3 Lessons from the world’s most successful ecampaign.

In January 2013 Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the USA. His email campaign leading up to his winning a second presidential term is seen by many as the most successful online campaign of 2012. “His email campaign brought in $689 million; that’s nearly 75% of the $924m in total raised in what ended up being the most expensive presidential election in US history. This makes email, by far the No1 non-political contributor to the drubbing of Mitt Romney.” [ref Magill report]

Obama email list of approx 40 million subscribers, “his most valuable asset”, has been likened to a nuclear weapon, “the power of which hasn’t been quantified”. Certainly, the notion that Obama could harness email in order to force legislative action is an entirely new paradigm on the American electoral scene. His ability to make money online meant that he could start his second term debt free from lobbyists. Since he did not need the money that global weapons companies have traditionally thrown at presidential candidates, he has been able to immediately start to address gun control issues.

So what lessons can we learn from Obama’s game changing email campaign?

Lesson 1: Use simple, talking copy.

“It quickly became clear that Obama’s casual tone was most effective”, says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s email director. Obama’s copy spoke to the people. The subject lines that worked best were what you might see in your in-box from friends. ‘Hey’ was the best one in terms of opening clicks; and “I will be outspent” was the most successful subject line financially. Here are the top 5 subject lines in terms of financial success.

Of course, Obama’s speaking style and ability to create intimacy when he speaks to large audiences means that he can adopt this casual tone. Whilst most marketers are not on such intimate terms with their prospects, we can learn much from the idea that we need to sound “like a real person” and not like a company pitching its products.

Lesson 2: Say ONE thing only.

What I liked best about Obama’s email campaign was the simplicity of structure; one reason only for you to engage with this particularly email. Often the messaging was so simple that it could be read at a glance. All emails were focussed on one call to action: Donate. Nothing in any of his emails distracted from this main goal. It brings to mind the old Direct Marketing saying: “Give them a choice and they’ll do nothing.”

Lesson 3: Extensive use of video.

Both Barack and Michele Obama tapped into the power of video to get their campaign message across.

Note: The new way to use video is to place it at the top of the email (or website) and make it the main component. Short videos less than 2 minutes work best. However, videos should always be used in conjunction with text. For viewers in a hurry, text is still better.

And if you’re not Obama, see a design idea as to how you can make use of this concept for your products

The bottom line: So did Obama win because he sent out more emails? “According to numbers put out by eDataSource, Obama mailed a staggering 40+MM subscribers compared with Romney’s 4MM, on some days they sent 350MM compared with 26MM from Romney. So while relevance, engagement, creative – ugly or otherwise, Subject Line testing etc. did play some part in his success, they pale into insignificance compared to the impact reach and frequency had in his success.” [ref Magill report]

Colleen Backstrom is CEO of Kaleidoscope Advertising and marketing, one of South Africa’s leading email marketing companies. www.kscope.co.za


Do Not Reply to This E-mail.

Quick marketing tips and updates no 17

Do Not Reply to This E-mail.

This morning in my inbox there are no less than 7 emails from marketing companies actively telling me, as a prospective customer, that they are not interested in hearing from me. The sender address looks something like this;  noreply@server2.clientpost.co.za  And if that is not enough to put me off ever doing business with them, some of the emails further stress in the text that “Please do not reply to this email message via email.  This address is automated, unattended, and cannot help with questions or requests.”

Then they go on to request that I “like” them on Facebook and Twitter. What’s to like? Unless one “likes” to do business with a  company that is rude (read impolite, discourteous, bad-mannered, and offensive).

Next gripe:  The long-thread email And yes, whilst I am being irritable, please also remember to change the subject line in those long-thread email communications…  you know the one that starts off with “RE: The meeting this morning” and then goes on to ask about the content of the report that needs to be done, and then on to the fact that there is no coffee in the canteen, and then on to the quote that you have been waiting for… on and on for days, all under the same subject line “RE: The meeting this morning”. If you find this is happening to you, break the thread and change the headline to make the contents relevant. So much easier for you and your recipient to find your emails when you are looking for them.

There, I feel better getting that off my chest. So what do you feel most irritated about in your inbox?  I would welcome your thoughts below.    And to everyone that responds, I will collate and send the top 5 pet gripes re South African inboxes.

Colleen Backstrom colleen@kscope.co.za | 021 4622291

The Anatomy of an Awful Marketing Email

How often do you think about junk mail? Probably not too often, because there’s a folder in your email that thinks about it for you, right?

