Using Images and Graphics in Email – Dos and Don'ts

Image not found graphicAdding images to email, is obviously very desirable from a marketing perspective, as they add significant impact to newsletters. However, with an increasing number of email clients blocking images by default, their inclusion has always meant the battle to get them seen in your recipients inbox.Table showing how different email clients handle images as at October 2011 This is a battle that gets ever harder as more and more clients block images by default, so we thought it would be worth revisiting the issue. First of all, we though it would be good to give an up to date picture of the situation, and to this end, have found an interesting post on the Campaign Monitor website:

Image Blocking in Email clients

Of Particular interest is that fact that they list the current status re-image blocking for all the major email clients.

The post does go on to give some innovative (if slightly extreme) ways to get around this, including converting your images to a matrix of  HTML color blocks (Think 80’s video games and you will get the idea of what’s possible!).

More realistically, this issue need not cause too many sleepless nights if you follow the following simple rules:

  1. Don’t use image only emails as all your recipient will see is an empty box.
  2. Make sure the message is clear even without the pictures (Use the pictures to enhance rather than deliver the message).
  3. Make sure you fill in the ‘alt tags’, as these will display instead of the images until the images are downloaded.
  4. Use cascading style sheets (css) to style alt tags to give them more impact. (There is more on this in the Campaign Monitor post.)
  5. Encourage people to add you to their address book, as many clients, including outlook will display images by default if the sender is in the address book.

Most importantly, make sure your recipients value your messages by keeping them relevant & interesting, that way they are more likely to click the “download images” button, and get the full benefits of your design efforts.

Google+ Now open to everyone

Google+ Now open to everyoneI was about to make a post offering a Google+ invite to anyone who would like to try out this new social networking platform when the news came through that they had opened it up to everyone, so you are now free to add Google+ to your range of social network tools, but is it going to be worth it? With the backing of Google, I think it would be dangerous to ignore Google+ – and it does have some neat features. To date there has been a dilemma with the leading Social Media sites; should I be using it for my personal friends, my business contacts, or both? For many people, the sort of information and news they might share with friends is different to what they want to show on their work or business profile. Google+ offers the ability to split your contacts (friends in Facebook speak) into Circles, so you can differentiate between friends, family, work colleagues & business contacts etc. With features like this, and a promise that buisness profiles are on the way, it has to be worth a look as part of your marketing mix. To get you started, I have found this concise guide to Google+ that you might find useful:

How to get started with Google+ your complete guide

Although the guide talks about the requirement to be invited to join Google+,  I understand that this is no longer the case. You may have seen the animated blue arrow pointing to the new Google+ link on the Google menubar: Google+ link on the Google menu barIf you would still like an invitation to join, simply leave a comment on this post with your email address and I will send you one. I am sure we will be featuring Google+ in more detail in the coming months, but for now check it out and when you do please add me to your circle (duncanw@bsamarketing.com), as we will be adding our blog posts to our Google+ stream in due course. If you would like to talk through whether Google+ is right for you, please feel free to give us a call.

Keeping it regular – a key to effective marketing

Subscribers to Marketing Matters, the BSA newsletter may have noticed that they have been receiving it a little more regularly, and at the same time each week. Research shows this is a good strategy for email marketing, because people like regularity. It makes sense really. You expect the post to arrive at a similar time each day, weekly newspapers are published on the same day each week, and the news is on at the same time each day. So why should an email marketing be any different? It also helps to give gravitas to your communications. Sending newsletters regularly and consistently, shows that you value it and consider it a priority. Let’s face it, if you don’t value its contents enough to put time into sending it out regularly, why should any of your recipients! A good starting point may be to send your newsletters monthly. Pick a day of the month (eg last Friday of the month) and target to send it on that day each month. One hurdle to regularity is having good quality, interesting content. Here are some ideas for subjects to help you keep your newsletters regular:

  • Industry news – what’s happening in your industry that may be of interest to your customers?
  • Case studies – demonstrate how you have helped your clients?
  • Tips and advice – let people in on a bit of your experience
  • New services or products – It’s amazing how many of your contacts may not know your full range of services – again case studies are a good way to illustrate these.

Finally, a thought about how often to send your emails: Just because you have taken the decision to send your newsletter regularly doesn’t mean that you have to send it out every day. It is important to plan the frequency of your newsletters to match what you have to say. If you would like some help in giving your email marketing a little more structure, get in touch. We are always happy to talk.

