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Influential versus influencer

July 6, 2021

Over the past few years, the rise of influencer marketing has changed the landscape of endorsement or testimonial advertising. Twenty-plus years ago, celebrities endorsed products and services, but it was usually in a TV spot or print ad, and we immediately understood that they were being paid for that endorsement.

Today, YouTube or Instagram “celebrities” weave their endorsements into their lifestyle photos, and even if they mark their video or post with one of the approved hashtags, things get a little murky. Many influencers make millions in exchange for conspicuously using their supporters’ products.

There are a few challenges with today’s version of influencer marketing.

  • It’s out of the price range of most brands. If you want the endorsement of one of the top-performing influencers, you’re looking at a seven-figure budget.
  • There’s liability in the association. Most of these influencers are young, and they have access to a ridiculous amount of money. That combination often leads to very bad and very public mistakes that often splash upon their sponsors.
  • Most professional influencers endorse many products and services. So you’ll never be their sole focus.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about influencer marketing for your company, product or service. You just need to broaden your viewpoint.

Somewhere along the way, many marketers forgot the objective of working with an influencer. It’s not just about getting Instagram or YouTube celebrities to post about them. The real goal is to influence an audience to increase their interest in your brand and, ideally, become a customer. That is what smart marketers hope to accomplish.

Given that goal, let’s think about who a potential customer would trust enough to make a purchase based on their recommendation.

Most of us are more likely to listen to someone we know or trust — family, friends, co-workers or other people in our world. This is word-of-mouth marketing at its finest. But WOM is just another form of influence marketing. We are easily influenced by those we know in real life.

Beyond that, we trust people whom we have deemed an expert because they consistently produce information that we find valuable. Think of your favorite YouTube amateur chef or an author whose nonfiction book became your guide and who still creates content you enjoy.

As we listen to the podcasts or read the books produced by these subject matter experts, we come to know and trust them. They weave bits of their life story into their content, and pretty soon we know if they have any kids or love Hershey’s Kisses. They feel very familiar to us.

One of the other reasons we trust them is that they don’t make their income by being internet-famous. They’re experts at their craft, and as a part of their own marketing, they’ve built an audience that appreciates their expertise.

And it’s audiences like that where you can flex your influence marketing muscle. There are experts out there who have built an audience that directly aligns with your marketing goals. These experts are influential, but they aren’t influencers in the current definition of the word.

There are some significant advantages to spending your influencer dollars with these subject matter experts who often fly under the radar because they don’t aspire to wear the influencer label.

In next week’s column, we’ll explore some ways you can ferret out these micro-influencers who have already gathered the exact audience you hope to connect with and have already built a trusted relationship with them. We’ll explore how you can partner with them to benefit your brand, their audience and even the influencers themselves!

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Are all of your clients the same?

June 29, 2021

I can’t imagine a business that would answer yes to that question. Even if they all come from the same industry, our clients are still quite different and are looking to us to solve specific challenges that matter deeply to them.

Which is why it’s interesting, and in many cases, a little short-sighted that we often pursue all of our prospects in the same way, with the same message. While there is value in mass marketing at the top of the funnel, you should be talking to them about precisely what they want to know as you learn more about a potential customer.

This is easier to accomplish when you’re chatting with the potential client on the sales floor or in a sales conversation, where you can ask questions and determine where they’re at in the sales cycle and what is explicitly on their mind.

But, you don’t have to be actually speaking to your prospect to know what product or service they’re interested in. If your website is more than a brochureware site and has some helpful content, detailed product or service information, and simple FAQ or a blog that is active and focused on answering the kinds of questions your prospects are asking – you can get a pretty good sense of what’s on their mind.

If you’re using a marketing automation tool, you can identify and track those web visitors.

You can see:

  • Which pages captured their attention and for how long.
  • How many different pages they visited.
  • How often they keep coming back to your site.
  • Which pages they returned to multiple times.
  • The length of time they spent on the site and the pattern of pages they visited.
  • Their email address or, at the very least, the domain (often the company name) of their email address.

Much like following them around a showroom floor, this data allows you to get a sense of what is on their mind and what they’re finding valuable.

Most marketing automation tools will also give you a lead score based on the visitor’s behavior that will help you identify which of your site visitors are further along the sales funnel and might be ready to engage in a sales conversation.

