Archive for the ‘Optimization’ Category

Top 5 Email Marketing Service Reviews for Small Businesses

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Growing your email list and utilizing smart email marketing tactics is a great way to gain new customers and ultimately increase your bottom line.

In this post, we review the top 5 email marketing services for small businesses. Our email marketing review criteria includes sending emails, tracking results, and building sign-up forms. These were selected based on most popular by consumers and well-known service providers. From our own professional experience, we purposefully chose to exclude email marketing reviews for other popular service providers due to quality issues related to deliverability, usability or performance.

In the coming weeks, we will also breakdown the top services with more advanced features best for medium to large businesses. But for now, let’s get into the basics.

MailChimp

MailChimp
Great for beginners, MailChimp offers easy to use features that help you email the right people at the right time. Subscriber profiles help you gain insight about the people on your list while keeping your list neatly organized. This is a dream come true for those of you who are still trying to run your email marketing manually with excel files and the like. http://mailchimp.com/

Main features:

  • Subscriber profiles
  • Built-in segmentation and targeting options
  • Automated trigger emails
  • Social media targeting
  • Analytics
  • Flexible design options
  • Available as a mobile app so you can send emails on the go
  • API integration

Pricing:

  1. Entrepreneur — Up to 2,000 subscribers. Send 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free. No contracts, and no credit card required.
  2. Growing business – Up to 50,000 subscribers. Send an unlimited number of emails with a monthly account, or purchase email credits that never expire. This option runs between $10 and $20 per month depending on how many subscribers you have.
  3. High volume sender – More than 50,000 subscribers. Includes the full suite of features for professional senders. This option runs between $425 and $525 depending on subscribers.

 

iContact

iContact
iContact is a great platform for businesses looking to take their email marketing to the next level. If you don’t have a design team, iContact offers templates as well as a drag and drop builder so you can easily create unique designs for your emails. iContact is easy to use and offers full support if you need any help along the way. http://www.icontact.com/

Main features:

  • Email Templates
  • Drag and Drop message creation tool
  • Email delivery
  • Social Media publishing
  • Contact management
  • Reports
  • Customer Support

Pricing:

  1. Up to 500 Subscribers: $14.00 Monthly.
  2. Up to 2,500 subscribers: $29.00 Monthly.
  3. Up to 5,000 subscribers: $47.00 Monthly.

iContact also offers a free trial if you want to try before you buy. Also, if you buy annually rather than monthly, they offer a 15% discount.

ONTRAPORT

ontraport
Formerly known as Office AutoPilot, this email service provider is best for entrepreneurs who are just starting out in the email marketing world. Customers mainly choose Ontraport for their ease of use and customer service support. Ontraport is particularly good with eCommerce businesses. http://ontraport.com/

Main Features:

  • CRM: Customer records, web forms, task management, lead scoring
  • Marketing: Automated trigger emails, Facebook integration, event management, delivery, split-tests, tracking
  • Payments: Order forms, recurring billing plans, Automate expiring card updates, abandoned cart follow up, upsells
  • Publishing: Landing page creator, membership sites, WordPress hosting
  • Support services
  • API integration

Pricing:

ONTRAPORT offers two price plans.

  1. The PRO option runs $297/month for up to 25,000 contacts and up to 100,000 emails/month. Maximum 2 users allowed.
  2. The TEAM option runs at $597/month for up to 100,000 contacts and up to 100,000 emails/month. Maximum 10 users allowed.

All accounts include all features and a 90-day no risk, money back guarantee.

 

Mad Mimi

mimi
Mad Mimi offers businesses an easy way to create, send, share and track email newsletters online. Mad Mimi is for people who want email marketing to be simple. They provide easy integrations, CRMs, design, webforms, and superb deliverability. https://madmimi.com/

Main Features:

  • Create, send, and connect
  • List management
  • Reports and tracking
  • Delivery & Security
  • Additional add-ons

Pricing:

Mad Mimi offers 5 pricing plans.

  1. FREE — Lets you store 2,500 contacts and send 12,500 emails per month. No support available.
  2. $10/month – Let’s you store 500 contacts and send unlimited email per month. Also get access to full support team.
  3. $42/month – Let’s you store 10,000 contacts and send unlimited emails per month. It also sends emails twice as fast as the basic plans and comes with Support.
  4. $199/month — Let’s you store 50,000 contacts and send unlimited emails per month. It send emails 3x faster than normal and comes with full support.
  5. $1,049/month — Let’s you store 350,000 contacts and send unlimited emails per month. It send emails 4x faster than normal and comes with ultra-premium support.

Finally, Mad Mimi offers a custom pricing option. For example, you can specify that you only want 1,000 contacts with full support and features, and they will charge you $12/month. This custom pricing is great for businesses that fall somewhere in between the main pricing plans.

