4 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

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It’s hard to believe the holiday season has arrived once again, and before we know it we’ll be ringing in 2018. After a busy holiday season, a new year is an opportunity to refresh your marketing priorities. Marketing objectives and strategies are constantly evolving, and certain approaches that worked last year may no longer be best practice today. Here are 4 things you should know about marketing for 2018.

1) Amazon is King:

White-Amazon-LogoWhen you have a question about something, what do you do? Usually without thinking, I turn to Google.

So, would it surprise you to learn that Google is surpassed by another search engine? Currently, Amazon holds the crown as the most used product search engine, with 59% of product searches happening on their site. And they’re not only a resource for products—Amazon also offers a wide range of services, including AmazonFresh grocery delivery, web cloud storage, and TV, movie, and music streaming. It’s even possible that Amazon will be offering prescription medications in the near future.

But as a business owner, you should know about Amazon Services. It essentially works as an Amazon search engine for professional services. Whether you’re an electrician, computer repair person, or pool cleaner, your customers can search for, purchase, and review your services, all through Amazon. This is already taking off in larger cities across the U.S., and will likely be popular in our region in just a year or two. If you want to get ahead of the game, it could pay off to claim your spot on Amazon today.

2) Website Accessibility:

Have you heard about the Web Content Accessibility Guideline? If you plan to have a website in 2018, listen up. While there are no standardized rules for what a website must have to be considered “accessible,” the web has been labeled as a “place of public accommodation.” Essentially, you could run into legal trouble if your site isn’t accessible or functional for people who use assistive technologies, like browser reading software, when on the web. You’ll probably want to refer to your website provider for specifics on how to adjust your page for accessibility, but some things to start with include:

  • Ensuring all your images have alternative text
  • Including subtitles for your videos and/or a link to the video’s transcript
  • Creating obvious links to your home and site map pages for easy navigation
  • Give every page a primary title (H1) and as you move down the page present headlines in ascending order (H2, H3, etc.) without skipping any (i.e., don’t go from H1 to H3)
  • Make link text descriptive (Learn about SEO on our Web Tips page rather than Click here for SEO tips)

3) SEO Factors: 

oversized laptop surrounded by people on laptops with skyline background
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Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the fastest changing aspects of marketing. It is always evolving, and your website must evolve with it or be left behind. Focus on these factors:

Improve Site Speed

A load time between 2 and 3 seconds is considered excellent. The average webpage loads in between 5 and 7 seconds. Nearly 1/3 of web users will leave a site if it takes 7 seconds or more to load, and that number increases for every second longer it takes to open your page. There are number of free web tools you can use to determine the speed/loading issues of your page.

Relevance > Key Words

Search engines have gotten smarter at being able to determine the intent of your page. This means that the heavy use of keywords isn’t as critical as it used to be. In fact, 35% of top search results don’t include any keywords in the title of the page or article. You can focus more on being readable to your human audience rather than including keyword-heavy titles and anchor text.

Keep Using Meta Data

Title tags and meta tags are still effective SEO tools. A title tag should be no longer than 70 characters, while meta tags shouldn’t go over 175 characters. Alt tags are essential too, not just for accessibility, but also for improving search rankings.

Social Doesn’t Improve SEO

Social media is an effective marketing tool, but having a strong social strategy won’t improve your search rankings. However, don’t neglect it all together; it’s a great tool for building trust with prospects and current customers.

Be Clear and Concise

Just as web users expect your page to load fast, they expect to find what they need on the page quickly, too. Make your page navigation simple and straightforward. And, if your web page will be answering a question, make sure you answer that question in the first three sentences of text, or you risk losing the reader’s attention.

4) Marketing with Facebook Ads: 

If you haven’t started advertising on Facebook, get ready to jump right in. There are over 200 million active Facebook users in the U.S., active for an average of 50 minutes per day. That represents a significant number of opportunities for you to connect with your audience.

Facebook ad targeting strategies have become more specific than ever. You can air different advertisements based on your goals, whether it’s to increase brand awareness, traffic, lead generation, or conversion rates. You can segment your ads to only be seen on mobile devices, and even to reach an audience based on life events. If an individual puts their location information on Facebook, its algorithm can tell that he or she moved from Florida to Vermont, and ads will appear to them for things they’re likely to need, such as snow removal services, winter tires, or cold weather gear.

What marketing trends are you noticing or trying, and how do these trends relate? If you’re looking to enhance your marketing strategy for 2018, contact Paw Print & Mail to start the conversation.

