Solution: Many factors affect response rates; however, there are a few techniques for improving them that are often overlooked:
1) Success begins with the subject line. Keep your subject line succinct-around five or six words. Stay away from personalization-such as using the prospect's first name-in the subject line. The golden rule is to make sure that your subject line is something you would feel comfortable sending to an existing prospect.
2) They're in ... now what? Your prospect must be able to quickly determine the benefits of the e-mail. Integration with Web marketing tools such as forms and landing pages can impel a prospect to explore these benefits. Include many clear links to click on high up in the e-mail, "above the scroll." Make sure that hyperlink words conjure up a benefit in the reader's mind-such as "Learn more"-and avoid using passive words.
3) Lead them to a landing page. Drive prospects to a campaign-specific landing page, not your company's home page. Your e-mail and landing page should be designed with the same look to smooth the transition. Within the e-mail, include a link that offers an immediate call to action. On landing pages, be sure to minimize required information on initial registration forms; prefilling registration forms with known contact information can increase response rates. Creative imagery at the top of the landing page can show the prospect what he or she will get for moving forward. Last, an auto-response e-mail should always be sent when a form is submitted.
4) Hone in with dynamic, personalized microsites. To further personalize your communication, include links to microsites that have personal URLs (such as www.myeloqua.com/John_Smith) and targeted content, creative and personalized messaging. Dynamic content can be triggered by the prospect's region, language and industry. Both the personal URL and targeted experience can dramatically increase response and conversion on the site (a 200% to 300% increase from initial rates).
Ultimately, the best response rates will come by integrating e-mail marketing with the Web and other marketing channels, including direct mail, telemarketing, advertising and chat.
Mark Organ is CEO of Eloqua Corp. (www.elo qua.com), a provider of automated demand generation software for b-to-b marketers.
Problem: We can't see our paid search ads.
Solution: Frequency of keyword ad visibility is dictated by the advertiser-set daily budget cap. The engines use the daily budget cap to spread budget evenly throughout the day, but they don't guarantee even distribution or disclose intervals at which a keyword ad will appear. The reason advertisers believe they have run out of budget when they don't see their keyword ad is because the engine is spreading out the distribution of the ad.
The world of search advertising is a pay-to-play environment. Without the right budget-and strategy-advertisers will continue to go to the search engines and wonder why they don't see their names in top position. Regardless of budget, here are some steps you can take to improve your chances of appearing within the paid search results with greater frequency:
1) Use the targeting options available. Take advantage of the free ad-targeting features all major search engines have made available:
Geo-targeting: Control distribution of your keyword ads. If your customers are on the West Coast, you don't want to waste budget spreading your message to the East Coast. Geo-targeting gives you control over where you ads will be served and reduces campaign inefficiency.
Content-targeting: Put your message into context. Content targeting distributes your keyword ads to people actively reading Web content relevant to your keyword.
Demographic targeting: If you have a gender- or age-specific product or service offering, demographic targeting allows you to reach that gender and/or age bracket only.
2) Refine your keyword list. A long keyword list, inclusive of general and niche keywords, can lower your overall cost per conversion-making any size budget work better for you.
3) Track your campaign. Know how paid search will impact your site traffic and conversions. Some engines offer free or low-cost campaign tracking beyond impressions, clicks and cost, and will allow you to track conversions back to the keyword.
4) It's not only about Google. While there are only a handful of search powerhouses, increase the efficiency of your search marketing campaign by incorporating second-tier search engines. While these engines aren't as large as a Google, Yahoo! or MSN, they do deliver qualified traffic to your site at a lower cost-per-click.
Melissa Honabach is exec VP-interactive marketing, North America for nurun | ant farm interactive (www.antfarminteractive.com).
Problem: Most of the visitors to our site are coming from paid listings and ads, but we want to get more traffic from word-of-mouth.
Solution: Put a "tell-a friend" form on every page, next to every product. If you want word-of-mouth to draw people back again and again, you've got to make it easy.
This is the most commonly missed marketing secret for Web sites, and something you see on all of the most profitable sites. A good referral form can be installed for less than $100, and it will fundamentally change the traffic patterns to your site. Think about it: Someone wants to advertise for you, for free. Do everything you can to make it happen.
Above all else, keep it simple. Don't require passwords, log-ins or lots of fields. When someone wants to refer your site, they may be about to buy and need the input of another person. Or they might like what they see and want to show a friend. Either way, let it happen by streamlining the process.
To make it work even better, allow visitors to insert names of as many friends as they'd like. You'll find that if you put in lines that ask for multiple names and e-mails, you'll get more referrals at one time. We added lines for five friends' names (instead of a single box allowing multiple names to be separated by commas), and we now get an average of two referrals per use, doubling our free traffic.
Do whatever you can to make it personal to the recipient. An auto-generated form letter will get lost in the in-box. Allow the sender to include a personal message. Put the referer's name on the "from" line. Also, put privacy front and center throughout the process with prominent links that explain that you will protect the sender's and receiver's e-mail address.
Andy Sernovitz is CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (www.womma.org).