Friday, July 26, 2013

How's Your Brand Managing?

You know your brand. But do you have a handle on what customers think of your brand? If the answer's "kind of," "not sure," or "isn't somebody else in charge of that?," then you could be accumulating a mountain of online feedback that's only invisible to you.

Even if it's one negative Yelp review or social site rant, the smallest bit of negative feedback can show up front and center in a benign Google search. Ignorance is not bliss, folks.

Most businesses, especially smaller or newbies, go down one of two roads - either slowly addressing negative reviews when it smacks them in the face or addressing obvious feedback with band aid solutions. Some take it a step even further backwards by ignoring it entirely, hoping it will just go away. Stay that course, and it's guaranteed you'll be serving tumbleweeds instead of paying customers. In the same vein, ignoring positive feedback or activity can be like sitting on a winning lottery ticket.

The solution is to actively monitor online feedback and reviews, and then engage in conversations (when necessary) to keep your brand in the positive limelight.

Back to basics in brick & mortar
Before we dive into online brand control, consider your in-store, offline experiences. How do you handle an in-person complaint or less than flattering real-time feedback? If you're worth your customer service salt, you address it head-on at the same time it occurs.

You listen to your customer. You apologize or acknowledge what they're sharing. You suggest ways to improve their experience. And in the end, you reaffirm to that customer that you were the right choice for their needs after all.

This is most likely no new news to you. So, it should also make sense that leaving a customer 'hanging' in the online world is just poor business practice and will never reflect well on your overall brand and business.

Get it together online
This is by no means an all-inclusive to-do list. But, it's sure a good place to start. Let's break it down first by methods to stay on top - and then ways to initiate damage control, if necessary.

  • Monitor your company profiles
Maintain the integrity of all profile content on your social sites. Make sure it's up-to-date and accurately reflects the evolving image of your brand. Finally, for the love that is all Facebook-holy, make sure it's grammatically correct.

  • "Monitor" your people's profiles
Remember the Taco Bell employee who licked taco shells on the job and another employee posted the pics to FB? Yeah, that really happened. It never hurts to send your team a gentle reminder that when they're in the social realm, they're representing the face of your company. In the taco case, it turns out employees were breaking corporate policies by posting company-related pics in the first place. Be aware.

LinkedIn is worth a long browse, as well. There, employees are connecting to other professionals under the umbrella of your company. If the Director of PR is sharing articles that reflect their opinions of the national news, you may want to have them share on their own time - and within their private, non-company related social arenas.

  • Get connected and start (carefully) posting
If you haven't already, get busy connecting your public personality to relevant companies, people and interest groups sharing the social space. Whenever it's relevant, jump in and comment on their posts as a representative of your company's collective thinking. The most important thing is to take your time and choose your comments wisely. Eliminating "lol" and "lmao" from your posts is also a good idea.

  • Monitor your customers' profiles
Well, not really, because that's a little creepy. However, if you see certain customers posting accolades on your wall or review pages, it couldn't hurt to reach out to them. Offer a trade - sharing their flattery with their friends or on your website in exchange for a free service or discount. It's all part of enhancing their already great experience, and you'd be surprised how they'll talk you up even more.

  • Automate your monitoring
People will talk, especially behind your back. Truth is, unless you have a dedicated social media manager monitoring the web for you (forums, blog sites, press release tie-ins), you could be missing a lot of action behind-the-scenes. The good news is there are a lot of free solutions you can utilize like Google Alerts, Social Mention and Technorati, to name a few.

  • Use good reviews and posts to your advantage
Corral them for the greater good. Services like Trustpilot and Bazaarvoice do a great job of helping you gather good testimonials, share them with others and seek even more valuable content for marketing campaigns.

  • Joust the negativity
Face negativity head-on and in a timely manner, or you're fueling the fire for more negativity. It takes very little time for issues to escalate and attract the attention of other customers. And what's one of the best, personal delivery methods for issue resolution? You guessed it - good 'ol email marketing.

What's this have to do with email?
Email is a key tool in communicating with your customers in a targeted, personal way. So, why wouldn't you use it? Here's how:

  • Derail a conversation: Sometimes you just have to take a conversation offline. Derailing a customer into the non-public email realm will remove negativity from the spotlight and allow you to work with their feedback in a more intimate manner. Take it a step further and gather their contact info for a personal phone call.
  • Send an appreciation gift: Offer discounts or vouchers for future visit or services. They can work magic in terms of acknowledging something on your end wasn't up to snuff, and you'll strive to do better next time.
  • Earn a regular recipient: Once you rectify the issues, (ever so gently) ask the customer for their contact info so you can give them more personalized service in the form of advance notice of future sales, value added info related to your product/services, and more.
  • Secure a testimonial: If you did all you could to right the wrong, ask the customer to share their experiences with other customers. A mass-blast "we work hard until we get it right" campaign relaying the story of the issues and resolution will show other customers that you'll put in the time to earn long-term business. Just hold off on sharing any "found a bug in my soup" stories - stick with low-level issues.

Have a story to share? Want to weigh in on the conversation? Hit us up. JangoMail loves to hear from you. Until next time, thanks for reading!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Are You Heading Straight to Spam?

After all the work you put into your email campaigns, the least your emails could do is reach your recipients. Problem is, when you least expect it, they can miss the mark and hit the spam or junk folders.

The unusual suspects
So, what happened? Before you heavy foot it over to the IT department, consider the content of your emails as the potential culprit. Here's a short list of surprising keywords and phrases that could land you directly in spam land.