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Consider the Subtle Branding Approach

Branding-paw-print-and-mailEach morning as I prepare for work, I gather up the essentials: keys, phone, lunch, and travel mug. Whether I’m in the mood for coffee or tea, starting my day with a hot beverage is part of my routine, and it’s probably part of yours too. My mug gets a lot of use, but it’s not only functional—it also makes a statement. With a bright colored body and bold logo, my mug shows that I’m a proud graduate of my college. I’m not just drinking coffee; I’ve become a brand ambassador for my school.

While I could use any mug, I chose one that makes a statement with bold branding because the connection to my school is an important part of who I am. However, such branding is not the right fit for every product or every customer. Sometimes a subtler branding approach may lead to more engagement from a prospective customer—and more sales and leads for your business.

Why Use Promotional Products?

Branded promotional items are everywhere these days. It’s likely you have several yourself. Promo marketing includes the basics, like branded apparel, mugs, and pens, and also things like golf balls, kitchen items, and car accessories. You could even get a branded toaster, if you wanted. Your options for promotional products are nearly unlimited. But what is the real benefit to using them?

According to the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA), advertising with promotional products directly correlates with improved brand recognition and increased sales. It’s also been shown to have a higher return on investment than other marketing strategies.

Including promotional products in your larger marketing strategy increases the effectiveness of your other marketing methods by 44%. And a study by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) found that 52% of survey respondents did business with a company after receiving a promotional product from them. Promotional product marketing increases brand awareness and gives your company an edge over the competition.

Where Do I Start?

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The key to effective promotional products is that they must be useful to your audience. An item like a pen will get widespread use. But to make the most of promo marketing, you have to think deeper about your customers. You may create a quality product. But if your target audience doesn’t regularly use that item, your marketing will not be as effective.

So, if you have a fitness center, you could have branded water bottles or t-shirts. Or, if you’re in the technology field, try mousepads or USB drives. If your customers not only use the products, but use them when they’re making decisions related to the products or services you offer, you’ll stay at the top of their minds.

Functionality is essential, but another factor to consider is the branding itself. Sticking your logo all over an item may not always be the answer. How much branding is too much branding?

The Subtle Branding Approach

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There are a number of ways to include promo products in your marketing. You can give them away at events, or sell them. You can wear them. And you can include them in a mailing package to reach out to prospects or to thank current customers.

Each of these approaches connects you with a different audience. One way you can differentiate is to choose a level of branding that corresponds to your audience’s level of brand awareness.

In the example of my mug, I want to be a brand ambassador and use a product that promotes and reminds me of my college. That level of branding appeals to me in this instance, but it won’t appeal to everyone. It may seem that placing your logo on an item your audience regularly uses would be a win-win—they’ll use the item, and your business will be promoted. But if you go overboard with branding, it could be too much for people who aren’t already affiliated with you, and you run the risk of your item not being used at all.

The more personal and/or professional a promotional product is, and depending on how, when, or by whom it may be used, the subtler your branding on that item can be. For example, a journal or portfolio binder are items a professional may enjoy receiving. But, will they tend to use it if your logo is splashed all over it? Such an item is more “yours” than “theirs,” so consider this when designing and purchasing certain types of promotional products.

You could choose to keep your branding, but tone it down. Maybe you convert your colorful logo to a neutral black or gray. You still include it on a promotional item. But, make it smaller and place it on a sleek, quality product that will impress your audience.

Another way to be subtle is to include branding that is not specific to your company. You can position the promotional item to elicit a concept or best practice that your audience can relate to. Say you’re a company focused on energy efficiency. You could have promo items like an eco-friendly water bottle or journal decorated with an image, phrase, or artwork that your customer base (environmental advocates who support clean, efficient energy practices) will relate to. It represents your company more subtly than a basic logo.

If I were a long-time customer of your energy company, I may be likely to use a product branded with just your logo. I support what you do, and I want other people to understand your mission and utilize your services. But if I were a prospective customer who was just learning about you, a product emblazoned with your logo is more likely to end up collecting dust. If you can connect with your audience based on a concept they relate to, you’re taking a step towards making them customers and brand ambassadors.

What’s your take—should companies use more or less branding on a promotional product? What branded products have you received and love to use? Let us know!

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Have You Gone to the Mailbox Today?

Rethink Direct Mail

smiling woman opening direct mailThink about the last purchase you made. What did it take to bring you from prospective customer to committed buyer?

