Monday, March 30, 2015

Seven Email Innovations to Bring Context to Your Campaigns

Seven Email Innovations to Bring Context to Your Campaigns
Keeping up with consumer expectations and ensuring experiences that deliver on those expectations are top challenges for marketers these days.

Marketing pros spend most of their time juggling data, technological capabilities, and growing customer expectations for immediate, relevant, and personal messages. The solution to that challenge of context may seem to be in bright and shiny new channels, but an immediate opportunity exists elsewhere for innovation, learning, and optimization across channels.

Where? In the email inbox.

When you look across the marketing mix, email marketing is where the intersection of data, insight, automation, and action is most active today. And innovations are helping email to continue leading the way to more contextual and cross-channel experiences for consumers.

So how do you tap into the contextual power of email?

To really grab—and maintain—attention in the inbox and beyond, marketers need to harness and activate data to align around and anticipate consumer needs.

Luckily for email marketing, email is not a stagnant technology, and there is innovation at every email open and click these days. This innovation equates to tremendous opportunity for email marketers to lead the charge to more contextual consumer experiences that drive action and conversion.

Here are seven key inbox innovations to help you chart the course to context.

1. Open-time personalization

Content that is relevant at the time of email open is key to making messaging more contextual and creating personalized experiences that create utility to attract and retain customers.

Open-time email personalization lets you respond to your customer's needs in that very moment, as indicated by a specific social status update, such as the device they're using, where they're located at the time of open, the local weather, or the use of an app at a certain time and place.

Personalized email content has already been shown to generate transaction rates six times higher than impersonal counterparts; it's a powerful way to win customer attention, secure wallet-share, and engender brand loyalty.

2. Progressive profiling

Progressive profiling is a technique that's been around for a while, but new marketing technologies now enable this iterative process to occur in near real time.

Email automation tools can personalize messages with just-acquired customer insights to dramatically boost email engagement and conversion rates.

3. Template optimization and dynamic content

Template optimization and dynamic content can save your team countless hours of production time, but they also allow your messaging to be more flexible, scalable, relevant, and personalized.

The resulting dynamic template makes it easy to manage copy, image URLs, and links outside of the core HTML template. And that means faster campaign turnaround times, increased responsiveness, and an email body that automatically changes based on past customer interaction data.

4. Responsive design for mobile

With 66% of email opens now happening on a mobile device, mobile optimization is a priority for many marketers.

Responsive design ensures that your emails are easily viewable on a small screen, and it lets your customers quickly complete a desired action with a minimum of resizing or scrolling.

You create one dynamic email template that offers up the optimal viewing experience no matter the device used to view the message.

5. Display retargeting

Display ad retargeting is a particularly powerful way to supplement your email marketing campaigns with targeted cross-channel touchpoints. With the right approach, you can keep your brand in front of your email subscribers without risking over-sending and unsubscribes.

Display retargeting is an effective way of improving your customer lifecycle communication strategy by building multiple touchpoints with customers and keeping your brand top of mind.

6. Integrating mobile and email

The immediate attention consumers give SMS messages make it the perfect channel for alerting customers about important product or service updates, soliciting email subscribers, or reactivating lapsed customers who have become unresponsive on other channels.

Mobile is a very personal and immediate channel, so the focus should be on hyper-relevant content.

7. Integrating social and email

Harnessing social graph information can help you tailor messages based on real-time social connections or sentiment information. Embedding social sharing functionality in your emails can help amplify your messaging.

Emails that include "share" and "connect" buttons have CTRs that are up to 115% higher than emails that don't embed social sharing; moreover, they benefit from the halo effect of new engagements with recipients' extended social networks.

* * *

Finally, a tip for powering your email initiatives is to find the solution that will enable you to successfully execute email campaigns.

As you can see, these tactics are part of a complex ecosystem that uses data to deliver an optimized cross-channel experience for consumers. Today's email and cross-channel marketing platforms combine data insight with campaign automation and optimization to enable sophisticated marketing strategies. The right technology solution will provide real-time connections to customer databases and other business systems, assemble messages quickly, support integrated cross-channel marketing triggers and messaging, and optimize performance with real-time automated programs

If you need help with your email, web site, video, or other presentation to promote your  company, product, or service,  please give me a call at 440-519-1500 or e-mail me at 

X2 Media can help you target your content and get your message to the audience in a way that it is not only seen and heard, but remembered.

Until next month….remember, “you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression”. Always make it a good one!   

From X2Media I would like to thank you for your time.  

John E. Hornyak
X2Media, LLC


How to Create an Event That Drives ROI

How to Create an Event That Drives ROI

Events can be a successful technique for marketing, engagement, and networking—if they're done properly. Unfortunately, many organizations settle for mundane, outdated, and unimaginative events. So much so, that when some people hear the word "event," they may just roll their eyes.