But consider this: according to Return Path, marketing emails are responsible for 70% of ‘this is spam’ complaints. That means even if you don’t think about junk mail as a recipient, as a marketer, you should all be thinking about it all the time — specifically, whether your own marketing emails are part of that 70%.

So what if we just … stopped producing awful marketing emails entirely? Well to do that, we have to know just what makes an email so awful, So, I created my own truly awful marketing email, and am going to walk you through everything not to do in your own email marketing. Here, take a look for yourself!

The Anatomy of an Awful Marketing Email


email marketing bad ex


1) Write a Generic Subject Line

According to a survey by Blue Kangaroo, 43% of adults in the U.S. said more than half of their emails are from marketers. With half of your recipient’s emails promising deals, coupons, sales, and updates, why should they open yours? Subject lines like the one in the email above don’t tell your recipient anything — I mean, 40% off what product? And settle down with the exclamation points, why don’t ya? Your subject line should invite the recipient to do something, to experience something, to enjoy some kind of benefit. To totally nail your email subject line, reference this blog post that will show you the secret sauce for sexy subject lines.

Does your digital marketing collateral pass the mobile test?

If you have anything to do with digital marketing, you’ll know the powerful impact mobile devices have had on the media.

So how much would it change your views if I told you that a few recent campaigns we’ve rolled out showed that 70% or more of all engagement was through mobile devices? Is your digital collateral geared for that level of mobile engagement?

Resolution, resolution, resolution

Probably one of the most important elements of any digital collateral, and for web designers, probably the most difficult to explain, resolution is all about how the document you’ve created adjusts itself to display on the screen the recipient is using.

The range of screen resolutions is enormous; in fact once you add mobile into the mix, you’re dealing with screens ranging from a tiny 240-pixel width to those in excess of 2500 pixels.

Effectively, this means that everything on the page – from the layout of text, to the visible size of the text, is going to change according to the device you’re viewing it on.

So, for example, your perfectly calculated text, that ends exactly in line with the image aligned in the right-hand column of the piece, is no longer going to be perfectly aligned – on a much smaller screen, it could read for effectively 2 pages longer than the bottom of the image you’ve so carefully aligned.

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eMarketing 2013: 2 New Trends

If your emarketing results are proving to be a bit of a disappointment, here are 2 new trends that might offer some thinking regarding a new way forward. 

Trend no 1 BIG DATA
In early 2012 when the world first came into contact with the term Big Data, most of us non-IT people thought: Well, we have a Big Database, we have a Huge Database.  In fact we have a Monster Database. So no-worries, we’ve got Big Data!

Not so.

There are many definitions out there, depending upon your business needs, but in a nutshell, Big Data is the collection and analysis of your company’s information on a massive, massive scale …  in order to allow the marketer to create specific packages and campaigns for individual clients – in real time. Think Amazon. Think Cloud. Think marketing to your Customer-of-One.

Unstructured data, often located in a company’s text files, comprises at least 80% of organisational data; often petabytes* of random data that would be inefficient in time and cost to load into a relational database.  Left unmanaged it is useless.  Put through a Big Data Analytics process it allow companies to drill deep in order to understand exactly, make decisions, and act in real-time to better service their clients. The possibilities for new innovation, improved agility, and increased profitability are huge. *(1 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

Of course, the fundamental principle of Big Data is not new.  Full client knowledge is a guiding principle of good marketing.  The concept of know-your-customer is as old as marketing itself. What’s new and what’s valuable is that the new technology now allows us to collect and interpret the tsunami of data already available within our company systems.  Big Data software then makes this collective information available in a format that allows the marketer to drive real-time marketing campaigns.

The IT technology and tools to execute Big Data processing are new. The downside is that companies will have to gear-up with the necessary technology or else outsource the service.

What can the small business learn from Big Data?
In the last 10 years the easy (and inexpensive) option of bulk emails meant that we could all be sloppy about our databases, and send out huge email blasts to “see what comes back”.  The continuing drop in email opening rates makes it essential that we start again and take a fresh new look at how we emarket. 

There’s another reason why we should consider Big Data analytics.

Whilst most of us are not marketing on the scale of Amazon or Apple or Levi, the Protection of Personal Information Bill (POPI) imminent in South Africa in 2014, means that we will all have to clean up our acts in terms of our databases. So we should welcome the bill because its opt-in requirement will give professional marketers the opportunity to “up” their game plan…  to know and understand their clients at the next level.  Big Data will allow us to discover repeatable business patterns, to track and interpret the needs of our best customers, and to help us create a marketing package around specific needs. In short Big Data marketing becomes a game-changing strategy… It’s an exciting and new way to re-imagine your email marketing.

Big Data allows eMarketing to take a giant step forward.

