There are a lot of reasons why I dislike the term content marketing, but the most important one is that it’s vague. Are we talking about a YouTube “let’s play” gaming video? A clever tweet from a big brand? Or maybe a blog post or podcast episode? Because that word content is there, the content
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At ProBlogger, we talk a lot about the value and importance of using an email strategy to drive traffic to, and make money from, your blog. But if you don’t keep your email subscriber list clean, it can negatively affect your blogging business.
By a clean list, I mean making sure your subscriber database is legal, accurate and engaged. Otherwise you may find yourself:
- fined for breaking international laws
- blacklisted by email service providers
- suffering from poor sender reputation and struggling with low open rates
- paying for inactive or non-existent subscribers
- passing up golden opportunities to connect with and market to your readers.
Here are some fundamental tips for maintaining a clean and valuable email list.
In 2003 the United States passed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM Act) into law. Most other jurisdictions across the world followed suit, and implemented these regulations that guide the behavior of email marketers, including bloggers. Check out the useful Compliance Guide from the US Federal Trade Commission to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
The basics of not spamming are to:
- be clear and transparent in your email marketing
- make it very obvious how subscribers may opt out of your emails.
Most email service providers ensure you don’t spam with the checks they have set up in their systems.
Beware the European Union’s GDPR
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018. If you have subscribers within the European Union, then these rules apply to you.
And the penalties are heavy.
We’re not lawyers, and these regulations are quite complex and far-reaching, so we won’t be offering any advice on this. But you can check out these handy tips we’ve followed from our email service provider, Drip.
Build and Maintain Your Sender Reputation
Your email sender reputation is scored like a credit score. Businesses such as email providers use this data to determine whether to receive or reject your email. Email engagement rates such as opens, clicks (good) and spam complaints (bad) will affect your sender reputation. So the better your email engagement, the better your sender reputation, and the better your email deliverability will be.
Use a Double-Opt-in
While a double-opt-in process may seem like an obstacle to gaining subscribers, getting people to confirm their subscription is a good idea. Firstly, you know their email address is correct. (You’d be amazed how many potential subscribers misspell their own email.) Secondly, you’ll know these subscribers are real people and not bots. Thirdly, it shows they’re committed enough to go through this process to receive your emails.
It also lets you include extra messaging such as GDPR compliance in your confirmation prompt.
Pay Attention to Bounces and Undeliverable Email
Get in the practice of looking at the reports after every email you send to investigate bounces and undeliverables. (We suggest checking a week later.) You don’t want to carry dead weight in your list, so identify email addresses that have problems, and set up a system to manage and either fix or remove these email addresses.
Keep Your Subscribers Engaged
Given your primary purpose of emailing your readers is to open up a line of communication with them, having them open your emails and click on the links is essential to this strategy. (Here’s an article on the benefits of email engagement.)
Google also uses email engagement (along with your sender reputation) as part of its algorithm to filter emails into subscribers’ different Gmail folders – Primary, Updates, Promotions and Spam. And at last count around half the email addresses in the ProBlogger database were Gmail addresses. How many do you have?
Certain keywords in the subject line or the email itself may send it straight to Promotions. But the more email opens and clicks you have, the better your chance of hitting your subscribers’ Primary inboxes. So building your email engagement carries momentum for further email engagement.
If you dig into your email stats (assuming can get these reports from your email service provider), you may well see some subscribers slowly drifting away, engaging less and less with your emails. Decide on what level of activity triggers a warning signal for losing these subscribers (e.g. one month of not opening your emails) and try to reactivate them. You can do this automatically with more sophisticated email programs such Drip or Convertkit by sending these subscribers a survey or offer to re-engage them.
Prune Your List
Over time, people’s interests change and subscribers move on. So there comes a time when you need to prune the ‘dead wood’ of inactive subscribers from your list. If your email service supports it, you can do this automatically after efforts at subscriber re-activation have failed.
If it doesn’t, them you should check the health of your list at least every six months to make sure you’re not paying for zombie emails that add to your email bill and provide nothing in return.
Decide Whether You’re With the Right Email Service
At ProBlogger HQ we’ve been conducting a list health check on Darren Rowse’s other (and much larger) Digital Photography School blog, which currently uses AWeber as an email service. We’ve been assessing all aspects of our subscriber list in terms of its ability to drive traffic and make money, as well as how clean it is.
If while trying to clean up your list you run into limitations based on your email service, or after some analysis decide it might be time to upgrade, our comparison of email service providers for bloggers may assist you.
This article was prompted by us weighing up the decision to move the Digital Photography School list from AWeber to Drip. We’ve been using Drip at ProBlogger for more than a year now, and we love it. Our analysis revealed a lot of insights about the business, and how we can improve our email strategy. (If you’re interested in hearing more about this, let us know in comments, as it’s a work in progress that might make a good case study.)
Hopefully you’ve gained some takeaways to improve the health of your email list, or been spurred into action to ‘clean house’. Let us know your top tip or takeaway for list hygiene in the comments below.
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We in the vendor world like to talk about ourselves. A lot. We like to talk about how our products are so smart, so user-friendly, so useful, so valuable, and so mission-critical. So many pats on our own backs. I find it educational and humbling to sit back once in a while and observe the vendor activity on my Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.