Three-quarters of executives are looking for greater return on investment (ROI) from corporate events, a national Harris Interactive survey found. That may seem daunting to achieve, but there are tried and true ways to increase event ROI, including making use of behaviors that drive happiness, such as the surprise factor and authentic interaction.

Here are five tactics you can use to ensure your attendees thoroughly enjoy your events and, in turn, ensure ROI.

1. Understand how the brain works

If you are incorporating a speech or presentation, keep it short. Your brain can focus for roughly 7-10 minutes on a presentation, and then the brain needs a break, research shows.

Incorporate a change of pace—a song, a video, something interactive to allow the brain to take a break, and only then move on. This allows your message to sink in and resonate better—not go in one ear and out the other.

2. Make a positive memory

Daniel Kahneman, who wrote a book called Thinking Fast and Slow, writes, "We don't choose between experiences. We choose between memories of experiences."

Incorporate that thinking into your event. For instance, when people leave the event to get their car, you wouldn't want them standing in a long disorganized line, because that is what they will remember the most about the event—not the amazing time they had there.

For instance, to create and elongate a positive memory, consider creating a "valet lounge" where attendees could relax on couches and continue that wonderful experience while waiting for their cars.

3. Keep it cool

Literally, keep the temperature cool in the room. Warm/hot temperatures make everything feel as if it's going slow, and the warmth will put your attendees to sleep. Have refreshing ice cold drinks on hand, too, so everyone will feel rejuvenated.

4. Refresh or die!

You may be working with the same or limited budget, but that doesn't mean the repeat event can't be revitalized.

Instead of a typical ribbon cutting, for example, try re-inventing the cutting by having ribbons fall from the ceiling on a grand scale with a kabuki drop. The audience won't be expecting it, and it will incorporate an element of surprise!

You can infuse new life into an event, without its costing a penny, by rearranging the interior design.

For instance, if you're hosting an awards ceremony, designing a "runway style ballroom"—by arranging the audience chairs on either side of an aisle—can work great. And by shortening speaker sessions and adding lively music, the energy stays high, similar to a fashion show.

5. Kick up the interaction

Instead of having guests engage only with the people to their right or left at their table, make it more interactive and inspiring. For instance, Alinea, in Chicago, makes dessert right on the table, as a form of art.

You can replicate that sort of experience and guests will be able to interact with the chefs, the desserts, and each other. It creates a unique and amazing experience, and it sets an energizing mood for conversing with each other.

Apply this five-step process

Here are five steps to take, including questions to ask yourself, before, during, and after an event.

  1. Learning: Determine what success looks like. Do you want attendees to learn more about your company's services, visit your website, or donate to your nonprofit? You need metrics in place before you even start the event. If you want attendees to go to a website, do you have the systems and data in place before your event so it can be measured afterward?
  2. Reaction: You want attendees to have a great time, and come back again. Poll their reaction to something, whether it's the inclusion of music at the event or their thoughts about a keynote speaker.
  3. Implication: What happens when the event is over and attendees leave? How do they apply what they've learned or what they've been exposed to, and how are you tracking that?
  4. Impact: After you measure the first three items, what is the impact of the event?
  5. Financial: Once you have taken care of the first four items, you will have gone a long way toward deriving a positive ROI from the event. 

Public Relations: Four 'Wow' Ways to Use It for Sales

Public Relations: Four 'Wow' Ways to Use It for Sales

"PR is an insanely valuable activity in early-stage companies," wrote venture capitalist Mark Suster on his popular blog for startups.

The problem is that most companies focused on growth are almost allergic to public relations: It takes a ton of time, it doesn't easily lend itself to metrics, and the people who work in PR are often big picture, strategic—or, if you'd rather, "fuzzy"—thinkers.

In other words, PR people don't fit easily into the world of the bootstrapped or venture-backed growth company.

Yet, founders and investors alike will acknowledge that a company's perceived lack of credibility is one of the silent killers of great sales opportunities: Big potential clients can circle and circle, but they are famously risk-averse. In this era of transparency, social proof, and infinite-pages-on-Forbes, a company that doesn't have great coverage or exposure is almost questionable—and that's enough to kill big deals.

Public relations and sales are perfect companions

Fortunately, with the right technology and tracking, public relations is the perfect support to a natural lead nurturing process. PR creates enough credibility so that you can...

  1. Encourage starter customers to grow into enterprise customers
  2. Reassure existing investors with social traction
  3. Build your qualified site traffic and Alexa score all at once
  4. Attract new investors for your next round

Here are four simple ways you can use public relations to enhance your sales—and track it.