Many of your web visitors will not be in the market to buy on that very day. But, if you started an email drip campaign or served up digital ads related to their interests, you could nurture that lead for as long as you needed to and be ready to engage in a sales conversation when they’re ready. With each new visit from a specific prospect, the software will adjust the messaging you’re putting in front of that person. Much like you would in a face-to-face conversation, the tool is “listening” to the prospect and then aligning your next response based on what they heard.

No more generic messaging that is the same for everyone. Your marketing can now be responsive on a visitor-by-visitor basis and allow you to focus on the issues that are top of mind for that prospect.

That same marketing automation tool will be able to tell if that particular prospect opened the email you sent or engaged in one of your digital ads. All of that data continues to influence the lead score, so you can see which of your prospects are getting closer to making a buying decision.

One of the first steps to making someone know you care is acknowledging them as a person. For most businesses, the data is there that will help you speak to every web visitor like the individual that they are. But you need to know how to mine and use that data to create a valuable and helpful interaction.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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The most important rebrand conversations

June 22, 2021

In last week’s column, we acknowledged that when most organizations think about announcing a rebrand, they often emphasize the wrong place. We worry about the public unveiling and often underestimate the importance of the internal conversations that need to happen first.

If you’re a publicly traded consumer goods company like Coca-Cola, then that’s a different story. But for most companies, what will make or break your rebrand is the people closest to you: your employees, key customers, board members and, if you’re a nonprofit, donors. You can’t afford to get those conversations wrong.

The first step is identifying your talking points. Remember that your internal audiences have a connection to the old name. No organization goes through a rebrand without some very good reasons. It’s time-consuming and expensive. If you’ve embarked on this journey, you have ample reason to take it on. Now you need to convey that to your organization’s most prominent advocates. Help them understand why the name change is best for everyone, including them.

Odds are your new name honors your company’s past as well as looks into the future. That’s part of the story you need to tell. Communicate your enthusiasm and confidence in the new name, and then give them some time to absorb the news.

For employees, depending on the size of your organization or the role each person plays, you’ll want to have several different levels of conversation. In some cases, it really needs to be one-on-one. In other cases, it may be department by department or an all-company meeting.

Key customers or donors also deserve to hear it face-to-face or, at the very least, with a Zoom meeting or phone call. They’ll appreciate that you’re acknowledging their importance to the company by extending that courtesy to them.

Hopefully, it goes without saying that these internal conversations should always happen before the official, public announcement. You don’t want it to feel like it was an afterthought to share the news with them.

In most cases, a company’s senior leadership or board has been dealing with the rebrand discussion and decision for a year or more before they’re ready to reveal it to the rest of the organization. Depending on the reason behind the change, it may have been sudden for you, or you might have had months to ruminate on the idea. Be patient and give your team a little bit of time to get used to the idea if this is the first they’re hearing of it.

You also want to involve your employees in the public announcement and in promoting and protecting the new brand. Invite them to act as brand advocates. Odds are they’re more likely to interact with clients and vendors, so it’s critical that they also internalize the talking points about the change and are prepared to tell your story.

Your internal audiences are also your eyes and ears as you begin to roll out the rebrand. They’ll hear what customers are saying about the change. Be sure you create ways for them to share that information with you. They’ll also notice all of the places where the old logo still exists and needs to be swapped out. The more aligned you are as a team, the fewer bumps your rebrand will experience.

Long after the general public has moved on from your rebrand, your internal audiences will still care about it and be carrying the torch for you. You want them to celebrate the change in a loud and proud way.

To create that reaction, be sure you invest the proper amount of attention and time in this mission-critical audience.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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We’re changing our name – why isn’t everyone cheering?

June 15, 2021

There are many reasons why an organization would change itself over the course of its history.

There might be a merger (think FedEx Office, formerly known as Kinkos), or the name may be outdated or even offensive (think Aunt Jemima). In most cases, the organization has evolved enough that their original name just doesn’t quite fit anymore.

This is a huge deal for the organization. It can take a year or two to identify the right name and execute the legal due diligence to protect the name. From there, the company needs to communicate with all of the internal stakeholders and help them not only to understand the need for the change but to be excited by it. Depending on the organization’s structure, internal stakeholders will be the entire employee base, the board of directors, the customers, and, if you’re a nonprofit, the donors and volunteers.

After all of that work is done, the organization needs to decide how to unveil the new name to the general public.

And this is where it can go awry very quickly.

Unfortunately, most organizations invest 90% of their time and attention on the public unveiling when really it shouldn’t be more than 10-15% of the total effort.

