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How Tortuga Backpacks Increased Email Subscriptions 7x With Content Marketing

In 2009, Fred Perrotta and Jeremy Cohen backpacked through Eastern Europe from Germany down to the islands of Croatia.

What was the hardest part of the trip? Finding the right luggage for the trip, that’s what.

They knew they wanted backpacks, but didn’t know which one. They searched at the typical stores – REI and North Face – but couldn’t find exactly what they wanted.

Around this time, Fred read Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and was inspired by the message of the book – to live life on your own terms and start your own business.

With a problem identified and a framework for entrepreneurship in mind, Fred and Jeremy set out to create the perfect travel backpack.

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5 Common Email Mistakes That Are Costing You Sales (And How to Fix Them)

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How These 6 Companies Grew Huge Email Lists
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Photo Credit: Anonymous Account via Compfight cc

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7 Crazy Elements of Personalization in Pregnancy Marketing
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Photo Credit: David Salafia via Compfight cc

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5 High-Potential Marketing Experiments You Should Consider

marketing-tests

Button text changes, little color experiments, and tiny copy tweaks are great ways to take your email marketing to the next level by making small improvements on what you’ve already built.

But oftentimes you’re optimizing the difference between a 7.50% click-through rate and a 7.55% click-through rate. At the scale of millions of subscribers, that’s a huge difference. But that isn’t most of us.

Sure, every little bit helps. But the vast majority of us would be better off focusing on much bigger tests that could drive massive list and revenue growth instead of marginal changes.

There is no magic bullet in terms of what kinds of emails will work for your audience. You just have to start testing and figure out what sticks.

With this in mind, here are some idea starters for ways you can test your email marketing by really pushing it to the limit.

1) Test Your Discount Messaging

20% off and $20 off are the exact same thing if the purchase is $100. Free shipping could be a baseline expectation or a huge incentive depending on the product.

Usually the thing that gets tested is the dollar amount of the discount itself rather than thinking broader – would people convert more if it were messaged differently?

Test this in your subject lines and email content to see what works better.

2) Test Hero Statements on Landing Pages

According to Copyblogger, only 1 in 5 website visitors read the content of a webpage. 80% read the headline only. With statistics like that, it’s clear that your landing page copy shouldn’t be left to chance.

We’ve talked about establishing a brand voice for your marketing on this blog before. This kind of test is an opportunity to bring data into that process.

Here are some big ways you can test the messaging on your landing pages:

  • Positive vs. negative messaging – Would you rather have a 10% chance of mortality or a 90% chance of survival?
  • Loss-framed vs. gain-framed copy- “Free Shipping” vs. “Don’t Miss Out!”
  • Action-oriented vs. passive copy - “Businesses grow faster online!” vs. “Create a webpage for your business.”

3) Segment Your Lists By Gender

A 2007 study from Wharton Business School and Toronto Consulting Firm Verde Group confirmed what we have thought for years: Men buy, women shop. Some key findings included:

  • Women were more invested in the shopping experience. Men wanted to go to the store, buy something specific, and leave.
  • Women react positively to personal aspects of the shopping, like an interaction with a sales associate. Men valued more utilitarian aspects, such as free shipping and finding parking.

Heirlume is a jewelry retailer that benefitted from embracing these facts and segmenting their marketing efforts.

After a sophisticated email address analysis revealed that many subscribers were actually women – not men, like they initially thought – they segmented their lists by gender.

They began sending females more frequent newsletters and updates about new styles. For the men, they focused newsletters on holiday-centric promotions, the idea being that those subscribers were buying for others during those times of the year.

The result of the test speaks for itself: Heirlume averaged a 9% increase in open rates and a 3% lift in click-through rate from the campaigns.

4) Try a Daily Deal

Daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, Zulily can be a huge opportunity for small businesses. But they come with a few caveats worth considering before you dive right in.

A 2012 survey by Manta, an online hub for entrepreneurs, showed that 82% of entrepreneurs did not intend to run daily deal promotions that year. Only 3 percent said such campaigns have garnered them repeat business, while 11 percent said they either lost or made no money on the coupons.

 daily-deals-statistics

The “deal-breaker”, so to speak, is this: The Daily Deals didn’t bring in repeat customers.

So, here are two things to consider if you want to test this:

1) Is the buzz alone worth it?