Prospects typically need multiple touches before they commit to a purchase—over 7, according to the Online Marketing Institute. While it’s relatively easy to send out lots of emails or post on social media, we’re in an age where many of us are experiencing digital overload. (The average office worker receives 121 emails per day!) In such a crowded digital space, it’s hard to make your voice heard. If you’re not getting the kind of response you’d like from your marketing campaigns, it may be time to add direct mail to the mix.

Direct mail consistently rates as being more trustworthy, more memorable, and read more often than email. It provides a personal touch and the kind of experience digital just can’t deliver.

Direct mail may seem limiting if you have limited experience with it. However, printing has advanced considerably, giving you a wide range of options for texture, color, shape, design, and personalization.

As with any marketing communication, direct mail works best when it is relevant to the recipient and tailored to your audience. Just like digital communications, you can automate your direct mail to make the process more efficient.

What is Marketing Automation?

The basic idea of marketing automation is to use software to replace repetitive manual processes with automated actions. You can find, target, and contact prospects effectively and efficiently. The automation software makes it easy to segment your contact lists and target specific audiences with tailored messages, leading to increased sales for your business. Automation delivers you more qualified leads and makes your marketing more efficient, so that you can focus on high-gain sales activities for your company.

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Automation often relies on a trigger system. When a prospect completes a certain action, such as opting in to an email list, it triggers your software to send an email to them. Automation is regularly used for digital marketing processes. The benefit of digital automation is that you can reach prospects instantaneously, increasing the chances of a sale. However, direct mail can be automated too, and it gives recipients something more: a physical and personal experience that stands out from a cluttered email inbox.

Some examples of direct mail automation campaigns include:

  • Seasonal promotions
  • Exclusive offers based on past purchase history
  • Mailings to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, or to thank
  • Promotional packages, featuring branded products

Case Study: A Real-Life Campaign

profiles of prospective customers
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An essential factor of any automated campaign is to know your audience. Automation software makes it easy to segment your contact lists to find the best audience for your campaign. You can define your best customers and the key demographic and psychographic factors they have in common.

If you’re working in a B2B context, you may find that a certain industry uses your services more frequently than others. It makes sense that you’ll want to engage with similar businesses to find more customers that are like your best customers.

A recent mailing campaign we did followed this model. We identified an industry we frequently worked with, and set out to create a campaign to attract more leads from this group. Having worked with this demographic before, we were able to anticipate common pain points, needs, and desires they face, and create content with those factors in mind.

Before contacting anyone, we put together a compelling direct mail marketing package. Personalized to the recipient, the package showed our knowledge of their industry and reached them on a personal level. The message–we know your problems and desires, and we can help you to solve and achieve them.

The packets included:

  • A letter personalized with the name, address, and institution of the recipient
  • A functional portfolio folder featuring content customized for the recipient’s business
  • A description of our services specific to that audience
  • Contents packaged in a custom envelope

While we were able to create a personal touch with our content, automation allowed us to find and connect with these prospects in a timely, scheduled manner. We purchased data lists that we then compared to our current customer list to exclude our customers from receiving a prospecting packet. Once we identified a qualified list of recipients, we automated the mailing by consistently sending out 10 packets per week. Then, we followed up with a structured phone and email schedule.

We created a personalized and industry-specific mailing and used automation to identify, mail to, and follow up with qualified recipients. We were able to generate business by creating an impression with our direct mail package. It stood out among the myriad marketing messages these businesses received on a daily basis.

At Paw Print & Mail, we specialize in direct mail marketing. Let us help you design, print, and automate your next direct mail campaign, so you can generate qualified leads for your business.

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6 Strategies for Engaging Millennial Donors

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People image created by Freepik.

What does the term “millennial” mean to you?

For many fundraisers, it means a struggle to find ways to connect with a diverse generation that has different expectations than those established by their parents and grandparents.

But millennials don’t have to mean a struggle, and they can mean the future of your organization. Millennials currently make up 25% of the U.S. population, and will compose half of the American workforce by 2020. It’s essential that you’re able to reach this generation with your fundraising efforts. It represents a significant number of potential donors that may be interested in giving now, and for many years to come.

More so than previous generations, millennials are very receptive to cause marketing and fundraising. Nearly half of millennials are more willing to purchase from a company if that company supports a cause, and 37% will pay more for a product or service if it will help a cause they believe in.

Millennials’ desire to do good makes them qualified potential donors for your organization. But to reach them effectively, you may have to adopt some new practices.