Why? Because the truth is, the general public is not the critical audience for this news. They don’t have a vested interest. They’ve probably never engaged with the company, and the name change isn’t something they care about, other than as a point of temporary interest.

To an outsider, this is like a young man who is heading off to college declaring that he doesn’t want to be called Bobby anymore. He wants to go by Robert because it feels more grown-up.

Bobby’s family and friends will do their best to change how they address him, but underneath it all, he’s still the same person and the name change is just another reminder that he’s becoming an adult. It’s a surface change to them.

It’s not that the company’s name change isn’t important. It’s just not that important to them.

Who it really matters to are the people who know and love the organization.

The cost of getting that time and attention equation backward is pretty significant. When you have a group of people who are very invested in the organization, who have strong feelings for the brand, and who care very much about how the brand serves its customers, you don’t want to under-communicate with them.

You also want to orchestrate those conversations carefully. This is not a mass email sort of announcement. The people who have proved their loyalty to the company deserve better. Depending on your organization’s size, you might hold in-person department meetings or, at the very least, a company town hall to share that you are changing the name. More important than the fact that you’re changing the name is why you are changing the name.

The timing on this is critical. You can’t tell your internal audiences about the rebrand on Monday and announce it to the world on Tuesday. In most cases, you need to give them a week or so to process.

But if this is a top-secret rebrand with market implications, you need to change your strategy. Have those internal conversations, tell them that a name change is coming and the reasons behind it. But don’t tell them the name. You have to assume that the day your internal audiences hear the name, it is now public knowledge.

Next week, we’ll cover how to structure those internal conversations and how to articulate the reasons for the change in a way that will have everyone on the same page.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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How resolute are you?

June 8, 2021

It’s mid-year, and most New year’s resolutions have already gone by the wayside. Studies show that one of the reasons we don’t achieve those January goals is that we tend to set unrealistic targets. They’re so daunting that it’s easy to lose motivation.

When you want to stop smoking cold turkey or lose 100 pounds or have a book written by the end of February, it’s easy just to give up if you slip a time or two.

Instead, those who resolved to do at least one 30-second plank, one sit-up, reduce their cigarette consumption by one cigarette a day, or put away a single dollar in a savings jar are much more likely to be successful in the long run.

Marketing is no different.

If you kicked off the year with an overly ambitious marketing plan and you’ve already hung it up because you couldn’t keep up, don’t throw in the towel. You just need to back off from your goals a little bit and add new tactics, layer by layer.

There are a few isms that threaten our ability to execute a marketing plan. If your marketing is feeling more like a weight around your neck than smooth sailing, perhaps one of these is to blame.

All or nothingism: This is the New Year’s resolution challenge. You create an elaborate marketing plan that would take a team of 10 to launch and maintain, and since you can’t pull that off, you pull the plug.

The fix: Identify the one marketing tactic that you feel confident you can sustain all year. It might be a weekly blog post or even a Sunday night tweet. No matter how small, commit to doing that for a month. When that becomes super easy and a habit that you never miss, add another tactic. Consistency outweighs sporadic quantity every time.

Perfection paralysism: Most marketers fall victim to this ism now and again. It’s why it takes you two years to update your website, or you never get that newsletter launched. You can’t quite pull the trigger to go live because it isn’t pristine.

The fix: No marketing tactic or tool is ever done today. Even an e-book or white paper needs updating. And that’s certainly true for more dynamic marketing tools like a website. You need to get past the idea that your marketing needs to be perfect. Your goal should be a minimum viable option, and then once it’s out in the world, you can keep improving it.

The calendar conundrumism: Much like diets, we seem to think marketing tactics should always be started on a Monday or the top of the month. We act like day traders, waiting for the perfect moment. Which means we wait.

The fix: Don’t let arbitrary moments dictate your marketing calendar. If you’ve produced something that you know your prospects and clients would benefit from, release it into the world. I’m not suggesting you don’t have a marketing plan, complete with a timeline. But don’t let it get in your way.

As marketers, we have plenty of external hurdles we need to clear. We need to avoid adding obstacles of our own creation to the mix. The good news about these isms is that we can remove them as quickly as we allowed them to form. The common denominator in the fixes is taking action. If you find yourself stuck because of one of these self-imposed beliefs, remember that the escape is to keep moving.

One of the truths about marketing in 2021 is that nothing is permanent anymore. Everything evolves or gets swapped out. So unless you’re shooting a Super Bowl spot, don’t get in your own way more than necessary.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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What’s your video strategy for 2021?