Some people use these daily deals sparingly to boost site traffic, enhance brand awareness, or launch in a local market. However, these business owners negotiate deals with the sites that allow them at least to break even on each sale. If you feel that the PR value of the deal could be worth it, proceed with the deal.

2) How many times does someone have to buy something from you to be a “customer for life?”

If someone tries you once, will they come back for more?

Look at past purchase patterns. Figure out how many times someone has to buy from you in order to become a regular customer. If it’s only once, this could be an option for you.

5) Giveaways

Sometimes, it seems like people are giving away iPads like frisbees, and you have to wonder – are they getting anywhere with these campaigns?

Noah Kagan, CEO and Founder of App Sumo, recently wrote a fantastic post for Andrew Chen’s blog. In the post he shares some lessons from running more than 25 giveaways over four years at

For starters, here are some metrics from the results of these giveaways:

  • 528,238 total subscribers
  • $866,265.69 in revenue
  • $442,802.72 in gross profit*
  • Average gross profit per new subscriber is $0.83

*This does NOT include unsubscribes / email-removals or the costs of the giveaways.

He judged the success of the giveaways by gross profit per new subscriber. In that context, the biggest flop was a giveaway of two Macbook Airs. The biggest win was a giveaway of the “Monthly1k Entrepreneur Getaway”, in which one lucky winner got a chance to work one on one with Noah for five days to launch a new business.

Some of his main takeaways include:

  • Promote the giveaway with Facebook ads and buy traffic against the company you are sponsoring.
  • Do co-marketing for the giveaway.
  • Don’t do giveaways weekly. There’s a diminishing marginal return to giveaways, so do them quarterly.
  • Try to stick with giving away smaller items more related to your audience vs. something popular, yet broad, like a laptop.

Overall he suggests taking the leap and giving giveaways a try to drive both email acquisition and sales.

What other marketing experiments would you like to try? Let us know in the comments.

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Here’s Your Email Planning Guide for the 2014 Holiday Season

holiday-marketing-tips

For many online stores, the holiday season is the most important time of year. The three-month stretch from November-January is a critical season that requires a lot of planning, coordination, and strategy. If it’s all executed the right way, the results can be magnificent. This is especially true when it comes to email marketing.

Email volume goes way up during the holidays. However, open rates during this time period trend up along with email volume.

holiday-email-statistics

So, these efforts by retailers are actually quite well-placed. Shoppers are watching emails for new products and upcoming sales, so they are more receptive to what you send.

But, with a flurry of trends to keep up with, as well as your company’s own financial goals to meet by year’s end, it can be confusing where to start with your holiday email strategy.

With this in mind, here is what you need to do to get your 2014 holiday email marketing campaign planning on track.

1) Review These Industry Lessons From 2013

2013 was the year that gave us Blurred Lines and ombre hair, but it also gave us these marketing lessons from the holiday season. Let’s start by reviewing what we learned last year.

Black Friday is declining but Cyber Monday is growing.  Analysts have been saying for years that the importance of traditional, in-person Black Friday shopping is on the decline. According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, more consumers shopped online yesterday than on Black Friday and online receipts rose 20.6% compared to 2012.

Mobile is still growing. According to Adobe’s Digital Index, last year’s Cyber Monday sales totaled $2.29 billion, up 16% from 2012. Plus, IBM research says that more than 17% of shoppers placed their online orders from their mobile phones, which was a 55.4% year-over-year increase.

70% off is the new 40% off. The idea of paying full price now seems dumb to most consumers. A sale is not a sale anymore. It’s become the norm. Research from America’s Research Group reveals that early half of all shoppers said they were wait until the 70% off sales before they buy.

Shipping fails for days. Remember this? 2013 was the year of shipping delays, particularly via UPS due to a surge in purchases, bad weather, and a laundry list of other factors. This meant that many online purchases that were guaranteed to arrive by Christmas didn’t make it on time. Retailers like Amazon and Kohl’s, whose customers were affected, coughed up gift cards and shipping cost refunds to try and remedy the situation. However, many but shoppers were pretty upset. This could impact shopper behavior this year.

Gift cards! A survey from Nielsen reveals that gift cards were the number 1 gift on consumers’ wish lists for the 2013 holiday. Interestingly, many of them go unspent or half spent, but retailers are still predicting that busy shoppers will turn to this gift choice for years to come.

