Author Archives: McKenzie Ingram

6 Things to Consider When Creating Your 2017 Marketing Plan

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If you’re like me, you woke up yesterday unable (or unwilling) to believe that it was already December. While the holidays are in full swing, it’s time to start making some concrete plans for your 2017 marketing team. It may seem late in the game, but it’s definitely not too late to create a solid marketing plan for the new year. Here are some guidelines to help you check all the boxes on your marketing plan and knock 2017 out of the park.

 

1. Evaluate last year’s successes and failures
The best place to start planning for the future is to look at the past. What happened (or didn’t happen) in the last year is a great indicator of what you should try to accomplish in the coming year. Did you make your lead goals? Did your sales team make their sales goals? Did your company make their revenue goals? These questions aren’t going to give you specifics about what your 2017 plan should entail, but it will give you a good grasp on what is attainable, and where your efforts for the coming year should be focused.

Take some time to have conversations with other teams, especially sales, about how the year went. Does your sales team feel like they were light on leads, or that the leads weren’t properly qualified? Did your company experience a high churn rate? The overall health of the company should be marketing’s number one goal, and the only way to plan for that is to take the time to get a pulse on the current health of your company.

 

2. Clearly define your goals for the upcoming year
Planning for 2017 requires a top-down approach. If your executive team has already created an action plan for the coming year, that’s a great place to start. After all, you always want your marketing team’s goals to align directly with the goals of the organization. If your company is entering into a high-growth initiative or wants to cut back on customer churn, these things should influence what you’re planning as a marketing team as well.

I suggest you make five or so major, overarching marketing goals. Additional goals or tasks can fall underneath your big objectives. These key goals – that align with your company’s initiatives – will give guidance to the rest of the things you’d like to accomplish throughout the year. For example:

Key Goal: Develop deeper relationships with our customers to reduce customer churn and increase customer lifetime value.

Sub goal 1: Develop five pieces of solid content for our customers

Sub goal 2: Create an onboarding nurture campaign using email and product newsletters

Sub goal 3: Create a social campaign around current customers and top users

Sub goal 4: Rank as a leader on G2 Crowd for customer reviews

 

3. Nail down your messaging
Messaging is the heartbeat of marketing. Creating intelligent, educated content helps you build a solid relationship with your prospects, and can help turn your prospects into happy customers – and is something that should be key to your 2017 marketing plan. But before churning out a bunch of content, take a look at what you already have. By doing a complete audit of your current content inventory, you’ll be able to identify holes and understand what you should aim to create in the new year.

Your content should not only attract new buyers, but also nurture current relationships you’ve already created. In order to address your customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey, it’s important to identify your audience for every piece of content. Is all of your content top-of-funnel, neglecting those who have already made contact but aren’t yet ready to purchase? Or, are you light on the content that might attract new buyers to your site? Evaluating these things will make it clear what should be on the top of list for content creation next year. If you need some guidance on creating a content plan, check out this 4-step content planning workbook.

 

4. Have a deep understanding of your target audience
Before you jump full force into the new year, take a moment to evaluate where your company sits in the competitive landscape. Are you the new kid on the block, or are you the industry leader? This should influence your plans for the year heavily. Understanding your market position can help you identify your opportunity. This starts with knowing who your competitors are, what they’re saying, and what makes you different.

Knowing and confirming your differentiators is crucial when you’re creating your 2017 marketing plan. If you know that you’re the best solution for mid-market companies, or that you’re struggling in competition with your competitors, you’ll be able to focus more time and energy around becoming a leader in your industry. If you have the chance, talk with some of your customers about their experience with your company and your product. Getting honest feedback can help you adapt your marketing strategy to target the right audience with the right message.

Additionally, if you haven’t already identified your “ideal customer profile” I strongly suggest you do. Knowing specifics about what makes a great customer for your company is a great place to start when figuring out who your marketing efforts should be targeting. Ideal customer profiles usually include firmographic and demographic information like company size, industry, and common buyer titles. Knowing your customers allows you to communicate better with them, ultimately boosting retention rates and the opportunity for upsell and cross-sell.