AWeber

aweber
Aweber is the OG of email marketing service providers. It’s reliable and very well-known since it’s been around for so long. If you’re looking for consistent deliverability and support, Aweber is for you. You can get more information at www.Aweber.com

Features:

  • Automatically triggered emails
  • Email deliverability rate
  • Email newsletters
  • Drag-and-Drop editor
  • Connect with other apps
  • Subscriber segmenting
  • API integration
  • Customer support
  • Sign up forms
  • RSS to email
  • HTML email templates
  • Manage subscribers
  • Tracking and Analytics

Pricing:

AWeber starts their pricing at $19/month. However, they offer a promotional discount where you only pay $1 for your first trial month. They offer a 30-day money back guarantee and discounts if you purchase quarterly or yearly.

For $19/month, you get up to 500 subscribers and the ability to send unlimited emails. If you want to know how much you pay for more than 500 subscribers, good luck finding it on their website. They make this info a little bit hard to find as they want you to contact them directly regarding upgrades.

SUMMARY

In summary, these email marketing services all offer fairly similar features across the board. So it’s up to you to research each one on your own and choose the best for your individual needs. Want some guidance from seasoned pros?





The Semantic Web. An Introduction.

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The web has been in a constant state of evolution ever since the birth of the internet, and we are entering a new phase which focuses on making the web more connected, more open, and more intelligent.
semantic web
There has been much debate about what to call this new phase of the Web. Here are some of the most common names being used today:

  • Web 3.0
  • The Intelligent Web
  • Semantic Web

Timeline and Definition

Web 1.0 was, as it infers, the first generation of the World Wide Web. During this phase, the focus was primarily on making it accessible to everyone, building it out, and commercializing it. The main areas of interest were centered on:

  • the creation of Web sites
  • Internet access through ISPs
  • the first Web browsers
  • open standard markup languages such as HTML and XML
  • Web-centric software languages such as Java and Javascript

Web 2.0

web 2.0
Web 2.0 refers to the second generation of the web which began in the early 2000’s. The focus of web 2.0 is centered on:

  • AJAX
  • Social Networking
  • Collaboration
  • Social bookmarking
  • Media sharing
  • Wikis
  • Communication tools
  • The emergence of the mobile Internet and mobile devices

Web 3.0

Web 3.0 is the common term being used to refer to a third-generation web. This new phase began around 2007 and is focused on the user experience. More specifically, Web 3.0 makes it possible for machines to better understand information in order to provide the user with a more productive experience. Some of the main areas of interest include:

  • Microformats (see also Schema.org)
  • Resource Description Framework (RDF), an official W3C Recommendation for Semantic Web data models
  • Vocabularies such as OWL and SKOS
  • SPARQL, the query language for the Semantic Web
  • Inference (reasoning over data through rules)

Once a computer can understand the meaning of words, such as the difference between a person, place, and event, it can start helping you engage with and organize these things. For example, let’s say you get an invitation via email for a party. If it is marked up as an “event” and includes an identifiable date and location, you can simply tell your computer to save the event to your calendar. Here is a YouTube video that gives a great simple intro to the Semantic web.

While it’s important to understand the basics of Web 3.0, it doesn’t mean you need to immediately throw away what works today and recode your website. Rather, the semantic web is intended to solve simple problems and adapt to current behaviors and usage patterns.

However, it is highly recommended that you start including microformats into your webpages, the earlier you can start the better. Web technology moves like fire so you’ll be that much ahead of the game and won’t be trying to catch up.

Need help incorporating semantic web technology into your mobile and web platforms? We can help. Call us at 818-806-3868 or contact us today.

Content Marketing Trends Your Business Should Be Focusing On

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Contently recently released their quarterly issue, For the Love. If there is one thing you should read this week, its this publication. Here are few key points we felt were highly relevant to our customers and their businesses.

Content Marketing Trends

Four Content Marketing Battlefronts

Businesses should be conquering these four content areas in the coming year. (Find this on page 3 – The Publisher’s Note)

1. The Brand Publishing Arms Race – to recruit better talent and tell better stories. Here, here!

2. Truth in Advertising and the question of whether brands are going to proudly own their content, or revert to devious tricks.

3. Audience and the rise (and risks) of platforms that are trying to get more eyeballs in front of branded content.

4. The Numbers game in which brands will need to completely rethink publishing metrics and how to tie them to business results.

Three Content Formats About to Take Off (and be Abused)

Read full article on page 13

1. Video and Animation
Interactive brand stories drive engagement – if done right.

“When you have devices like video and animations to use, a brand’s personality – and the emotion of the story – can be more clearly communicated. The more interactive, personalized, multi-layered, shoppable, and engaging your content, the more time a consumer will spend within the experience, it’s in the [metrics].” – Renee Osgood

2. Branded Documentaries
They aren’t radio with pictures. The story must be the forefront, not the sale. Don’t make online and afterthought to bringing stories and articles to life. If you are filming interviews, find a way to propel the story by including “activities and drama that justifies telling the story through video, as opposed to another medium.” – Ryan Spanger

3. Personalized Experiences
Avoiding the creepy to get to the cool. Find a personalization strategy that gives customers an experience that benefits them, no just your bottom line.

“The [customer information] that marketers need to capture in order to create a tailored and delightful experience for their customers is the very information that their customers are increasingly worried about providing.”- Scott Robinson

Remember: The key is to focus on long-term success, not on the tactical.