1. Build qualified traffic through social media

Share the great coverage you've achieved: Highlight it in your newsletter (if you have one), on your LinkedIn and other social media pages, and in a running news feed on your website. Make it apparent that your industry is in love with you.

Here's what you'll get:

  • More credibility (hard to measure)
  • Lots more awareness (hard to measure)
  • Attaboys from investors
  • 10-20% boosts in qualified Web traffic (watch the inbound social link traffic to see it happen)
Here's how you do it:
  1. Follow the journalists you want to cover you.
  2. Read their work and reshare it with insightful comments, always providing appropriate attribution. Depending on your needs and profile, use a right-sized social media tool to make this easier, such as HootSuite, Radian6, Buffer, or (one of my favorites)
  3. When they cover you, send the piece to your prospects and your customers, put it in your website, share it, and thank them.
  4. Repeat.
2. Make lead generation events do double duty

There's nothing like having people who already trust you in the room—learning to trust you more and sharing that with others. That's why event marketing is ranked by B2B marketers year after year as their "go-to" sales tactic, according to the MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute annual study.

Your marketing team already executes trendy client development events, now consider inviting trade journalists, local journalists, and promising bloggers to come meet sources and learn the trends, too. You may even jump for a ticket for a writer who really gets your field and your company.

Here's what you'll get:

  • Top-notch coverage of your event
  • Better relationships with journalists—priceless over the long haul
  • Inbound prospects from links in the articles (trackable!)
  • Bonus points from clients and investors who see that you are the go-to company in your industry
Here's how you do it:
  1. Go back to that list of journalists, and have your CEO invite them to participate on a press pass, all expenses paid.
  2. Assign one person on your team, or from your agency, to help the journalists connect. See whether they can do briefings with a key client or two as well as a couple of your inside thought leaders.
  3. Make sure they get a company backgrounder, possibly case study notes prewritten, and bios, ahead of the event.
  4. Provide a quiet private room for the journalists to work with lots of power, coffee, and raging-fast Internet.
3. Hijack the smartest minds in your industry

What, you haven't written your book yet? Of course not! Growth stage companies are too busy for major campaigns like book writing. The next best thing is to develop a mutually beneficial alliance with a leading author or two in your field.

Authors are looking for ways to promote their books—and you'd like to reach their audience, too. Combing forces is one way to do both. Creating a webinar on a topic of interest both to the author and to you creates content that is twice as interesting. Moreover, the author's network enlarges the distribution footprint.

Here's how you do it:

  1. Read books in your industry (you're already doing that, right?).
  2. Pick three authors who speak to you or your team.
  3. Reach out to them on their author website or LinkedIn, inviting them to speak with you about a webinar series. Ask whether they would be open to promoting the series to their own fans (you'll want to hear a "yes").
  4. Offer to buy copies of their book for attendees, or for attendees who attend and ask questions. It's quid pro quo: This person needs to promote and sell books; make sure you help.
  5. Mention your webinar series with the author when you are speaking with trade journalists.
  6. List the author webinar in the trade calendars as an industry event.
  7. Have one of your content developers write up the webinar with the author and your expert as a blog post or series of posts.
Here's what you get:
  • Access to a new group of potential clients through the authors' distribution list
  • Signups for your webinar consisting of people interested in the topic who are now on your nurture list
  • More credibility
4. Put clients on commission

Few clients like to go on the record with a no-holds barred testimonial, so don't ask them for it. Instead, ask them to go on video with a short industry perspective at your next big tradeshow, where presumably you and the client will both attend.

Used properly on your website, these kinds of pieces showcase the kind of company you are by showcasing the quality of the company you keep. One example is the recent video by, a CRM startup: Its video features thought leadership from a former VP of CRM at Oracle and at Intercontinental Hotels group.

Here's how you do it:

  1. Look for clients who are building their personal reputation as thought leaders.
  2. Ask whether they would provide a perspective on an issue that matters to you business and your prospective clients.
  3. Provide 1-3 questions in advance for your client.
  4. Send a video team to them. You'll find their perspective speaks for itself when they showcase their own strengths and insights.
  5. Put the video on your website and develop a social media campaign around it.
  6. Ask your client and your client's PR team to promote their point of view.
  7. Send it to journalists and ask whether they'd like to interview your client and your internal expert on the topic.
Here's what you get:
  • Enormous credibility kudos
  • Nice soundbites for investors about why companies are working with you
  • Jealous competitors 
  • Substantial inbound lead traffic to see what experts say on an important trend (thanks to your social media outbound and your media pitching—and perhaps that of your client as well)