The Art of the Email Sign-up: 18 Dos and Don’ts

email-subscribeDespite the shiny glory of Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and the Facebook, email is not dead.

According to Marketing Sherpa, email is consumers’ preferred method of communication with business, eclipsing social media. Research by Econsultancy cites 20% of sales can be attributed to the email channel, and McKinsey found email is once, twice, forty-times as effective as Facebook or Twitter.

Building an email opt-in list and optimizing your call-to-action and capture process is just as important as ever. But how are today’s top online retailers doing?

DON’T: Make email sign-up calls-to-action inconspicuous

Many, many ecommerce sites minimize their email calls-to-action. Bellroy’s uber-low contrast “ghost” field is buried in its black footer.

low-contrast-email-box

H&M’s newsletter is jumbled with text links for social networks — again in the footer.

not-prominent-trend

Kiddicare’s social buttons drown out the email sign-up field…in the footer…

kiddicare

And FarFetch’s “Sign up for our Newsletter” link…doesn’t look clickable.

don't-look-like-links

DO: Test an overlay

Love them or hate them, in-your-face overlays tend to increase opt-ins.

Both Betabrand and Artbeads use the “no thanks” persuasive tactic to make you feel mashugana to decline.

Betabrand’s includes an instant, time-limited offer, eliminating some friction of time-lag between the on-site opt-in and inbox-checking.

betabrand-offer

betabrand-overlay

If you use this tactic, be sure to test both with/without and different styling/copy of your call-to-action. Testing with visitor segments is also useful (repeat visitors who opt-out in their first visit should not be harassed).

DO: Include your value prop

Why should a visitor give you permissive access to their sacred inbox? What will you do to deserve this access?

Artbeads’ (above) value prop is notification of sales events.

Lowe’s goes into detail (with bullet points!) combined with an offer of $10 off $50+, and provides clickable previews of typical newsletter content.

detailed-center

Your value prop doesn’t have to be long…SkinnyTies communicates its newsletters are brief and “suited” to the guy that values his time.

skinny-ties

DO: Offer social sign-up

Social log-in pulls the customer’s email address, and may be a more appealing choice.

curediva

Bonus points: the social-connected customer will often be auto-logged in by the browser on subsequent visits which you can use to personalize the customer journey.

DON’T: Open opt-in in new tab

I spotted this usability snafu on several sites where sign-up opens up in a new tab/page. This is especially bogus on mobile devices.

DO: Allow self-segmentation

There are several ways to get a jumpstart on your email segmentation. Ript Apparel offers the options of receiving email on every new design daily, promotions, or both.

frequency-segmentation

Poppin asks users to identify if they are B2B or B2C customers.

simple-seg-myself-bus

Sur La Table asks for zipcode, a classic demographic segmentation tactic. This can be especially helpful for merchandisers of ecommerce sites with local shops or products that are more suitable to one geography than another (fashion, sporting goods, etc) and helps all marketers get time zone right.

zipcode

PacSun asks for gender segmentation.

male-femail-seg

Wasserstrom segments by industry, but be careful with the use of drop-downs.

select-business-type

Fanatics has the most fanatical segmentation options, but it suits its business.

fanatics-team

DON’T: Ask for too personal/sensitive information

Blue Nile boldly requests marital or engagement status, which is a risky approach to segmenting their customer. Engagement status, like pregnancy, can change suddenly without a marketer’s knowledge, for which continuing to target on as if they are still engaged or pregnant can be insensitive-to-offensive.

marital-email

DO: Offer preferences after sign-up

You may choose to get the email address quickly and painlessly first, then direct your subscriber to a preferences page or light-box, like Land’s End.

landsend-sign-up
welcome-landsend

Sending to a new page may encourage abandonment, so make sure there’s a clear “exit to keep shopping” option.

Make sure your preferences section isn’t too overwhelming and detailed, however. The “don’t make me think” rule still applies universally to web usability (e.g. light-on-dark text and ALLCAPS can be hard to read).

post-sign-up-preferences

DO: Explain the value prop for sharing more information

Threadless’ “we’ll send you stuff we think you’ll like” is a bit of encouragement to share more…

tell-us

DO: Indicate required fields

If you’re going to use a form in email sign-up, indicate which fields are optional (Threadless didn’t).

Keep in mind, however, that showing more fields than just “enter email” visually adds to the perceived difficulty of the form – even with asterisks. (This is a borderline “don’t” – worth testing).

optional-fields

Ideally, when asking for additional information, a one-liner explaining how this information will be used to send more relevant emails and content is more persuasive.