June 1, 2021

Video, when done right, is dynamic, engaging and helps a business break through the clutter. It used to be that producing a video was time-consuming, expensive, and there weren’t that many channels for sharing the finished product.

Today that is definitely not the case. An organization has infinite possibilities in terms of where to use a video these days. Your own website, landing pages, social media, email, ads, trade show booths, your lobby, employee and client onboarding, and virtual conferences are all smart choices. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Beyond the channel possibilities, there are also the power and versatility of video. It is attention-grabbing. You can deliver information effectively and efficiently, and your audience gets a sense of your brand’s personality. All of that builds trust with your audience.

Over the years, we’ve covered the know-like-trust model many times. No one buys anything of significance without knowing, liking, and trusting you. Video done well can deliver that in spades.

Here are some statistics to strengthen the argument:

  • A minute of video is worth 1.8 million written words (Forrester Research).
  • 90% of consumers say video helps them make buying decisions, and 64% of consumers reported that seeing a video makes them more likely to buy (Forbes).
  • When video is present on a landing page, conversion increases by 80% (Hubspot).

Not sure how to use video in your business? Here are some approaches to consider.

Business overview: This is a first-person introduction to your business, your products and services, and your brand. Some business overview videos are you on camera and then your voice-over B-roll footage or still photographs and text. You could also set up an interview-style shoot with the company’s leadership to talk about how you serve your employees and customers.

Testimonials or social proof: Clients raving about you or case studies that demonstrate how you saved the day are incredibly compelling storytelling that video delivers beautifully. You can shoot these on location (or even on Zoom) or use voice-overs while you show your product or service in use.

Teach: One of the smartest marketing tactics out there is to share what you know generously and frequently. When you help someone without asking for anything in return, you forge a relationship long before they buy from you. This could be a single video or a series on your industry, an aspect of how your potential clients could be more successful, or anything else you know they need to learn.

Explainer: The explainer video has become much more popular and affordable in recent years. Most businesses use animation to create a video that introduces or explains a complicated process or idea. This is the one style of video you probably can’t do on your own. Fortunately, there are amazing resources that make this a very affordable option for even the smallest businesses.

Live videos: Up to this point, all of the examples are videos that are shot and edited before anyone sees them. But if you’re brave enough to take the risk, live video brings many benefits. It’s interactive and it gives you the opportunity to answer questions, get feedback and really get to know your audience. Live video works best when you go live on a consistent schedule so your audience can plan on joining you.

There are very few marketing tactics that I would say every business should be folding into their marketing plan, but I am hard-pressed to think of a business, big or small, that couldn’t be putting video to work to grow and strengthen their bottom line.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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The online consumer’s mindset

May 25, 2021

Even if you do not sell a single thing online, odds are:

  • You have a website.
  • People are “shopping” you on that site, even if they know they can’t buy there.

As consumers, on average, we now make between 70% and 80% of our buying decision online, even if we know we’re going to visit a brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase. Google and research partner the Behavioural Architects recently released a study on how decisions are made online.

When considering a purchase, consumers fluctuate between two mental modes. In the beginning, as they are considering the possibilities, they are in an exploration mode, which is an expansive activity. At some point in the journey, they shift to a more evaluative mode, which is all about reducing down the choices. Google refers to this state as the messy middle.

According to the research, brands have a significant advantage if they begin as first-choice. But if they fail to communicate their value proposition in a compelling manner during both the exploration and evaluation cycles, they run the risk of being knocked out of contention.

The study explored how behavior is influenced by six biases:

  1. Category heuristics: key product specs that simplify decisions.
  2. Power of now: the longer you wait, the weaker the offer becomes.
  3. Social proof: the power of recommendations and reviews.
  4. Scarcity bias: as availability decreases, desire increases.
  5. Authority bias: trust and expertise can sway decisions.
  6. Power of free: a free, even unrelated, gift with a purchase is a motivator.

When making a purchase, consumers seek out category and brand information in multiple locations, including search engines, social media, aggregators and review sites. They bounce back and forth between the exploration and evaluation stages until they make a final buying decision.

Which of the biases you lean on the most will depend on whether the purchase can actually be made online. If you’re selling ag equipment, the power of now is going to be less influential. But reviews and having an expert’s endorsement may be much more significant.