Managing Multiple Social Media Profiles

For a while now, we have been encouraging people to make more use of social media in their marketing mix, but doing this can become an administration headache when you are trying to manage multiple profiles all with slightly different target markets & user profiles. With this in mind, we thought it worth devoting a blog post to this subject, so here goes. Laying the groundwork We would always advocate that you should have a central web presence that you are 100% in control of. This is usually going to be your website, and if that website is based on our favourite (and FREE!) development platform, WordPress, then there are some great tools for publishing your posts out onto social networks. The tool we recommend is LinksAlpha, coupled with the Network Publisher WordPress plugin. This combination enables you to link your website to your social networking profiles. Every news post that you put onto your website will be automatically published to your chosen sites. This creates a good regular “bedrock” of content going out to your social media audience, and keeps your website fresh with regular new content. Naturally, you retain full control to not publish particular posts or specify a particular phrase or sentence as the basis of your Tweet etc. Building on this foundation Once you have laid this foundation, the key is to accept that Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are different, they have different strengths and tend to be used by different audiences. The level to which this is true will depend on you specific situation, but a review of one client who is active on both Twitter & Facebook showed that less than 10% of contacts follow them on both platforms, suggesting that the two should maybe be treated separately. I am sure it is not unreasonable to extrapolate these findings to other social media platforms like LinkedIn. Once we acknowledge this, it would then seem sensible to have the flexibility to post to individual social media platforms separately, in groups or to all platforms as appropriate. And there is a great tool that gives you this flexibility. Hootsuite, is a suite of applications for PC and/or mobile, that allows you to manage your social media profiles in one place, and to post to some or all of them as appropriate. It also allows you to schedule posts, thus making the management of these account even easier. The whole structure If we pull all this together, we have a cohesive platform for delivering a manageable & sustainable social media presence that delivers regular, targeted content as efficiently as possible. Useful Links Network Publisher WordPress plugin – wordpress.org/extend/plugins/network-publisher/ Hootsuite – hootsuite.com

Develop your social media marketing with this great book

There is no question that Social Media is all the rage in marketing at the moment and there seems to be someone offering you their ‘blow-your socks off‘ services around every corner. Undoubtedly Social Media has a great deal to offer the SME marketer but, I feel we are better making informed decisions as to what is right for our business  rather than simply taking the pitch of the social media company salesman as an ideal solution. My normal approach: If in doubt, read a book…. After a fair bit of research, I came across: the Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder Kabani (she’s American but we’re none of us perfect!) If you want a practical review of the 3 leading social networking sites for business marketing Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, I recommend you take a look. As well as working in the context of practical business marketing (always good from my point of view) Shama is hands on with details of how to lay out your profiles and what to include (or not!) Most important, the book is written with the interests of the marketer/ business owner in mind. Shama talks about how you integrate Social Media into your wider marketing communication plan and focus on attracting more business. The book is available in many different formats. I read it as an e-book on my iPad where you get the added benefit of some integrated videos. As with any social media book, there’s always the concern that the book will be dated before the ink is dry. Shama has addressed that by creating the Zen of Social Media site where readers of the book can access updated information regularly. Whether you’re just getting started, or you already have a Twitter account and Facebook fan page for your business, you’ll learn a lot by picking up a copy of The Zen of Social Media Marketing.

Writing compelling copy

I have heard a few comments recently about how some people find it really difficult to write marketing copy and how this is causing their marketing to grind to a halt – or never even get going. This may not be the most cutting edge post on the BSA blog  but good content is a key component of effective marketing communication and I felt a few tips are in order. There is no question that some people are particularly talented wordsmiths who can command sizeable fees for producing what is undoubtedly highly compelling copy but not everyone has budgets that will stretch to employ a specialist. Writing effectively for business needn’t be the hurdle seen by many. By working to this well established template, you can produce good content for your Blog, Brochure or Business letter:

Attention – Interest – Desire – Proof – Action

 By following this model, you should be able to produce copy which will really get results.

Let’s look at each step in turn:

Attention First you need to get the readers attention, and to encourage them to read your message. Realistically you have the first line (at most!) to get your readers attention. You should aim to highlight the purpose of the letter clearly in the first line. A good trick is to present this as a Headline that can not be missed:

  1. A cost effective way to find new business
  2. Say goodbye to your …. problems
  3. A solution to ….
  4. Lowest prices ever on ….

There is only one purpose for this line, and that is to get the reader to read on, and not to throw the letter straight in the bin. Interest OK, you have the readers attention, and they are reading on. You now have to hold and develop their interest by telling them something more. This will normally be the first paragraph, and it should expand on the claim you made in the headline. If we expand on the first example above a cost effective way to find new buisness The first paragraph might be.

Finding new business can be a real challenge – but marketing resources are often limited. A highly cost effective solution is required. BSA Marketing have over 20 years experience in helping businesses implement effective marketing and generate new business enquiries on limited budgets.

If you have got it right, the reader is now interested in knowing what you have to offer, and you can move on to the next step. Desire Here you are presenting your offer, with the aim of reinforcing a need for your product or service in the mind of the reader. Continuing the example above this section might read.

How many potential customers have you met since you started your business?

How many are you still in touch with?

Yet any marketing guide will tell you that it is easier to get business from people you know than people yiou don’t!

At BSA Marketing we focus on working with clients to build and sustain contact with their target markets. By keeping in touch with your contacts you build awareness and ensure that you are in ‘the right place at the right time’ when opportunities arise.

Proof So you have got your interest, and laid out your offering, but why should they believe your claims? The next step is therefore to back up your words with some proof of your capabilities. This could be a statistic, a testimonial quote from an existing customer etc. Continuing our example: As one existing client puts it,

“Over the years we have worked with BSA, our customer base has consistently grown, without it costing the earth

Action If things have gone to plan, the reader is now asking himself  ‘I want to know more’. The final step is the Call to Action – tell the reader what to do next. The key here is to make it as easy as possible, ideally via email or your website or a freephone/low call number. Concluding our example:

For more details email me at davidw@bsamarketing.com or telephone us on 0845 050 1023 and find out how BSA Marketing can help you find more business. You won’t be disappointed.