What does all of this mean?

Practical eCommerce predicts these main changes for the 2014 holiday season:

Mobile commerce, free shipping offers, in-store pickup promotions, and eCommerce videos will all be important trends for the 2014 Christmas shopping season, as small and mid-sized online retailers look forward to, perhaps, a 9-percent growth in sales.

Keep these lessons learned and predictions in mind throughout your planning.

2) Analyze and Plan Around These Key Dates

As a first step toward developing your holiday email plan, focus on email performance and sale trends from specific holiday promotional periods from last year.

These are the key 2013 holiday promotional periods to analyze and plan for:

  • Thanksgiving Mon 11/25 – Thu 11/28
  • Black Friday Fri 11/01 – Sun 12/01
  • Cyber Week Fri 11/29 – Sun 12/08
  • Cyber Monday Sun 12/01 – Tue 12/03
  • Christmas Mon 12/09 – Wed 12/25
  • New Year’s Thu 12/26 – Sun 01/05

Take a look at what you sent last year. Identify which emails worked best and determine which variables led to success. It’s also a good time to review the email tests you’ve run so far this year and identify winning tactics. Use this past data to establish benchmarks for open rate, click-through rate, and sales benchmarks that you will strive to beat this year.

3) Clean Your Lists

It is important to make sure you are sending your emails to people who want to get them. Be on the look out for subscribers who have been on the list for a while and have not opened or clicked these emails. From now until these holidays, you need to either re-engage these subscribers or get them off your lists. Try offering a small incentive to get them to open, click, and convert. If they don’t engage, you have a decision to make regarding whether or not you keep them on your holiday promotion lists.

4) Build Your Email Plan

  • Send date
  • Campaign
  • UTM parameters
  • Day of week
  • Time of day
  • Several subject line options. Do at least 3. Read more here.
  • List to be emailed
  • Description of creative needed
  • Metrics – goals, actual numbers, and % difference for open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and revenue

Use this planning spreadsheet to guide your internal strategy sessions and coordinate with vendors or internal copywriters and designers.

What email marketing tips do you have for the 2014 holiday season? Let us know in the comments.

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3 Tried and True Copywriting Tips For Your Emails

email-copywriting-tipsCopywriting.

If you’re an eCommerce entrepreneur and don’t necessarily come from a writing or marketing background, that word can stir up a lot of anxiety.

What is the best approach? Are there any data-backed methods that have been proven to be better than others?

Well, wonder no more.

In this post, we’ll look at some examples from other marketers and explain why these suggested best practices could work for your emails.

Let’s dive in.

1) Avoid Lengthy Paragraphs

People skim the internet. They don’t read it.

We’ve known this since 1997.

Want updated data? Well, in 2013, Chartbeat analyzed Slate and other websites and found that most visitors scroll through about only 50-60% of an article page.

So, write in short sentences. Break up your copy with lots of headings, line breaks, and bold text.

Test using visuals, gifs, and videos in your emails to see what drives the most click-throughs and engagement.

How it’s done:

Take a look at this example from Noah Kagan’s Summer of Marketing newsletter.

The emails themeselves are long, but they are broken up with short paragraphs and numbers.

Plus, the copy itself is funny and punchy, and it tells you an interesting story that keeps you engaged.

This shows that you don’t have to give up a long form approach to content in email. You just had to do it in a way that makes it easy for readers to follow along.

noah-kagan-email-copy-example

2) Write for Your Readers

How well do you know your audience?

The key to writing emails that your subscribers are excited about is to write about things they care about and write in a voice they can relate to.

Sometimes what your readers care isn’t directly related to the product you sell. It’s more about the lifestyle.

Chubbies, who essentially sells short shorts for frat bros, is a branding powerhouse.

Their brand is centered around weekend fun, in which you wear the shorts. They’ve built an engaged community (“Chubster Nation”) around this brand, and reinforce it with funny language in marketing copy across channels including email. “Boomshakalaka” and “Skies out, thighs out” are frequently-used phrases.

Their emails certainly promote new styles of shorts, but it’s more about what you do in the shorts (drinking beers, BBQ’s, etc…) and the lifestyle they represent than the actual clothing. They know their audience well, and know that their audience will respond well to this tone.