DO: Cover the legals

Harry and David observes Canada’s anti-spam legislation by gleaning express consent from Canadian subscribers.

canspam

DON’T: Ask for too much information

As with all online forms connected to a conversion goal, the more you ask for, the more you risk abandonment. What you ask for may also be a factor. This form excludes “Mrs.” and “Miss” as a salutation. Salutation itself is questionably required.

mr-ms

DO: Check field usability

If you are going to ask for segmentation input like birth date, ensure fields don’t wipe context once the user starts typing. In this case, date format disappears and doesn’t return, which can lead to errors.

required-fields-and-formats

Test your fields with deliberate mistakes. Like with checkout, your error handling should be very clear and conspicuous. This example is not.

schuhmail

DON’T: Neglect CTA rules

Call-to-action design rules apply to all forms and conversion goals:

1. Avoid “cancel” buttons, and if you use them, style them less prominently than “submit.”
2. Avoid the word “submit” where possible, it’s just as simple to use more descriptive and fun “Sign Me Up” or “Subscribe.”
3. Test CTAs in various browsers, and ensure they align properly

cta-styling

DO: Provide visual feedback

Harry and David leverage a thank-you page to reinforce the value prop of subscribing, while reducing multiple submissions and customer unsure-ness.

visual-feedback

DO: Link to a preference center after capturing the email address

If you want to simplify your sign-up while still capturing valuable segmentation information, consider getting the email first, then link to a preference center (or take the subscriber directly to it with an easy exit).

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DO: offer a mobile opt-in

You can’t build a mobile marketing list if you don’t ask. Ulta takes advantage of the customer in the sign-up mindset.

sms-sign-up

DO: Ask for social sharing

Likewise, Chairish incentivizes email-a-friend at the very moment the subscriber is thinking about email.

chairish-share

This is the first of a 3-part series on retail email marketing. Next post, we’ll explore the wild world of welcome emails…

7 Must-Read Tips To Simplify Content Marketing Planning

9344668942_b47b0c0539_zForrest Gump tells us “Stupid is as stupid does.” Well, if that is the case then we should stop being stupid with our content marketing planning. Rather, the new quote should be “Simple is as simple does.”

Simplification is the new innovator. Simplification is the new disruptor. Simplification is the key to a deeper customer connection.

Too many brands have an enthusiastic, scattershot and complex approach to their digital and content go-to-market strategy.

Sales, marketing and content creation have converged.

The sooner we simplify and innovate this convergence, the sooner we catch our customers’ attention to deepening the relationship. If we are Modern Marketers (and sellers and publishers), then we should think how to connect better with our Modern Buyers in today’s digital, social, and customer-centric time.

7 Ways To Solve The Content Marketing Planning Conundrum

1. Be open to reinventing your marketing approach completely. If there is ever a sacred cow in the brand strategy room, it’s content creation – who owns it, who deploys it, who measure it? Modern Marketers need to consider killing their current approach to customer contact with relevant content. Focus on creating content that customers want to read. And, manage the right metrics to understand its business impact. Measuring content and connection success from the ground up – the connecting awareness, consideration and conversion business impact will translate into a winning business strategy.

2. Tear down internal silos to focus on the big picture. Departmental silos are complex and stunt innovation. Daily, big brands and small businesses navigate the gauntlet of tools, content creation, resourcing, and budget management silos. Modern Marketers need to tear down silos and focus on their long-term strategic thinking and activation that is the most efficient path to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’

3. Create an efficient content creation supply chain. Content has many lives on many different channels, so we need to consider how the content creation supply chain can work for us vs. against us. Many brands spend too much time creating content for one-time use. When brands simplify content creation and distribution they build for long-term use. This focus enables them to double down on the opportunity to drive always-on organic reach. What if marketers built content as if it was at the start of its journey instead of its end? Create content at an earlier stage, to be consumed and shared in multiple channels – email, Twitter, blogs, videos, SlideShare, social selling posts – to simplify the marketing process. Create content to make it easier for everyone to share content on earned channels.

4. Be ready to jump on real-time triggers to distribute the message. Anchored and pop-up trigger events are a simple strategy to fuel the spread of hot content. For instance, in 2014 The New York Times assessed they strategically handled the Michael Sam ‘trigger event.’ However, their digitally and socially savvy competitors focused their content and owned channels to jump on the opportunity on Google hangouts and YouTube interviews  where THEIR readers were vs. where the owned channels were.

5. Understand competitive activity – inside and out. Competitive tracking is one of the simplest ways to stay ahead of the competition. Brands need to be listening to, reading about and dissecting competitive campaigns apart to know what’s working with their content and distribution. For instance, brands should regularly review HubSpot’s and Marketo’s content and marketing strategy, whether or not they are competitors. Listening and discovering how others ‘do marketing’ will help you to advance your marketing strategy more quickly.