One of the more interesting aspects of this study was how the researchers were able to sway a buyer’s decision to a fictional brand that had no brand equity when they magnified one or more of the biases listed above. What that means for us is that we have to be mindful of how we’re leveraging different triggers, or our next buyer could be lured away. It also means even if you’re not the category leader, investing time, and energy into really understanding and wooing online tire kickers who are still in the exploration stage can win their ultimate purchase.

A key takeaway from this study is that brand-building is vitally important, but it’s not enough in an online environment. You will enjoy a definite home-field advantage if you’re the market leader. But you still have to communicate your value proposition in a very compelling way if you’re going to secure the sale.

The opinion of others (both reviews and authority endorsements) clearly plays an important role. Highlighting both directly on your site will reinforce the idea that you’re still in the running as the consumer is shifting into evaluation mode.

The results of this study remind us of two very important marketing truths. There is no such thing as set it and forget it anymore. You must keep revising your site, looking for new ways to leverage the biases to your advantage. For every entity out there, having a website built for your best-fit potential buyers is absolutely critical whether the website visitor is a frequent customer or is just beginning to learn about your brand.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Email’s role in your sales funnel

May 18, 2021

In last week’s column, we covered the power of email and some of the ways we could improve our use of this tool in 2021. I promised that we’d talk about the role that email plays in each segment of the sales funnel, and that’s what we’ll cover in this week’s column.

Before we can talk about the funnel, we need to talk about what you’re going to send. If the plan is only to send sales notices and product promos, don’t bother. Your audience will hit the unsubscribe button in a flash.

Think of your email as your best portal to creating a relationship with your buyers and potential buyers. Like any relationship, it’s about being interesting and valuable to them. When businesses create a newsletter, they often emphasize the wrong part of that word. It’s not the news they crave; it’s the letter. The getting to know you and your company part. If you want them to stick around, you must create a connection.

The top of the sales funnel is all about attraction and awareness. In this phase of the funnel, the prospect doesn’t know you or your company, and odds are you aren’t aware of them either.

Many companies will offer a lead magnet (downloadable information) to capture email addresses. You might also attract them to you via social media, advertising, re-targeting, etc.

However you get their email, the next step is critical. Creating a memorable first impression.

Your welcome email needs to bring value, a sense of who you are and what they can expect. Don’t try to sell anything in this email. Just create the connection.

The next phase of the funnel is what you could call the mushy middle. They’re not newbies to you anymore, but they are not ready to buy. The biggest mistake you can make at this stage is to hard sell. Many of your email contacts will remain in this phase for years. You need to be ready to provide value for as long as it takes.

In this phase, you are consistently helpful. You teach. You share resources and tools. You answer questions. You can soft sell, and when someone clicks on one of those links, they’re indicating to you that they’re ready to move into the next phases of your sales funnel – consideration and conversion.

Once someone has raised their hand and indicated that they’re ready to learn more about what you do or sell, they’ve dropped into the next phase of your funnel. Typically, in email, this is done when they click on a link to learn more about something you’ve mentioned in your newsletter or email blast.

Now you can begin to talk more explicitly about what you sell. But it should still be done from the “how can I help them be better at their job or make their life better today” point of view. This is where you ask them to move from email to another form of communication by filling out a form or picking up the phone to schedule an appointment, or maybe go right to purchase.

The phase of your sales funnel that most businesses forget about is the post-sale phase. This is where you move from a transaction to a relationship based on loyalty, and if you do it well, advocacy, where your best clients are also your best marketing.

In this phase, think about exclusive offers, insights you don’t share publicly or exclusive events.

This is where you make them feel loved and appreciated.

Email is an essential element throughout your sales funnel. But being mindful of where you and your audience are at will help you craft the right message for the right time.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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CMOs are at risk of missing their revenue targets (research report)

May 11, 2021

RisingAboveFray_Infographic[2] The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, produced in partnership with Televerde, published a new report, “Rising Above The Fray: How Marketers Can Right The Revenue Ship.”

The new report details how the self-reliant buyer and a chaotic, digital-first customer journey have flipped much of the sales action to the top of the funnel, making marketers responsible for nearly half of a company’s revenue. Yet scarce resources, mediocre data skills, and a skeptical CEO threaten to undermine marketing’s efforts.

The insights are based on a survey of over 150 brand leaders and in-depth interviews with executives from companies including Cisco, F5, Pitney Bowes, Five9, PepsiCo and Henkel.  Download the full report at https://cmocouncil.org/thought-leadership/reports/rising-above-the-fray.