1) Invest in Digital Marketing

Millennials grew up using computers, and they’re quick to adopt new forms of technology. If you want to make millennials aware of your nonprofit, you have to be tech savvy, too. You can:

  • Be active on social media by sharing, posting, commenting, and responding to any actions on your page.
  • Ensure your website is updated regularly, easy to navigate, and optimized for mobile devices.
  • Set up search engine optimization (SEO) for your nonprofit’s website.
  • Try using or creating a mobile app so that it’s easy for potential donors to give at any time (millennials tend to be impulse donors).
  • Develop consistency across marketing channels so that potential donors will have a seamless experience.

2) Millennials Like Direct Mail

Though millennials are digitally focused, they place value and trust in direct mail. 84% of millennials regularly read through their mail, and 64% would rather find useful information in the mail than from an email. Part of the reason is that direct mail can be extremely personalized for the recipient. Personal touches give your nonprofit a human, friendly side that millennials will connect with.

3) Be Approachable

Present your organization as approachable and encourage potential donors to engage in frequent conversations with you, whether on a blog page, social media site, in an email, or in person.

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By connecting with millennial donors now, you are beginning a long-term relationship with them, that will hopefully transition to a regular gift. Many younger people may not be in a position to make a financial gift, but are still passionate about helping. Encouraging them to volunteer with you keeps them involved while creating a deeper bond between them and your organization.

4) Think Global, Act Local

Millennials have a global consciousness, and they want to feel they’re contributing to a larger cause. If you can, connect your mission to a larger issue, and show how an action in your community can relate and support a global need.

5) Enhance Trust

42% of Americans believe brands are less trustworthy than they were 20 years ago. A good practice for reaching donors of any generation is to be transparent. Millennials want clear and specific information on the impact their individual contribution will have.

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Building trust also means staying in touch with donors on a regular basis. Since millennials value the relationships they build with organizations, it’s essential for you to communicate with them for more than just an ask. Reiterate the good you’re doing with regular updates on the impact you’re having.

6) Step Up Storytelling

Millennials tend to feel connected to causes rather than individual organizations. But you can use stories to show the impact, importance, and personal side of your nonprofit, helping millennials to build a stronger connection to you. It gives your organization a human side, and potential donors can see and hear from specific individuals they’ll be helping. Use a lot of images and videos in your fundraising materials to help your stories make an impact.

At Paw Print & Mail, we specialize in nonprofit fundraising appeal production. Contact Paw Print today to enhance your nonprofit’s fundraising approach.

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The Essentials of Email Marketing Automation

email marketing automation graphic205 billion. That’s the number of emails sent every day around the world.

Some days it seems like I receive a billion or so myself. If you’re actively using email for work and to receive information from companies that interest you, your inbox is probably pretty full, too.

Two of the largest complaints consumers have about email are that they receive too many emails (44%) and the emails aren’t relevant to them (37%). Even when an email has relevance for a consumer, it’s easy for it to get lost in a crowded inbox.

To market your business effectively, your emails have to offer timely information that resonates with the recipient. They must be compelling enough to be opened over the dozens of other emails in an inbox. So, how can you make email marketing work for you, connecting with clients on a more personal level?

There’s a lot of talk about marketing automation these days, and for good reason…because it works. At its most basic, email marketing automation allows you to create and schedule emails to be sent out when they are relevant. This saves you time, makes your communication strategy more efficient, and generates more leads or sales for your business.

How Does Automation Work?

Effective automation requires tracking and analyzing data so that your communications reach customers at the right time with the right message. Marketing automation can track prospective customers from their initial visit to your website all the way to post-purchase and beyond. When you track the behavior of leads and customers, it makes it easier to see which of your marketing strategies is most effective, what the typical path from search to sale looks like, and what triggers customers to convert.

You can set up your automation to contact potential customers throughout the sales process. For example, if they’ve spent time searching for a product or service but haven’t yet purchased, automation software could trigger an email that will remind them of their interest and highlight the benefits of what you’re offering. Once they’ve made a purchase, you could send information about how to make the best use of the product. Down the road, your automation could suggest similar products that may interest your customer or upgrades to their current memberships or subscriptions. One name for this kind of triggered marketing campaign is a drip campaign.  Personalized emails generate 6 times more revenue than non-personalized emails, and this can have real benefits for your business.

The core of the effectiveness lies in the trigger. You can craft emails that are specific to what the lead is doing and what you hope them to do in the future. It’s kind of like a “choose your own adventure” book. Each action a lead takes brings them further down their own path, and that path may be slightly different than everyone else’s.

