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OfficeBooks finds less is more with email strategy

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Online business management software provider OfficeBooks has used email as a marketing strategy since November 2011, right before it introduced the beta version of its software-as-a-service. From the beginning, the company's number one marketing goal was retaining its current users. Messages have gone out every time the company releases new service updates—11 times over the past 10 months. The company's target users are small-business owners who are pressed for time, so email messaging is always tight and short, said Gregg Senechal, the company's product manager, who handles all of its marketing efforts. “These days, people tend to screen their emails in "list view' and decide what to open based on the subject and the first few words of the content,” he said. “The best strategy we've found to increase the effectiveness of our campaigns is to focus on that key aspect.” Based on link click-through data provided by MailChimp, OfficeBooks' ESP, Senechal said that the first paragraph is, by far, the company's most read content. Consequently, Senechal focuses all of his efforts in creating a compelling short lead paragraph and adding links to external content, he said. “Links beyond the first paragraph don't get clicked,” he said. “In our latest mailings, we have learned that providing links to more detailed blog posts can be an effective way to deliver more material via the email—sort of the Twitter approach to an email campaign.” Today the 1,000-person address list has a steady open rate of 20% with an unsubscribe rate of less than 1%. The most effective blog posts—the ones that get clicked on—tend to be lists, he said. “Stuff like "Top 10 apps for small business' or "Top 5 pitfalls for new manufacturing firms.' People like lists, and you are more likely to get your work noticed.” Another benefit of creating and including such content is that it boosts the company's natural search ranking as well, Senechal said. “In addition, blog posts that have included downloadable content, like a sample PDF, have done moderately well for us at drawing in organic search traffic,” he said. Even with the success of the email campaigns, the company is very careful about avoiding over-mailing. This will become increasingly difficult, Senechal said, since the email system will soon send out triggered messages automatically when customers hit specific use milestones. “We're in the process now of identifying those triggers and the constraints that will govern the triggers. As an example, if we decide that we want to send an email to a user when they import their first inventory data and we also want to send an email when they create their first purchase order, sales order or work order, we have to set up the system in such a way that a gung-ho user doesn't get inundated with emails,” he said. This is especially important since he saw the company's unsubscribe rate increase as the frequency of the mailings increased.
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