email will always arrive premasticated bespoke for each and every one of your subscribers.  You can check it out by using their Inbox Preview tool which allows you to preview the email you’re sending out to make sure it makes a splash on as many devices, email clients, operating systems, and browsers as possible.

In addition to these basic and essential offering, GetResponse also offers segmentation of lists; A/B testing, allowing you to try out different subject lines, images, slogans, or introductory paragraphs to see if one design, subject line, or introduction works very much better or another. You can test a little bit of the list, see how it performs, and then run with the best-performing one for the entirety of the rest of the list. It’s very cool stuff.

I have always wondered why direct email tools had been so difficult to manage. Maybe it’s because a few people have been making a lot of money by being the experts in this too-complicated and obfuscated industry. Maybe it was to control the space. MailChimp has taken a few steps towards democratizing the process but GetResponse has made direct email marketing as easy and simple as joining Facebook or registering for Gmail.

July 23, 2014

Why Google Plus is more like a forum than a social network

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A Google+ affirmation graphic.

Tips on what works and doesn’t work on G+

This is the second of a three-part series on Google Plus. Also see:
Hey Google! Here’s why Google+ is still a ghost town
Why Google Plus is the antisocial network

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Chris AbrahamIt occurred to me, after spending a week deep-diving into Google+, that Plus is not a social network — or even a social layer. It’s a global reboot of the message board.

If you want to succeed, you need to forget about your friends and your family. Leave them behind. There are cooler, smarter, funnier people on Google+ than we have in our own lives now. Continue reading

May 12, 2014

Enlist the power of the crowd for your next live event

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How to leverage your audience’s Instagrams, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, Tumbls & G+s

Target audience: Marketing professionals, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, SEO specialists, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

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Chris AbrahamIcan’t believe you’re still hiring professional photographers with expensive DSLRs who shoot your events live but time-delay the results by days and weeks. Yes, I am looking at you!

I am not saying you shouldn’t hire a professional team for posterity, the annual reports, and your organization’s archive. But why are you time-delaying your fundraisers, events, conferences, gatherings, jamborees, and rally by hours, days, and weeks when you have all the cheap-and-accessible tools all around you to take dozens of “good enough” images real-time, allowing hundreds, thousands, and millions of friends, family, fans, and potential donors, clients, customers, attendees, and members to get a selective and well-curated peek into all the cool stuff you do every day, as it happens, live, en masse, over the course of the entire event, instead of only the tightly-edited album you may only share with your current friends and family, all in one dump, at one moment, well after the event is far in the rear view mirror? Continue reading

April 7, 2014

How to engage bloggers down the long tail

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Target audience: Marketing professionals, PR pros, brand managers, SEO specialists, businesses.

OMVS14Chris AbrahamIt’s essential for brands to have access to and a relationship with their current customers and clients as well with their fans, natural allies, their topical neighborhood, and their prospective and future clients. In a post-Internet world, this is best handled online, for efficiency’s sake.

Continue reading

February 18, 2014

Using brand ambassadors to complement your social media campaign

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Brand ambassadors know the difference between establishing contacts and spamming.

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Post by Andrew Lisa

Andrew-LisaIn the beginning of the brand ambassador movement, the job entailed – and still does, to a certain degree – “going out” and announcing the brand to interested parties. Social butterflies who enjoyed interacting with people, early brand ambassadors combed nightlife spots, events, conferences, and parties, bringing with them the news about the business, whose intricacies they made it their business to obsess over.

Modern brand ambassadors are much more technologically inclined, and they spend much of their time “going out” on social media. Continue reading

January 29, 2014

Social media may not be 100% free for much longer


Instead of paying for content distribution, look at forming meaningful relationships with your customers for free word-of-mouth advertising.

Rely on supporters’ genuine enthusiasm rather than on paid distribution

Target audience: Marketing professionals, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, social media managers, Web publishers.

Post by Brian Flax

BrianFlaxFacebook and Twitter are well-known social networking sites that businesses can easily use for their social media marketing campaigns. Although services like Facebook Advertising do come at a cost, most features on Facebook are provided free of charge – at least for now. It seems like every other week, we’re seeing a new IPO for a social networking site, meaning companies now have to appease investors and turn a profit, ultimately at the cost of users of the service.

In this article, we’ll take a look at social marketing sites that are moving away from offering free services and passing the cost on to business users. Continue reading