  • Pennies a day
  • Weekend getaway
  • While supplies last
  • Call now
  • Apply online
  • Cannot be combined with any other offer
  • Billing address
  • Call now
  • Increase traffic
  • Why pay more?

Shocked there's no sign of "free?" Don't be. 
Consider this a trick list - only noting triggers you might not expect. "Free" is still one of the most common ways to profile your email. But, keep this in mind: It's okay to use all these phrases. What weighs against you on the spam scale is the frequency in which you utilize any of these trigger words. Also, using any of them concurrently within the same email isn't a smart idea.

Who's pointing fingers and why
There's a lot of noise out there in the email world. And any decent email service provider is trying to protect its valued users, so they continue to utilize them. The problem is, sometimes respectable email communications get caught in the filtering mix for the greater good of keeping inboxes clean. The bottom line is you don't want to associate with the riff-raff and more importantly, have your timely communications get lost on the way to intended recipients.

Moderation is the medicine
Think of spam-folder-avoidance this way: If your email reads more like an infomercial, consider it a trigger candidate for the junk folder. Use trigger words in moderation, and you should be just fine. However, if you are experiencing consistent inbox deliverability issues, revisit your subject lines and main body content to see if you're inadvertently shifting email service provider spam filters into high gear.

Two leg ups
JangoMail's Delivery Optimization Tool analyzes your emails and determines changes you can make to optimize delivery even before you hit "send." We also recommend using SpamAssassin as an additional pre-screening tool. Visit their site for a more detailed trigger list as well (under the Tests tab).

JangoMail also scores your mass email campaign message using SpamAssassin - you can see the score in Broadcast Messages Report Dashboard. Send a message to yourself before sending to your list. Scores under 5 are generally considered to be free of spam.

The rules are always changing too! A good message today can be bad tomorrow; it just depends on how certain words and phrases are used (or over-used). We'll help you stay ahead of the curve on this.

If you have any questions about spam filters and triggers, just ask. Until next time, have a great rest of the week!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Do's & Don'ts of CSS

What do you think YOU'RE doing?
Are you a developer looking to custom code your email templates using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) - while maximizing the integrity of your layout or desired design?  "Good luck," says the old school (i.e. here comes the hurt).

Fortunately, JangoMail has some solutions. So, we prepared a simple list of "do it" and "don't even think about it" guidelines to ensure your designs look as good and function as well within your emails (and mail services like Gmail and Outlook) as they would on your typically more stylized web pages.

Do it
  • Use tables for layouts, because they're more consistently supported
  • Put your CSS code inline with your content (i.e. <span style="font-family:Arial, Helvetica, Sans-Serif; font-size: 9px; color:#000000;">your content...</span>. Already created a template? Use this tool to move all of your CSS inline. 
  • Set and fix your template width by assigning width, cell padding and cell spacing for all tables and table cells
  • Add whitespace around an image by using hspace and vspace tag attributes, as not all email services support margin and padding inline styles
  • Always include a link so recipients can view your email within a web browser, and "_blank" in links to prompt the opening of a new browser window or tab when viewed within browser-based email services
  • Include a visible link to your website and an eye-catching 'forward to a friend" button

Don't even think about it
  • Count on external or embedded style sheets, as many email services cut everything above the body tag and disable external style sheets
  • Use positioning and floats
  • Incorporate JavaScript into your email - it can trigger spam filters
  • Assign attributes to the <body> tag, as most email services won't acknowledge them
  • Use background images (background color is okay)
  • Include CSS shorthand or CSS properties for positioning (nested tables work better)
That wasn't so bad. It might not be the most inclusive list, but we didn't want to lecture you so late in the week. If you ever have any questions about custom coding, hit us up. Our JangoMail team is here to help any time.

Until next time, have a great rest of the week!

Friday, July 05, 2013

How A Little Cheese Can Lead To Email Marketing Cake

July Fourth is over. Or ... is it?
Because many companies gave their employees 4 day weekends, you have to expect people are making the most of it. Fortunately in this visible media day and age, you may start to see pictures like these roll into your social news feeds and inbox.

So, what's this have to do with email marketing? 
Simple. It  may be time to light up your email lists with some harmless yet strategic fun. Depending upon your line of business or the purpose of your organization, try sharing another side of yourself. Showing customers or contacts that you have a sense of humor, or pride in your community is more apt to strike a cord with your audience than the stale "Happy 4th!!" .jpg you sent earlier in the week.
Show customers the "real" you. Feature team members and let the world see you in a more relaxed, approachable situation. Prompt customers or followers to say - "hey, I've seen him/her around town" or "he/she looks like a real person". It's all part of making a (first or establishing a new) connection. Photo proof of your humanity and humor is a nice segue into establishing or solidifying a relationship. Not to mention, your group or business' logo will be featured in every communication - enhancing the good vibes associated with your brand.

Get your email recipients to share
Bet you're not the only one with a picture of a baby with a beer on their head. Your customers or followers probably have some rowdy shots to share. Why not make it a contest? When we all go back to work after a long holiday, it can be the longest work week ever. Make light of it by calling out for the funniest, most patriotic or best fireworks pictures of the holiday. It will help your email recipients relive a little of the magic, courtesy of your underlying marketing tactic. 

Hey - we want to see your pictures, too. So, don't forget to include our JangoMail team if you get together a post-July 4 blast. In the meantime, have a great rest of the week, folks. If we don't hear from you first, we'll talk to you soon!