6. Adopt and integrate social strategies vs. adding them in the end. Everyone knows it’s harder to retrofit something vs. building it from the ground up. Social media morphs content and distribution to the readers. It’s clear that many brands add social into the mix as an afterthought – sometimes as a wrong-sized or misplaced gear in their machine. This misplacement hinders organic distribution. Brands must figure out how to activate their content creators and marketers to think more socially. Companies are still trying to figure out how to leverage social to grow their audience (see their leaked report from 2014); likely due to their internal struggles. On the other hand, BuzzFeed has increased their footprint by 6X; likely due to smart social coworkers, empowerment and understanding that a great social media share is better than a great article headline.

7. Listen, amplify and connect to develop an audience. As Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot implied “If you’re not (listening to and) responding to customer inquiries, questions from leads and prospects about your products, and influencers in your space on social media, your competitors are, and they will eat your lunch.” Listening is always the first step to developing content, and audience and a sale!

Do you have a tip to help simplify sales, marketing and content planning for 2015? If so, please share in below in the comment section. Or, contact me directly at MarketingThink.com, onTwitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

As the New York Times stated, “We need makers, entrepreneurs, reader advocates and zeitgeist watchers’ to make the Modern Marketer recipe work.” Here’s to cooking up a simple content marketing plan.

This article originally appeared on MarketingThink.com (Photo Credit)

The post 7 Must-Read Tips To Simplify Content Marketing Planning appeared first on B2B Marketing Insider.

How To Create B2B Website Content That Sells

creating_website_content_that_sells.jpg-600x400In the political world, there is an axiom that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” For B2B Internet marketing and websites, the axiom is “content is king.”

Content is what people – and search engines – are looking for. It’s what drives visitors to your site and converts prospects into leads. Without great content, you’ve got a cannon with no cannonballs.

Here are the nine things to keep in mind for killer B2B website content.

1. Messaging – Answer these four questions regarding what happens when someone first hits your site:

  • Will they know what you do?
  • Will they understand what page they’re on and what it’s about?
  • Will they know what to do next?
  • Why should they buy from you or subscribe to your newsletter or download your material?

2. Educate and offer value – Sure, your website should have information about your products and services. However, most website visitors are not ready to buy from you. That’s why you should offer e-books, white papers, videos and other forms of content. The more you educate, the more you will sell. Avoid “we are the best” chest-thumping and instead take a “this is how we can help you” approach.

3. Quality – Earlier I mentioned that content is king. More specifically, quality content is king. While a lot of content is a good thing, the search engines are getting smarter and buyers are getting savvier. Make sure your content is unique (search engines love and reward this), educational and helpful, fresh and relevant to your buyer.

4. Avoid gobbledygook – These are jargon terms and phrases that have been overused and abused, rendering them meaningless. I apologize for the torture you’re about to endure – next-generation, cutting-edge, groundbreaking, best-of-breed, mission-critical, etc.

5. Be clear, not clever – There was a time when catchy and creative headlines worked well at capturing attention, especially when advertising was more powerful. Those days are over. People hate being marketed to and they always have. The difference is that now the website visitor, instead of sitting passively through a TV ad, will leave your site if you don’t get to the point and provide the information they seek.

6. Blogging – Think of your blog as an online magazine that provides helpful information about the problems your customers have that your company can solve. Blogging is the most effective online marketing tool – more important than social media or any other part of your website. Blogging creates fresh content and more pages of content, which is great for search engine rankings. It helps establish you as an industry authority and your fresh and frequent blog posts will drive more traffic to your site. Blogging also allows you to communicate with your readers and earn inbound links, which are really important for search rankings.

Need more persuading about the effectiveness of blogs? According to HubSpot, companies that blog have 55 percent more website visitors and get 70 percent more leads than those that don’t blog.

7. Make content shareable and social – According to social media marketing expert Jay Baer, “content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” Once you have great content, make sure to use social media to get it distributed and shared. On your website, add a sharing widget on every page to enable your visitors to share your content via all the major social networks. And when you publish a blog post, set up your site so that it autopublishes content to your company’s social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

8. Using multiple forms of content – Content is more than just the written word. Content also includes images, infographics, video, audio, online utility tools, games, etc. The more you can turn a text-heavy site into something that appeals to multiple audiences, the more effective your site content will be.

9. Customer confirmation – Your potential buyers want to know that you’ve made other customers happy. This is where testimonials, customer reviews and case studies can provide some of the most powerful content for moving prospects closer to a sale.

Business Blogging eBook

This article originally appeared on The Artillery B2B Marketing Blog.

The post How To Create B2B Website Content That Sells appeared first on B2B Marketing Insider.