Segment for Success

In addition to sending emails on a trigger system, you can segment your email lists based on demographic factors like location, age, or sales history. This will help to increase sales and generate leads, as your audience will be receiving more relevant content. You can also use automation to ask your contact list what their content preferences are, to further target them with the right content.

A key point to remember is that automation is aimed at engagement. With automation, you are contacting prospects and customers when it is most relevant to them, with the goal of them completing an action so they will further engage with your company.

Types of Automated Emails

If you want to send automated emails but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some examples:

Welcome

A welcome email is one of the most basic forms of email automation. You may even have come to expect such an email once you’ve subscribed to an e-newsletter or opened an account. It’s a great first touch, and you can use it to express gratitude or include a special offer. Craft the email to encourage the recipient to take some further, immediate action. Include a “Shop Now” button, or a link to a compelling piece of content on your site.

Enhance the Purchase

While a simple “thanks for your purchase” on its own doesn’t hold much engagement value, you can make this type of email into something more. A key purpose of content marketing is to offer customers information and value. In a thank you email, you can include links to tutorials, guides, blog posts etc., which will help customers to get the most out of their purchase, drive traffic to your site, and position you as an authority in your field.

Feedback

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Another effective way to step up a thank you email is to ask customers for feedback. Encourage recipients to answer one simple question about purchase experience, satisfaction, or what they hope to get from the purchase. An email like this will get recipients to engage and provide you with valuable info.

Complete a Sale

The internet is a prolific resource for shopping, but there is also a lot to distract us. I can think of many times I’ve shopped around or filled a web cart, but not completed a purchase. You probably have, too. Whatever your business, there will be visitors who come to your website and consider a purchase, but don’t follow through. These are very qualified leads, who may need just a little push to commit to a sale. Automation software can easily track these visitors and abandoned carts, and send emails to the individuals to bring them back to your site and continue on.

Renewals & Expirations

Retaining current customers is much easier than searching for new ones, and automation will make this process easier. Automation software keeps track of when renewal payments are required and subscriptions are due to expire. It will then send your customers an automatic reminder to make a payment.

Birthdays

People love special attention on their birthdays, and you can use this occasion to offer something extra to your customers. The software will track birthdays and send communications accordingly, giving a fun and personal touch to your emails.

Appointment Reminders

If your business schedules recurring appointments on a regular basis, email automation can remind customers when they are due for their next appointment. You won’t have to call each patient or customer individually, and you’ll be encouraging your current customer base to return to your business.

Events

Automation works great for event reminders. Once someone signs up to attend an event you’re hosting, you can periodically send them emails with date reminders, additional info they’ll want to know, and other events they may be interested in based on the one they’ve registered for.

Tips for Email Marketing Automation

Write Enticing Subject Lines

It’s as simple as this: if you don’t have a compelling subject line, your email will not be opened. Take the time to hit just the right note.

Have a Clear Call to Action

Automated emails are specific to the customer, and you need to be specific in what you’re asking them to do. Have one clear goal for each automated email. And make sure it is obvious what response you are looking for from the recipient.

Write Compelling & Concise Copy

Connect with your readers using persuasive and engaging copy, and keep it short. Most readers will scan for relevant info, so make use of bullets and bold text to get your message across.

Measure, Measure, Measure

cartoon magnifying glass analyzing email data
Infographic vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com

Like any marketing strategy, automation can and should be tested. You can split test your email message content to see what is more effective. And it’s essential to analyze your data (like open and response rates). Marketing automation is meant to operate on its own. But it still requires adjustments on your end to ensure that your content is performing the way you want it to and is aligned with the marketing goals you have for your business.

Let Subscribers Manage Preferences

The worst thing you can do is offend or annoy your audience. Give them the opportunity to tell you what they want to see from you and how often they want to see it. Having them engage less is better than an unsubscribe. But, make sure every email includes a visible opt-out link.

Start Simple

There are many different ways to implement marketing automation, and many opportunities you can make use of. But if you’re just starting out, don’t try to do it all at once; rather, focus on only one or two automation campaigns in a comprehensive fashion.

Don’t Forget Your Purpose

Always remember you are looking to engage and nurture relationships, and ensure your emails are consistently doing so.

According to The Direct Marketing Association, segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue, which is huge! While this is a great reason to use marketing automation, we recognize that it can be hard to get things started. Paw Print & Mail is fully equipped to help you develop an automated and multi-channel marketing strategy. Contact us to get started on your marketing campaign.

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