Take a look, and enjoy:

chubbies-email-example

3) Test Your Way to Consistency

Being consistent with your copywriting helps you build a rapport with your audience and develop your voice.

It also helps build anticipation of what your subscribers can expect to get through your emails.

For example, Clinique seems to stick with just a couple of things in their emails.

First, they consistently use free shipping to entice subscribers to make a purchase online.

Second, they leverage the incentive of “minis”, which are small versions of their products, or a free add-on sample to get people to purchase.

Take a look at some recent emails I’ve gotten from Clinique. Notice a pattern?

clinique-email-example

The challenge here for new online stores is this: In order to find the thing worth being consistent with, you probably have to be really inconsistent for a little bit. You have to try a lot of different stuff.

But, this testing isn’t just about copywriting itself.

For example, the testing of the free sample products is a lot about generating future sales. In the case of a makeup company, getting a customer hooked on a product through a sample is a perfect strategy for generating a future purchase.

The testing is definitely a lot of work. But the results of that testing can be quite fruitful.

What copywriting tips do you have? Let us know in the comments.

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4 Email Mistakes That Kill Your Open Rates

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According to McKinsey, email is almost 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter. Plus, with more than half of emails now opened on mobile phones, and smartphone ownership on the rise, it’s clear to see why email is hot, hot, hot.

This is great news if you’re an email marketer, but it’s not the best news if your open rates aren’t going so well. But here are ways you can fix this.

In this post we will give you some tips on how to avoid low open rates and lost revenue by highlighting some common email marketing mistakes. Let’s dive in.

1. Bad Subject Lines

No surprise here: email subject lines impact open rates.

Between work emails, app notifications, retailer emails, and transactional emails from online orders, your subscribers are getting more and more emails these days. Your subject line has to stand out in the inbox.

So how do you write a great email subject line that entices subscribers to click?

Here are a few email subject line tips to keep in mind:

  • Be concise – The best subject line copy is short (under 50 charactersstyle=”text-decoration: underline;”>),descriptive, and gets to the point. You want to strike that balance between sparking curiosity, but also describing what’s in the content of the email.
  • Avoid buzzwords - In our post The Ultimate eCommerce Spam Trigger List Guide, we offer a huge list of words that you should avoid. Some of them are obvious triggers, “cheap”, while some other ones may surprise you – like “password.”
  • Personalize Personalizing your emails with your recipient’s name, city, or the products they purchased is a great way make your emails stand out.
  • Test! – The only way to know what resonates with your audience is to test your emails. Every audience is different, and what works for one set of people will be a total disaster for another set of subscribers. Constantly test, tweak, and measure until you get the results you want.

Here are some email subject line mistakes you should avoid:

  • Long subject lines – Long subject lines get cut off when seen in the inbox, and they look terrible on mobile. Instead, if you need to include further details to explain yourself, use the preview text of the email for those details.
  • Getting too excited -  “SUPER SALE!!!!” or “OMG!!!” can get you in trouble. Find more creative ways to indicate a sense of urgency.
  • Offering stuff that’s too good to be true - Absolute guarantees and descriptions of your offer seem to be taken as too good to be true by spam filters. If it’s “free” or the “best sale ever,” or a “miracle solution,” it’s BS in the eyes of spam filters.
  • Using symbols - It’s tough because you want to have a reason to bug your recipients with an email. A sale is a good reason to do so. Communicating a sale with “$20 off” or “20% off” in the subject line is the easiest way to go. You just have to be careful so that you get don’t mixed in with the weirdos sending the “Dear Friend” emails and selling pills, who also tend to use symbols in their subject lines and have thus trained spam filters to be cautious of such things.

2. Not Segmenting Your Lists

According to eMarketer, 39% of email marketers that practice list segmentation see better open rates, 28% see lower opt-out and unsubscribe rates, and 24% see better email deliverability, increased sales leads, and greater revenue. Those are some pretty convincing statistics.
And yet, most eCommerce companies don’t pay enough attention to email list segmentation. They continue to send the same daily sales notifications about the same products to their entire lists each day.

This mistake has a domino effect.

Without segmentation, you will not be able to write subject line copy that is relevant to your subscribers. This affects your open rates in a negative way.