Rising Above The Fray highlights the pressure marketers are under to grow revenue. They face many challenges, including the need to show marketing attribution to revenue and make investments in data analytics and MarTech pay off. Here are a few of the major findings:

*   63% of marketers say they’re under very high to extreme pressure to deliver revenue growth

*   53% say they’re only moderately confident or worse that they’ll meet their revenue targets

*   57% think their CEO is only moderately satisfied or worse with marketing’s performance

“What can marketers do to improve their odds? With limited resources, marketers need to go deep on a handful of strategic initiatives. Digital experience, content strategy and omnichannel should be top priorities,” said Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council.

Marketers must close a data literacy gap inside marketing and make better use of customer intelligence to engage and acquire new customers. To this end, marketers are increasing investments in MarTech aimed at leveraging data, while AI promises to bring speed and scale to the data-insights-action process.

Data-related key findings include:

*   85% of marketers have data literacy gaps inside their teams

*   79% are only moderately successful or worse at leveraging data for customer segmentation

*   73% are only moderately successful or worse at applying data analytics for customer insights

*   75% are only moderately successful or worse at actioning on customer insights

“There are many touchpoints along the journey to revenue that need to be appreciated, measured, and refined to get to the revenue outcome. Leveraging data-driven insights to make data-driven decisions will enable marketing leaders to set new KPIs to demonstrate success in conjunction with enabling greater predictability along the pathway to sustainable revenue,” said Deanna Ransom, Global Head of Marketing and Marketing Services and Chairperson of Diversity and Inclusion at Televerde.

For more information and to download the full report visit: https://cmocouncil.org/thought-leadership/reports/rising-above-the-fray

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Email for 2021

May 11, 2021

As marketers, we are often drawn to whatever the hot new platform or channel is, and it’s fun to think about what strategy we might use for getting the most out of whatever new tool is on our radar screen.

Most marketers and business owners who do their own marketing will admit to a good dose of shiny object syndrome. We are drawn to what’s new and cool.

This is why I think email marketing often gets overlooked. It’s been around for a long time. There’s nothing incredibly sexy about it. But it works.

Email is very cost-effective and allows a brand to build on a relationship with known prospects. It’s particularly critical in B2B marketing, where the sales cycles are longer, and there’s usually no retail floor or experience. One of the reasons email marketing works as well as it does is that the average worker spends 2.5+ hours per workday checking email. Beyond that, 82% of us check our work email outside of work hours.

Email is one of the few pieces of the digital landscape that we still own and control beyond our website. When we market on social channels, we’re squatting on someone else’s ground.

Their rules and algorithms dictate what we can and can’t do, and those rules can change in an instant.

In contrast, when someone trusts you with their email address (which is the only way someone legally should get on your list), you can communicate consistently and directly. You know your message will get to their inbox and, if your content is compelling, you can be confident that they’ll read it.

By law, you have to make it easy for a recipient to unsubscribe to your emails, which means that anyone who is still on your list is there because they want to be. That makes it permission marketing (they’ve given you permission to market to them), which is a much warmer sales than most other channels.

Despite the potential of email marketing, most don’t take full advantage of the channel because they don’t invest the time, money, and energy to do it well. Email marketing has gotten so sophisticated, if you’re willing to take advantage of your options.

All too often, emails are hastily written and sent. There’s not an overarching strategy or a strategy for each individual email. We rush to execute without doing the proper planning.

One of the most important aspects of email marketing is testing. There are so many elements worthy of testing. You can and should test subject lines, what time of day is most effective, and various calls to action. How frequently you email your audience will also affect open and click-through rates.

But there is no uniform answer to that question. You have to test your audience to get that answer. Even the placement of your call-to-action button can influence the performance of your email.

One of the best aspects of email marketing is how measurable it is. You can track and count just about every aspect of your campaign. Four critical metrics that should be part of the evaluation of just about every email campaign are delivery rates, open rates, click rates, and conversions. Not every email will warrant vigorous measurement, but delivery and open rates are still worth tracking even at the awareness level.

For other emails, click-through and conversions won’t matter, but engagement and pass-along will. Every email will have a unique set of metrics because, ideally, your strategy will have a unique set of goals and calls to action.

Of course, measurement is often tied to where in the sales funnel the email falls. In next week’s column, we’ll explore how email can be used differently for each stage, from awareness to conversion.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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