Alternatively visit our website at www.bsamarketing.com for more information, case studies and testimonials.

Following these steps, should maximise the number of recipients who will read the letter, and thus should maximise your response rate.

Just remember, whatever you write – it must be Targeted and Relevant to your audience

 

BSA develop and operate web-based conference bookings management system

The Client

  • Longmark Tax Conferences creates and delivers a series of  specialist tax conferences at convenient, high-quality venues around the UK
  • As well as London locations, the programme offers professional tax specialists regional access to the latest tax-law developments otherwise only available in the capital
  • Conferences are attended by up to 150 delegates with top speakers from the Tax Bar and other specialist practitioners

The Problem

  • The conference booking management and administration had evolved from the original start-up and was handled manually
  • As the business grew, the manual systems were becoming increasingly time consuming and cumbersome to maintain
  • With a high reliance on manual, and often duplicated data entry, administration was open to the risk of errors and inconsistencies
  • With a significant demand for hands-on staff time, the conferrence administration was expensive to run
  • There was minimal integration between handling conference bookings and the lists used for promotion of conferences

The Solution When a key member of the administrative staff left, there was the opportunity to review the approach to conference administration. Having run the existing system for 3 months to build a thorough understanding of the processes, BSA was able to design and propose a more structured system based on a private, secure, web-based platform. The proposed system:

  • Handles bookings, invoicing and delegate administration
  • Significantly reduces data entry requirements and eliminates data-entry duplication
  • Automatically produces management reports
  • Simplifies communication with conference delegates
  • Facilitates efficient promotion of conferences:
    • Integration with a dedicated email marketing system
    • Data support for direct mail activity
  • Reduced operating costs by around 60%

The Benefits

  1. The new system paid for its development costs within 6 months.
  2. A single source for conference marketing data, bookings management, delegate administration and management reports.
  3. Data accuracy has been improved, with the system being quicker and easier to run.
  4. Better access to bookings management reports

…and a final word from Longmark Founding Partner, Mike Longman:

“BSA Marketing took the time to really get to understand our business. From the early days they had a clear vision of the benefits that an integrated online system would produce for us. They managed the development and implementation stages very effectively and have delivered a cost effective system that works well in practice  and can incorporate further functionality as needs and opportunities are identified.

BSA continue to work with us to drive our conference administration and email marketing.”

If you want to talk about the potential for practical, web-based data management in your business, please get in touch

Networking for people who don't like networking!

Networking is a great way of building business contacts but, I have to admit, I never liked networking. I tried it quite a few times over the years but there always seemed to be the same issues:

  • Everyone appears to know everyone else
  • It’s difficult to strike up conversations and even more difficult to try to turn conversation to business
  • Even when you do talk to people, it’s all about is there something in it for them?
  • There is pressure to deliver ‘leads’ to fellow networkers (how many new brochures can your ‘best friend’ with her new start-up business really need? Never mind afford!)
  • It never seems to be about just mixing with like-minded people, having a relaxed chat and (shock-horror!) enjoying yourself.

And yet networking can be a great way of getting out from behind your desk and getting to know people from your local business community – and building contact with people who might be able to offer you some real benefit either as a customer or a supplier…. …. surely there must be some other way? Now, I think I might have found it!

4-Networking is the brain child of Brad Burton, ex-advertising man, pizza delivery boy and ardent tweeter.

4-N rethinks the whole approach to networking and delivers a refreshing alternative to the normal networking pressure cooker. The ethos is real mix of business and pleasure and during each fortnightly meeting (based around breakfast – normally 8am to 10am) you get to sit down for 10 minutes with each of 3 fellow networkers to have a chat. Through this you quickly build ‘proper’ contacts. There are over 300 4-N groups all over the UK and members are encouraged to attend any meeting they like. Normally people focus on 3 or 4 groups that are local to them and it becomes are real pleasure to enter a room where you see new faces and old friends. But if you find yourself away from home on business (or holiday if you are really keen!) there is almost certain to be a local meeting where you can join in safe in the knowledge that you know the form and are assured of a warm welcome If you expect to march in and start signing up customers, don’t bother. The approach is encompassed in four words:

Meet – Like – Know – Trust

 

4-N is not about a quick-fix. It is about building sustainable business relationships – and friendships.

I went to my first 4-N meeting just over a year ago – and I’m still going – and enjoying it.

My main focus has always been wanting to meet decent business people and get to know them. Through this process I am developing business relationships both as a client and as a supplier but I am convinced that the key is to not be fixated on ‘must do business now!”

If you don’t like networking but want to get out and meet people, check out 4networking.biz and pop along to your local meeting – you will be welcomed to attend first time as a visitor.

If you are based in the Glossop/High Peak area and want to give 4-N a try, I attend several local meetings and I’d be happy to take you along as a guest – it’ll cost you £10 for your breakfast! Just let me know