Your email list could be segmented by:

  • Location
  • Language
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Past purchase behavior

We recommend starting with segmentation by segmenting buyers from non-buyers.

This strategy worked really well for Klaviyo customer Top Streetwear.

They began marketing to their customers based on their stage in the lifecycle.

Top Streetwear came up with specific email strategies for engaged buyers and those who hadn’t bought before or hadn’t bought in six months.

It sounds complicated, but essentially all they did was concentrate their discounts/incentives on the less engaged audiences and focused their normal sales content toward the already engaged buyers.

It paid off big time. They achieved a 40% lift in revenue. Plus, they were overall sending fewer emails, which helped improve their unsubscribe rates and open rates.

Shadim Hussain, the company’s CEO, describes it best:

“I think sometimes even when you are interested in a product or site, when you get an email every day you tend to switch off and block it. I think the break in-between must have struck a chord with customers. It’s like if they are only sending me something a few times a week, what they take the time to send must be good.”

3. Skipping Auto-Responders

Automated emails, or auto-responders, are emails that are triggered by on-site events such as a product purchase. They can also be triggered by:

  • A visitor abandoning their cart.
  • A subscriber becoming dormant.
  • A subscriber purchasing a product that requires refills, such as contact lenses.

According to Smart Insights, these types of emails have been seen to yield 71% higher open rates and 102% higher click-through rates than non-triggered email messages. That’s because they are in line with your subscriber’s purchasing behavior. They are tailored to them like a one-off email, only done automatically. Triggered emails are segmented, relevant, and timely.

How to do automated email the right way:

Take a look at this email I received from Zappos. I was recently on their site looking at sneakers and I received this email, which is clearly targeted to my browsing interests:

 zappos-sneakers-email

4. Poor Deliverability and Engagement

If you are sending campaigns to a permission-based list, you are less likely to have issues when it comes to deliverability.

Recipients are expecting to receive emails from you, and are more likely to engage with the content. Segmentation and action-based emails also help with this. But if you aren’t doing these things, you could run into some trouble.

ISPs evaluate who you are sending to, how often, the number of abuse complaints, and open rates and click-through rates. They use all of these factors determine your sender reputation. This affects whether or not your emails are delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes.

Most of the time, if your email isn’t arriving at its destination, it’s because of poor reputation with ISPs.

But luckily there are many ways to ensure your email is delivered:

  • Only send to engaged users – Send to recipients who have engaged with your emails recently. More specifically, you can focus on people who have opened or clicked on your campaigns within the last six months. This will increase the likelihood that emails will land in their inbox.
  • Give recipients a preference center – A preference center is where a user can select which type of emails they would like to receive. It’s a good alternative to only giving the option to unsubscribe.

For example, this is what Piperlime’s preferences center looks like.

piperlime-preferences-center

What other email mistakes do you think email marketers should avoid? Let us know in the comments. 

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How to Use Dynamic Tags to Personalize Your Emails

Several years ago, jewelry retailer Helzberg Diamonds tested personalization with their email marketing. The team created a promotional email that spelled a subscriber’s first name by using images of Helzberg’s charms. They animated the charms to swing back and forth on a necklace in the email.

The results of the personalized campaign speak for themselves: Helzberg enjoyed a 288% lift in sales as a result of the campaign.

We talk about the value of personalization a lot. We’ve gone over how to segment your email lists for maximum impact, and to appeal to where people are in the buying journey. But there is so much you can do after you segment your lists. You can take your emails to the next level and make your emails relevant for the individual subscriber by pulling in specific information about them – their name, products they’ve purchased, etc.
In this post we’ll go through how that is done and give you a few ideas for how this could work for your email marketing.

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How Blogging Can Drive eCommerce Sales

What’s just about the most common marketing advice these days?

“Start a blog.”

While it’s great advice and content offers many benefits, it doesn’t come without some drawbacks.

Blogging is Time Consuming

I’ve been doing the blogging and content marketing thing for about six years. One thing I can tell you: It just takes time.

It takes about three hours to research, write, edit, and format a blog post. (I write mostly B2B blog posts, so I can only speak in terms of those.)

That doesn’t include the work that goes into developing an editorial calendar (a schedule of posts for the next month or so), which is important to have if you’re coordinating with more than one writer or need to “sell content internally.”

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