Van Winkles Makes Strong Case for Un-Branded Content Marketing

CasperCasper is a startup that provides “outrageously comfortable” mattresses sold directly to consumers — eliminating commission ­driven, inflated prices.

Since its launch in April 2014, the brand has grown rapidly, generating $30 million in revenue over a 10-month period and expanding its team from five to 70 people.

While Casper has always powered an on-brand, on-domain blog, the brand made a surprising move in June 2015, announcing its launch of Van Winkle’s, an off-brand, independent editorial venture.

Quality Journalism Exploring All Aspects of Sleep

Per Casper’s announcement on its branded blog, Van Winkle’s is an “independent editorial venture, staffed by an award-winning team of journalists. Van Winkle’s’ original features and stories explore all aspects of sleep, from science to pop culture.” 

Luke Sherwin, Casper’s Co-founder, explains the editorial strategy further, saying the site will publish “weekly in-depth features, hard-hitting investigative pieces, columns, explainers, and relevant product reviews.” Reporting will also cover cultural topics and issues “through a lens grounded in rest and wakefulness, like the societal implications of Benzodiazepine, experimental interrogation techniques, or the limitations of quantification.”

The brand is clearly putting the mission of providing quality content at the forefront of its strategy, staffing experienced journalists from Maxim, Travel + Leisure, Salon, Mic, Gawker Media and Men’s Journal. The team will be led by Elizabeth Spiers, a former editor in chief of the New York Observer and a founding editor of Gawker.

Casper2An Independent Venture

While we’ve seen unbranded content marketing endeavors before (ie: L’Oreal’s Makeup.com), it’s typically a move done by brands that a) are trying to disassociate from a negative brand perception, b) are trying to repair trust issues with customers, or c) have a house of brands rolling up into the same parent company. Casper fits none of these cases.

Instead, it seems the reason for the site was simply to fulfill a journalistic gap for an area of existing interest. As Sherwin explains it, Casper sees itself not just as a seller of mattresses but as a lifestyle brand at a time when people are concerned about work-life balance and are wearing fitness bands to track not just their activity but how much sleep they are actually getting. It seemed that if it wasn’t up to Casper to fill this void, then who?

While the site is funded by Casper, Van Winkle’s maintains its independence in terms of its branding, online identity and budget. The site is not designed to be a marketing vehicle or to drive traffic to the Casper site. It isn’t even part of Casper’s marketing budget. Van Winkle’s has no indication of its association with Casper, with the exception of a small “Published by Casper” disclaimer at the footer of the site.

Van Winkle’s online identity is also separate with independent social accounts and an unassociated URL (vanwinkles.com instead of something like casper.com/vanwinkles). Finally, it’s interesting to note that the goal of the site is to be “as self-sustaining and independent as possible. There will not be any shoppable links or e-commerce.” Most brands that choose an un-branded strategy will typically still include shoppable links sparsely throughout their content.

Casper3Why It Will Work

Undoubtedly there will be many skeptics and naysayers of this seemingly risky endeavor, but there are several factors in this site’s strategy that have set it up for a successful future. First, the site is powered by an experienced team of journalists who know how to create compelling content. Regardless of the topics they write about, they’re staffed to be able to meet the high-quality expectations they’ve set for themselves.

Second, the site’s broad topic of “sleep” influences all aspects of life. Since sleep can be woven into just about anything, they’ve given themselves the flexibility to be able to write about topics that will be genuinely interesting. Six months from now, they won’t find themselves writing a stale story just because it’s the only thing left that fits in the site’s overarching theme.

Third, the unbranded strategy fits perfectly with Casper’s mission. Casper’s direct-to-consumer business model eliminates inflated prices and benefits consumers. Any business that is built on benefitting the end consumer has a leg up on an honest and trustworthy brand perception. Launching an unbranded editorial site, filled with amazing content, with no direct strategy to drive e-commerce enhances that positive perception even more.

Finally, the executive team’s expectations are realistic, open and prepared for adaptation. Sherwin does not expect the site to be a destination that readers will check every morning. Instead, the objective is to provide interesting, valuable content that will spread itself.

Sherwin explains, “We live in a world where being a destination site is not necessarily the primary goal of all content sites. The quality of the content still has value.” Casper’s CEO, Philip Krim, is also aware of the risk and prepared to alter strategy if need be. He explains, “If it isn’t well received we’ll have to reevaluate, but if we do succeed in creating some awesome content then I think we’ll have an interesting standalone business here.”

While still in its infancy, the site has already drummed up buzz and been covered by Wall Street Journal and the New York Business Journal. At a time when content is the “in vogue” marketing strategy of the moment, Van Winkle’s is an exciting experiment that will interesting to watch and sure to influence other brands’ content marketing strategies.

This article originally appeared on LizBedor.com

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