Monday, 28 April 2014

An interview with Eddie Howard, Product Manager for Vocus: Email’s best days are still ahead

Eddie Howard is the Product Manager for Vocus, a leading provider of cloud marketing software. He talks about the different aspects of email marketing and shares his insight on how businesses can take full advantage of email marketing – the most proven and cost-effective marketing tool for promoting products and services. Enjoy!

1. Can you start off telling our readers a few words about yourself? How long have you been involved in the online marketing field?

My name is Eddie Howard, I am the Product Manager for Vocus email marketing tools. I’ve spent the past 9 years in product management and 7 years in email and online marketing. I worked with digital marketing technology company Datran Media (now Pulsepoint), and the largest privately-owned Internet advertising network, Adknowledge, before starting with iContact and Vocus.
2. Tell us about Vocus and how your services can help small businesses better communicate with their customers and prospects.

Vocus is a leading provider of cloud marketing software that helps businesses reach and influence buyers across social networks, online and through media. Our integrated suites combine social marketing, search marketing, email marketing, and publicity into a comprehensive solution that helps attract, engage, and retain customers. In addition, our software sends real-time marketing opportunities directly to marketers in the form of leads, prospects, social media conversations, curated content, and inbound media inquiries.
3. Recently, Vocus commissioned Edge Research to survey 601 email marketing decision-makers at small to medium sized organizations. What are some of the key findings from the survey?

The Edge Research survey had some exciting and interesting key findings regarding email marketing. Email marketing remains the top type of marketing among SMBs by budget share, which is due in part because 91% of SMBs continue to find email marketing helpful in their company’s marketing. We also found out that over two-thirds of SMBs said the cost of acquiring a new subscriber is either reasonable or too low—and they can afford to pay more per subscriber if they had to. Not surprisingly, most SMBs have a list size under 10,000, and 24% have fewer than 1,000 contacts, and on average, SMBs are hoping to increase their list size by a modest 25%.
4. How are businesses currently using email marketing?

The most common use of email marketing is to share news about new products or services, the organization in general, or to advertise special events. In addition, the vast majority of SMBs are using email marketing for regular customer/client contact like email newsletters or soliciting feedback from subscribers.
5. Based on your experiences, what share of the marketing budget do the companies typically allocate to email marketing activities?

Email marketing remains the top type of marketing among SMBs by budget share. On average, SMBs are spending 15% of their marketing budget on email marketing, followed by Events/Tradeshows and other person-to-person contact. This pattern is consistent for SMBs of all sizes.
6. How can businesses measure the success of their email marketing campaigns?

Click-throughs, increased web traffic to the organization’s website, and new sales leads found through email are the top measures of email marketing success. SMBs are also measuring the success of their email marketing campaigns by monitoring the general increase in revenue or sales following email campaigns.
7. Are there any barriers to effective email marketing campaigns?

No one barrier stands out as a major problem for a large number of SMBs, and the overall rate of problems is on par with similar types of marketing. Of the barriers observed, worries about sending too many emails or overusing email lists were the most common, as well as concerns about SPAM filters.
8. What are your predictions for where email marketing is headed in the next 5-10 years?

Email and social media are the two fastest growing marketing channels for SMBs, with 56-60% of SMBs planning to increase budgets in these marketing activities. We’ve heard for years speculation that email is declining, but the numbers just don’t agree. I think email’s best days are still ahead— especially with social media forcing companies to rethink about their overall marketing strategy, which tends to start with a foundation of successful email marketing. I’m also seeing a transition to suite products that combine email, social media, and other marketing channels into one cohesive product, rather than SMBs using separate, ad hoc systems to accomplish this.
9. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, has really changed how we communicate. How has this shift affected small businesses attitudes toward email marketing?

Combined marketing strategies between email and social media campaigns have become much more commonplace. Nearly two-thirds of SMBs now coordinate their email marketing with social media. SMBs are now able to complement their email marketing campaigns with effective social media strategies, and vice versa. This is ideal because exposing your company to prospects and customers in multiple channels is crucial to brand success.
10. Would you agree with the statement that email is the most cost-effective marketing tool for promoting products or services, and why?