 

5. Make a calendar with important milestones
Creating a strict calendar for the coming year can be a bit tricky, so it’s best to schedule out what you can, but be ready to roll with the punches. Start with the major things, like new product launches, upcoming announcements, or events you know you’ll be attending this year. Identify all the assets you’ll need such as emails, press releases, or supporting content. From there, you can make a workback plan to facilitate manageable lead times.. If one of your goals is to create a major asset for each quarter, start scheduling out drafts and factor in time for editing and revisions.

Nobody knows what next year might have in store. You might have to change direction or shift your plans significantly, but starting with a plan and schedule will help you achieve the goals you set out to accomplish in the new year.

 

6. Figure out what it will cost you to be successful (i.e. your budget)
According to WebStrategies, 2017 marketing budgets are expected to remain consistent or increase compared to 2016 levels. This is a good place to start when determining what resources you’ll need to be successful in 2017. If you burned through your budget last year, maybe consider asking for additional budget allocation – but don’t do this without a clear plan for bringing in additional ROI. Make sure your request is validated with real numbers, and strong evidence that more marketing money will equate to a more successful business. On the other hand, if you found yourself spending less than your budget, find a way to maximize that extra money in other areas. Remember that it’s all a numbers game. The ratio that really matters is marketing spend:return.

To nail down which slices of your marketing budget need to be increased or decreased, spend the time to go through each of your marketing activities and determine “Did this help us achieve our clearly defined marketing goals?” If the answer is yes, consider keeping the same amount of budget or increasing. If the answer was no, either decrease the budget or evaluate what you could have done different to make it more successful. With that said, marketing teams should always be evolving. Consider investing in one or two new programs this year that you didn’t do last year. These could be hosting live events or creating a webinar program. Trying a new way to marketing to your prospects and customers might lead to new revenue streams. It’s always good to come to the table with a few fresh ideas in your plan to make sure your team is constantly pushing the envelope.

It’s crunch time for creating your 2017 marketing plan. In general we suggest that you draft your plan, and budget, for the year in November or early December so that you can focus on finishing 2016 strong, and feel confident about sailing into the new year with a targeted plan.

Email Deliverability Basics: Keeping Your Email Away from the SPAM Box

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“Deliverability” is the measure, usually expressed as a percentage, of how many emails actually make it into the inbox. To create deliverable email campaigns, you must first understand the landscape and the challenges that must be overcome to place a message in an individual’s inbox. Because each receiving Internet Service Provider (ISP), business email exchange, and individual account uses significantly different rules, there’s quite a bit to learn, and the landscape changes every day.

If you’re relying on email marketing to communicate with your prospects, you already know that you’re in for a fierce competition to get your emails read. In fact, according to the Radicati Group, the total number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase to over 4.3 billion accounts by year-end 2016. But before you worry about getting your emails being read, you must make sure that they’re arriving in the right place, and not trapped in SPAM filters.

Do you know what your current deliverability rates are? If not, don’t worry — if you work with an email service provider or a marketing automation service provider, they should be able to provide them to you.

 
The Basics of Email Deliverability Rates


Email sent

This is how many messages were in the queue before any delivery attempts were made, but after internal suppression has been performed.

Email delivered

This metric describes how many emails were completely transferred to the intended recipient’s mailbox provider without generating a “bounce” or other delivery error. There are two levels of delivery:

• If the recipient’s email provider rejects the email message, it does not count as delivered. However, if the provider accepts the message, it counts as delivered.

• Once the email message gets past the provider’s filters, it must still make it past the recipient’s own filters. If the recipient has content-based filters set up that prevent the email from reaching the inbox (e.g., being diverted to the junk folder), it generally will count as delivered.

• This is the metric used to purchase email advertising by CPM or third party list rental. You will see it as a whole number and also as an “Email Delivery Rate” percentage (e.g. “95%”).

Email inbox delivered

This metric is an estimation of how many of the Sent emails actually ended up in the inbox. You’ll see it as a whole number or as a percentage (e.g. “90%”).

Bounces

Bounces are emails that cannot be delivered to the mailbox provider, and are returned to the service provider that sent them. “Hard” bounces are the failed delivery of email due to a permanent reason, such as a non-existent address. “Soft” bounces are the failed delivery of email due to a temporary issue such as a full inbox or an unavailable ISP server.

Email unsubscribe requests

This tallies how many people took an action (such as clicking an “unsubscribe me from this list” link) to unsubscribe from a list.