To be fair, my company is as guilty as any other company in the way product information and its importance to business is trumpeted across networks. Also, and again to be fair, this is not a bad thing on its own. After all, it’s just advertising. It’s bad though if your customers grow weary of the onslaught.
Do you know if they are?
The onslaught of anything causes deflection or shutdown. I know I switch the channel on the treadmill when commercials come on, just as I do when I click on a link and it opens a website that includes autoplay of a video. Close it down, shut it off, make it stop. Those kinds of consumer reactions are not what marketers envision from their campaigns. The same principle — and same set of reactions — holds for existing customers on the receiving end of your messaging.So What Do Customers Want?
Good question. They want lots of things. They want products that are easy to use and do what the vendor says they will. They want accurate and fast basic service when they need it, and they want real expertise available when they are in a situation that warrants it. They’re willing to pay for that last piece, by the way. Are any of those things unreasonable? No.
Customers want more because we vendors have elevated their expectations. We’re delivering more features, functionality, and business value through our products and solutions all the time. While their lives can be more complicated as a result, the net effect is that technological solutions are having a positive effect on their businesses.
That’s one form of onslaught, but it’s a form that customers are attracted to. An onslaught of value is a good thing.
The scene turns sour, though, when our vendor voice drowns out their customer one. When customers feel they have to struggle to get those (in their minds) minimum service expectations I listed above met, that’s when they feel vendors are only interested in themselves. There are Voice of the Customer programs, which, of course, have the potential for offering tremendous listening value, but how else can vendors show they care?Climb The Mountain of Data
How about using the vast amount of data collected each day from your customers’ use of your product? How about leveraging the data that you already know about the kind of business they’re in and how successful they’ve been, the products they subscribe to (yours and your competitors’), the trajectory of their spend with you, about the roles of the individuals employed and who serve as your contacts in all those accounts, about the business goals they aspire to and that they’ve already detailed for you?
All of that should be stored in your CRM.
How about reconciling all that data with what you should know about what’s happening in the national and international economies where your customers conduct their business? How about taking all that data and, without even a hint of alchemy, turn it into insights that you can action with customers? In addition to great solutions, this is what customers really want.Getting From Here to There
If heightened expectations mean customers want more insights, what does that mean for vendors? Vendors need to accelerate the data literacy of their workforces, particularly those in their customer-facing organizations. They need to evolve their teams to a point where customers and opportunities are represented by data that can be distilled into meaningful action.
Data literacy is the ability to read, understand, create and communicate data as information. It’s the ability of a person to be comfortable operating in an environment where automated work processes are fueled by data, mountains of it. Digitally transformed businesses can only be so when they can say that their processes are operating from a foundation of data, which, of course, dictates that people responsible for operating the processes need to be as data fluent as possible to participate fully in an environment of iterative improvement.
Sadly though, Capgemini reports that only a minority (39 percent) of businesses feel they are digitally capable. And, although this next piece focuses on this issue specifically as it pertains to the US federal government, according to this Nextgov article, organizations aren’t doing enough to advance the data literacy skills of their workforces.
Broadly speaking, data illiteracy hurts a company’s ability to meet business targets, and, in the future, it will more severely compromise their ability to compete. As stated in the article, organizations should make driving up data literacy rates across their workforces a high priority “instead of depending on a few experts who hold the keys to the data kingdom … .”Does Customer Success Play a Role?
Carrying over from a recent post I wrote called, Customer Success: An Instrument for Change, there is no more logical organization to lead the effort toward digitally transforming a company so that it revolves around the needs and experiences of customers. Why? Because no other organization has as close proximity to the customer’s business as customer success. No other organization is as weighted with responsibility for ensuring customers stay customers over the long haul. And no other organization is as increasingly looked upon as integral to a customer’s ability to achieve their business goals.
But in most cases, customer success is not quite ready for such a key role in a digitally transformed landscape. More change needs to occur and the most fundamental one of all is elevating its members’ level of data literacy so that the following example can be digitally and procedurally handled instead of the way it typically is today in almost all companies, by executive escalation and disruptive panic.
Example: Customer A bought Product B from your company. Customer A is a financial services firm whose flamboyant CEO loves speaking to the media about the future of fintech. She’s recently announced a new initiative that will see her firm invest millions into a new lab to exploit that technology because, as she says, her customers are becoming increasingly data literate. But that will only happen once they complete an internal review of the performance and relevance of their existing technology investments and associated vendors. Do you think that might produce some important action for the customer success team? Do you think it might trigger them to redouble their efforts at ensuring Customer A is successful in achieving their business goals through Product B so that your company lands on the right side of that assessment process?
A vendor with a data literate workforce would have an edge. A data literate workforce would already know whether the customer is achieving success or not and would already have been executing a plan to keep things moving in the right direction.
You get my point.
Data literacy drives more intelligent decisions. And while they might not be saying it or even thinking it, data literacy is what your customers need you to have.
OK, I’m just going to say it. In today’s world, publishing second-rate content is a total waste of time. There’s no point in contributing to the growing pile of mediocrity. It wastes your time, and, worse, it wastes your audience’s time. Sometimes I’ll see a marketer complaining that: “I spent two years doing all of
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