Not only is email the most cost-effective marketing tool for promoting products and services, it’s also the most proven method for SMBs. We see this year after year with increases in email marketing budgets and resources. Email is relatively easy to monitor effectiveness and ROI, which is why SMBs trust and rely on email marketing more and more.
11. What’s the most important component of an email marketing campaign?

The most important component of an email marketing campaign is to remember to have a conversation with your subscribers, and be sure to really listen to them. Even though email campaigns are easy and inexpensive to deliver, we can’t lose our subscribers’ trust by sending stale content or too many emails. If we treat email marketing like any other method of conversing with our customers, we will undoubtedly be successful in our marketing efforts.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Year Ahead: 5 Social Media Trends Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Technology is transforming how modern entrepreneurs stay connected to their business, their team and their industry. In this series, learn more about the cutting edge tools and thinking allowing innovators to stay ahead of the trends.

The social media landscape is evolving rapidly, and therefore, your social media marketing strategy cannot remain static. Instead, it’s important to reevaluate business goals, social media campaigns, platform results and revise your strategy at least once a year -- if not quarterly.
Being aware of trends in the social sphere can help you design better strategies, apply the most effective tactics and choose where to invest your staff as well as financial resources. Here are the top five social media trends every entrepreneur needs to think about for 2014 and beyond:
1. Diversify. You've probably seen headlines about Facebook’s algorithm changes. If you currently operate a brand or business page, one study found that only six percent of followers currently see your posts. Experts suggest that that number will continue to plummet, eventually reaching one percent.

This bid by Facebook is aimed at increasing advertising dollars. But it highlights a potential weakness in many business’ social strategies: overdependence on any single platform puts you at the mercy of that platform’s whims. Whether it crashes or simply changes its rules, too much is at stake.
2. Google+ is for real. If there’s one social network businesses should pay specific attention to, it’s Google+, which is already playing a more important role in Google’s organic ranking algorithm. I expect this trend will continue.
To the surprise of many across the SEO industry, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed in a recent video that Facebook and Twitter have no impact on SEO rankings as a result of crawling and accessibility issues. So it stands to reason that if Google wants to use social signals for organic search rankings, it could easily mine Google+ data, where its crawler access is unhindered.
Google+ is also the best way to get access to Google Authorship, which will play a huge role in SEO by the end of the year. Google Authorship helps the search engine identify your content, attribute it to the correct author and build a portfolio for each author that may include what many are calling “Author Rank” -- algorithmic scoring based on author expertise and publishing history.
In most cases, an image of the author appears next to their content in search results, which also increases visibility and click-through rates.
3. Integration of social media, SEO, and content creation. The online marketing industry is moving away from the idea that social media, SEO and content marketing happen in isolation. Social media marketing decisively impacts how content is seen and shared.
Content creation and marketing have direct implications for your SEO performance -- especially in light of Google’s latest algorithm updates. It’s important that you think of the three pillars of online marketing -- SEO, content and social media -- as a system that works synergistically to increase visibility, build your brand and ultimately garner customers and sales.
4. Visual content will win. An estimated 63 percent of social media comprises imagery. As such, visual platforms are playing an increasing role in social media for businesses. One study found that 29 percent of Pinterest users bought an item after posting or re-pinning it on the network.
Video content is also hotter than ever, with the addition of networks like Vine and Instagram featuring microvideos. Infographics are another effective promotion tool for businesses with both a bounty of data and absorbing stories to tell.
Not every platform will be right, but spending the time to find the visual angle to your business’ story and experimenting with different content formats can help revitalize your social media marketing strategy.
5. Social media as a brand builder. Social media channels should be managed according to a brand-oriented approach. Building your brand on any platform impacts your SEO and improves sales over the long term.
Are the visuals of your social media accounts consistent with the rest of your visual branding? Is your account name or any other copy branded? Are you regularly filtering your status updates to ensure they’re on-message and consistent with the overall brand that you’re building? Focusing on building your brand through your social interactions should be a key focus this year.
If evolutions in social media have taught us anything so far this year, it’s that entrepreneurs with flexible and engaged approaches will have the highest ROI. Take the time to understand general trends and focus on core goals, but also take action to experiment with specific tactics that will grow and change as your business evolves.
What major trends are you seeing at play in social media? Let us know in the comments below.