Complaints

This tallies how many people clicked a spam or junk button link in their email client to report an email as spam or junk. Other common email metrics, such as opens and click-throughs, are also important, as ISPs look at engagement measures to help determine overall how “wanted” an email is.

 

List Management is Key to Email Deliverability

Few things affect your email deliverability more than maintaining clean and accurate email lists of engaged subscribers. Even the best lists need constant maintenance. Between the continual turnover of email addresses, loss of interest, and other factors, your email list starts getting stale just as soon as you create it. The staler a list gets, the fewer opens, click-throughs, and purchases it generates. This threatens your engagement and potentially your reputation scores as a sender. Follow good list management protocols to keep your engagement high and your reputation for integrity intact.

Best Practices

• Send only to people who want and expect your email; contacts who opt in are your best prospects

• Confirm or double-confirm subscribers who opt in, when possible

• Encourage recipients to add you to their address books, and make it easy to do so

• Have a clear privacy policy for subscribers

• Grow lists organically; never buy them

• Develop online forms that encourage people to indicate their interests; use this data to create targeted subscription lists

• Make it easy and obvious for contacts to opt out

• Honor “unsubscribe” requests immediately – it’s the law

• Determine an optimal mailing time and frequency, and stick to it, for consistency

• Clean your lists regularly

Keep your lists clean and current through purging and re-engaging. Purging your lists can be a difficult exercise, because no one wants to lose potential customers. Yet your online reputation depends on maintaining a clean, healthy email list. But, be mindful — how you implement purging your email list is just as important as deciding what to purge.

The two best options for purging are:

1. Simply remove any addresses that meet purging criteria (usually length of time and lack of activity)

2. Send a re-engagement email asking users to take an action to stay on the list

You should plan to purge any address displaying no activity for 12 months. But the timeframe that works for you depends on the typical buying cycle, engagement, and conversion metrics for your specific products or services.

Too often companies don’t think about purging data until significant email delivery problems have surfaced. If you wait until your email is blacklisted or delivered to the junk folder, you risk having to make much more aggressive purging decisions than marketers who proactively manage their data.

Re-engagement

Sending a re-engagement message offers a chance to win back the recipient. A re-engagement message usually alerts a recipient that their subscription is expiring due to lack of activity, and entices the user to opt in again to continue receiving the email. Re-engagement messages provide the benefit of shedding abandoned accounts or spam traps from your list. Your list will lose some numbers, but usually the people lost were unengaged, poor prospects anyway.

For very valuable lists, marketers may use a series of emails enticing the recipient to come back. This can have a better response rate than a single email. If a subscriber doesn’t interact with the re-engagement email, then it’s time to remove their address from future sends. Consider the 1-10-100 rule. According to SiriusDecisions: “It takes $1 to verify a record as it’s entered, $10 to cleanse and de-dupe it, and $100 if nothing is done, as the ramifications of the mistakes are felt over and over again.”

 

Best Practices for List Cleaning and Maintenance

• Clean your lists on a regular basis. We recommend that you perform a cleansing quarterly, at a minimum

• Remove distribution, role-based, or administrative addresses such as “sales@abc.com” or “info@abc.com”

• Monitor feedback loops so you can identify and immediately remove people who complain

• Understand the engagement cycles of your sales process

• Identify the point where recipient engagement drops; segment disengaged subscribers by useful criteria, such as whether they ever made a purchase

• Re-engage inactive contacts with messaging and offers targeted to their specific segment

• Purge inactive, unengaged contacts when necessary

 
In Conclusion

While understanding the basics of deliverability and list management is important, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s really all about the content that you’re sending. Focusing on quality, stand-out content will make a huge impact on your deliverability rates.  Truly excellent content aligns with your company’s brand strategy, presents a clearly actionable opportunity to the reader, and delights your customer. Implementing some of the above basic email deliverability fundamentals and activating an engaging content strategy can enhance your sender reputation, and help you stay out of the SPAM box.

Need expert support on email deliverability or engaging content? Check out our helpful whitepaper ‘Best Practices for an Email Marketing Strategy’, our email marketing services or contact us for a casual chat about your email pain points and objectives.

 

Interested in more?

Best Practices in Email Deliverability

Best Practices For An Email Marketing Strategy