December 14, 2014

Email Marketing as Easy as Webmail

girlSortingMail

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

Five-things-Google-Plus-changed-in-our-world
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

April 21, 2014

How to make the most of LinkedIn

Networking

Why LinkedIn deserves a second look by social marketers

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

Chris AbrahamPromoting yourself, your brand, your products, your services, and your clients via social media is what we’re about here at Socialmedia.biz. Social media marketing is what I have been doing for my clients, my business, and my own brand since 2003.

In spite of all those campaigns, all those clients, and all those hours, I tend to spend all of my energy on blogs, bloggers, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and even reddit, message boards, fora, and email lists before I spent time on maybe the most powerful top-down influential platforms in the social media- and social networking- sphere.

LinkedIn is not just an optional social network to use when you’re either between jobs or looking for a business upgrade. LinkedIn isn’t simply an SEO placeholder for your brand, your company, or your name. And, even if your job is not in sales, business development, or business to business marketing, there’s a lot going on on LinkedIn you’ll surely want to spend some serious time exploring. Continue reading

December 12, 2013

Say hello to the power of online communities


A one-minute video explaining Google+ Communities.

5 ways to join or create thriving communities

Target audience: Business executives, entrepreneurs, digital marketers, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers.

Guest post by Rohan Ayyar
E2M Solutions

rohanOnce upon a time, we’d listen to our friends and family as we go about making decisions for a new purchase. We would ask, they would tell us, and we’d then make a decision, having taking those inputs into consideration. While this might still be the norm, the Internet has ushered in a new trend: family and friends aside, we have communities and platforms teeming with people with varying levels of experience, knowledge, and insights on all things under the sun.

As the Internet evolved, small forums mushroomed, and eventually burgeoned into thousands of niche communities. Once concentrated around geeky “interest groups,” these communities have now matured to the point that they can make or break a business. That’s why community management is now a part of a smart content marketing strategy. Continue reading

December 9, 2013

7 emerging social media marketing trends for 2014

pinterest-vine-gplus
Pinterest, Vine and Google Plus: three of the sites to keep an eye on in 2014.

Predictions to help businesses stay ahead of the curve

Guest post by Nikhil Jain

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

nikhil-jainWith 2014 knocking on the door, we thought it was time to put down the eggnog and take a hard look at what’s going to be hot on the social media marketing front the coming year — and what won’t be hot.

Before we do, let’s take a quick look at a roundup of trends that have originated from the most popular social networks this year. Continue reading

November 8, 2013

PEER mixes the best of LinkedIn & video chat

peer

Startup seeks to make online networking more efficient

Ayelet NoffAs professionals who live in an era where everything is social, where most things we do matter only if they are liked, shared or reposted, it is no longer a cliché to say that “it’s all about who you know.” Regardless of the profession we chose for ourselves, or the industry we want to master, we all learn at one point or another that personal networking is a crucial element in the process of expanding our business presence and reputation. The real question is simply how to make the networking process more efficient.

Take, for instance, the world of communications and PR – a world that is near and dear to my heart. Everyone from large brands to small startups wants to get their names out there, and social media has made that process easier than ever before. Yet, we still travel the world to meet people, to attend conferences, to chit-chat and build connections. Why is this real-world connection still so important considering the power of social media and other technologies? Continue reading