Best of 2012: November/December

We ended this year with some articles about promotional emails (most are rubbish), about banner advertisements (most are a waste of time), and about press releases (most are done badly). But if you’d been reading these articles, you’d have confirmed your suspicions that you were doing everything right, wouldn’t you?

This is the last daily email of the year. I’ll be back in January, but in the meantime, have a great break.

1. Response rates of one or two percent to emailed offers can be quite an achievement, and in no way the disappointment some people think they are. If you want to get every email read, you need to carefully curate the recipient list on an individual basis. One MD told me recently that his company was planning to do an “email blast” (a what?) to a list of recipients bought in from an independent publisher. Seriously? In 2012, you expect people who’ve found themselves on a junk mail list to even open an email from someone they’ve not asked to hear from, and probably have never heard of?

2. On a per-piece basis, I think postal mailshots have more impact than emails. But that’s because of the investment which goes into them: they’re far more frequently used to send out something which has cost time and money to produce, and which recipients might keep, such as a catalogue, guide or handbook. In comparison, the content of many company emailing exercises is, quite frankly, rubbish. If you’ve sent out a marketing email recently, take a look at it and ask yourself: “even if I was given the stamps and envelopes for free, would I have sent that out by post?”

3. Banner ads booked at a fixed rate are normally a tremendous waste of money. We’re helping out about 50 companies with their online marketing, and I struggle to find any evidence in anyone’s website analytics that banner ads booked directly with a site for a cost of a few hundred pounds a year are bringing in any serious traffic whatsoever. Most third-party sites in the trade and technical sector prey on advertisers’ ignorance and still sell banners for fixed rates, which are supposed to represent the number of times the ad will be shown. For branding, that’s fair enough, although few advertisers then go on to actually count how many times the ad is shown. But for response, that’s just unacceptable. There’s no way, in 2013, that websites should be allowed to charge fixed rates for appearing. You should pay for results, and if the results aren’t there, take your business elsewhere.

4. According to one test, a video leading off an email can improve the response by 300%! However, you can’t “attach” a video to an email like a file, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to include it as an embedded item either. Some email clients and corporate email systems don’t like that much. Instead, include an image which looks like it’s an embedded video. Clicking on that image (which most people would probably believe was the video) then takes the reader through to the video on the web. To make the effect really seamless, you could put the video on a page of its own and set it to auto-play.

5. You should be aiming to get your press releases ranking highly in Google for one or more relevant search terms. Now, you’re not going to get on the first page for “blue widgets” with a press release, so don’t even think about that. People will have spent years building pages or possibly entire websites around general terms like those. However, think of more specific terms which people might be searching for, and see what Google comes up with. If the results are poor, there’s a fair chance your press release could debut on the first page of Google for that search. But you’ll need to work the phrase in carefully.

6. Should you just send out a press release and leave it at that? In the main, yes. Thirty three per cent of journalists sampled cited pestering phone calls as the single most annoying habit of PR consultants. They also really hate the hundreds of emails they get from people who have just used a media distribution list and haven’t bothered to take the trouble to find out what the publication actually writes about. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t know the journalist or their publication well enough to be able to write a personalised covering note, then maybe you shouldn’t be sending them the press release at all.

Quote of the Month:
The “about us” page is where you tell the prospective customer, efficiently and concisely, why you’re a company they can do business with. They want to know about your track record and your customer base. They want the reassurance of testimonials, awards or certifications. They want to know you’re staffed by human beings. What they absolutely will not read is anything which starts off with the words “mission” and “statement”. To me, that says one thing: this is a boring company which doesn’t speak my language and where the staff are more concerned about their officious managing director than their customers.

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