If you’re not quite ready to invest in Big Data software, you can still use the concept of deeper customer knowledge to improve your marketing this year. In 2013 our databases should be more targeted, more effective, more profitable, even if we have to sacrifice size for quality. Bulk emailing becomes a thing of the past, and the right message of engagement to a segmented and more “perfect” client base, becomes the name of the game. (See Nurturing Campaigns below).

The first step is simply to start creating your own database of good (Big) data. Throw out the useless names, and make a fresh start, intent on marketing to your list of perfect clients.

The Brand as Thought Leader.

In 2013 companies marketing themselves intelligently by email will have to take some giant strides forward. Hope-for-the-best email blasts used as a quick-fix for diminishing sales will be replaced by fresh, more strategic approaches. Quality content [The Brand as Thought Leader] will replace sales hype to meet the higher standards of engagement expected by the new it’s-all-about-me customer.  Big Data will allow marketers to reshape their products around client pain points and real needs.  

So what is a Nurturing eCampaign?

Here we need to consider 3 things:

(a) clients prefer to do business with an industry expert, and

(b) the most read emails are those “that teach me how to do my job better”. [ref Nielsen (USA) research study].

(c) executive time is at a premium, and keeping up-to-date with current industry information is increasingly difficult for most business people.  

The concept of a Nurturing eCampaign is to tap into the above 3 needs by becoming an “expert” in your industry.  Marketers send their perfect clients short, to-the-point and minimum-read information sets related to the industry… and not specifically to the products which they sell.  For example, if your business is about selling strategic workshops, you could send an information piece “What Harvard says about Strategy in 2013”.  Use google to source the articles, and then précis them into no more than 3 short paragraphs; with a link to the source site. 

WATCHPOINT!  Here I need to stress that a Nurturing eCampaign is not the current practice of sending out long-long emails with a multiple choice list of more> links.  Don’t fall into this lazy marketing pattern.  Show your real expertise by highlighting no more than “3 things I found most interesting about this article”.  And note. Drop the sales pitch. Just a simple description in text of pictures of what you do, and what you sell, as a footnote below the nurturing email. We suggest one nurturing ecampaign a month, twelve in a year of top-top quality information sets.

And if you’re still sending out “newsletters” to connect with your client base, at best, expect to be ignored. At worst expect to do damage to your brand. The hard fact is that your clients are not interested in your “news”.

In 2013 companies that apply their intelligence and time to connect with their clients with relevant information without trying to “sell” them on every contact, will grow and flourish. 

In conclusion

In the words of my old marketing professor guru “Marketing is simple. Find out what your clients want. And then give it to them.” 

Simple, yes.  But not easy.  It requires effort.  And planning.  And dedication.   

And if your company is chasing sales, and not thinking that marketing comes ahead of sales… you’re dead in the water before you start. In 2013 companies that demonstrate versatility of skills and flexibility of mind will make a good living. Those that fail to adapt will limit their chances. Or simply go to the wall.

Colleen Backstrom is CEO of Kaleidoscope Advertising and Marketing, one of the leading email marketing companies in South Africa. Her company specialises in creating emarketing divisions for corporates. www.kscope.co.za. 021 4622291.  If you would like a template example of a nurturing campaign.  Please email colleen@kscope.co.za.

Fix Your Sales Mojo: 5 Fast Tips

Your mom was right: You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself.

If you’re gotten stuck with some weak sales mojo, it might be time for some behavioral changes.  Here are five to get you started.

1. Ask better questions (and start with yourself). People who ask themselves “active” questions on a regular basis have reported more happiness, more meaning in their lives, and better relationships.  Here are the active questions you should be asking yourself regularly:

  • Did I do my best to increase my own happiness?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning?
  • Did I do my best to be engaged?

By stopping and thinking about these three things, they’ll become a more naturally important part of your life–and this will directly impact your mojo.

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What a 9-Year-Old Can Teach You About Selling

I recently read a study that confirmed my suspicion that most people don’t remember what we present to them in a sales call. The data suggested that the average buyer in a meeting will only remember one thing–one!–a week after your meeting.

Oh, and by the way: You don’t get to choose what that one thing is. Sigh.

So what have sales professionals done about this? They have worked on “honing the message,” developing a “compelling unique advantage” and, of course, the ultimate silver bullet: a surefire elevator pitch.

But here’s what you’re fighting: A world cluttered with information, schedules, packed with more meetings and work than a person can handle. A decision-making process with more people involved in every choice–many of whom know little about your product or service. No wonder so little is remembered; often your audience doesn’t even understand much about what you’re offering.

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