Built a strategy that is backed by marketing objectives, this is the best way to ensure your marketing effectiveness and overall success.

“Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.” – Joe Pulizzi

To read the full issue of For the Love, click here.

Need help creating a content marketing strategy for your business that builds trust, helps your customers and helps your business grow?

Contact us today.

Build Brand Reputation and Visibility Through Expert Question and Answer Apps

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

There are a few websites and apps gaining in popularity right now that are focused on community-based, user-generated questions and answers. The top three biggest players in this field right now are Quora, Cinch, and Jelly. Let’s take a look at each one and see how they stack up against each other. We’ll also give you helpful hints on how you can use these tools in your role as a marketing professional or business owner.

quora_logo_620px

Quora

Quora is by far the most developed of the three platforms and has been around the longest, since June 2009. It is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. Questions are grouped by topic, and users can work together to edit questions as well as suggest edits to other users’ answers. You can also “vote up” questions that you want to see answers to.

Quora is available as a website, however they have also developed an iPhone and Android app as well. The cherry on top came last year when they rolled out a blogging platform. The last main updates that Quora released in 2013 is the ability to search the full text of questions and answers, and finally, the ability for writers to see how many people have viewed their questions and answers.

There are already many well-known people that are actively engaging in the Quora community, such as Rand Fishkin and Ashton Kutcher. This boosts the credibility of the website as a whole. If you’re new to the question and answer websites, this is a great place to start.

Jelly

Jelly

If you head on over to the Jelly homepage, they have a very well put together video you can watch that features the CEO and co-founder of Jelly, Biz Stone (Yes, that Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter.) He tells you the main idea behind the platform and how it all came about. Essentially he explains that they wanted to build a search engine that is built for today’s technology landscape. Their concept is “everyone is mobile, everyone is connected, so if you have a question, there is somebody out there who knows the answer.”

Jelly is an app that uses photos and people from your social networks to get you answers to your questions. It uses both your network and your extended network to give you access to a whole bunch of people who may be able to answer your question.

It was founded in April 2013 and naturally is not as developed as Quora. However, the image and social network aspects of the platform are what sets Jelly apart from Quora. Quora is much more text-and-topic based whereas Jelly is image-and-relationship based.

3017957-inline-screen-shot-2013-09-20-at-82439-am

Cinch

Like Jelly, Cinch is a relatively new platform and is only available as a smartphone application at this time (available for iPhone only). Made by the folks at Klout, cinch is “people directly helping other people by sharing their wisdom and knowledge and influencing them to make better decisions.” It is also geared towards the home advice industry specifically, so most users are interested in topics like gardening, cooking, furniture, and so on.

It was launched in September 2013, making this the newest app of all three platforms. It is not currently available outside of the US and there is no dedicated website for the platform. The developers are currently working on creating an Android app with the hopes of releasing it in the near future.

The app has received a bit of feedback from initial users saying it’s a great concept but some of the features are not quite perfected yet. For example, as of December 2013, users are not able to edit or delete submitted questions. Additionally, some users complain that the questions they receive to answer are not relevant to them. These are kinks surely to be worked out in the future since this is a young app.

What makes this app different is you can sign up as an “expert” and the app will automatically send you questions it thinks you can answer. The marketing potential of this app will grow as the number of users also grows.

How-To Use These Platforms For Marketing Your Business

These websites and apps are perfect to establish yourself as an expert in your field by providing authoritative answers on key topics. So for example if you sell a product like baby clothes, you can answer user questions on that topic and people will begin to respect you as an industry insider. The more answers you post, the more people will be able to read your opinions and expert advice.

Great for B2B and B2C Businesses

These platforms can be used as excellent tools in both the B2B and B2C industries. In fact, they offer quite a bit of marketing power for B2B industries, which is great news considering B2B marketing can be challenging in the eyes of many marketers and business owners. For example, Rand Fishkin is very engaged on Quora and answers all types of industry questions about SEO. If you’ve been in the online marketing biz for more than a minute, you know how well-respected Rand is on the topic of web optimization. Imagine the thrill if you asked a question and received a direct answers by Mr. Fishkin? Now imagine if you take the time to answer user questions across these platforms. You can become that type of expert in your own field, so that when people ask a question, they are thrilled to see that it’s been directly answered by you.

Track and Monitor

It’s best to try and get a pulse on your specific industry by setting up “listening” tools wherever possible. Quora lets you follow topics so you can stay up to date on whatever interests you. You can fine-tune your email preferences to only receive notifications about questions and answers you feel are important.

Finally, wherever possible, track your questions and answers to see how many people are viewing them, and actively think of new ways to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.

Ready to ramp up your marketing in 2014? Check out our services, email us, or give us a call at (818) 806-3868.

Have you used any of these Q&A sites or apps? Share your story by leaving a comment below, on Facebook or LinkedIn.

3 Ways to Improve Your Visual Marketing

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Just a few years ago, most marketing was focused around compelling copy. Crafting your words in just the right way to persuade your target audience to take action. That component is still important but more and more we are seeing how users consume content and that trend is more graphics.

Visual marketing is essentially using  the power of images to boost your brand, its messages and goals. Images can help people make sense of intangible things and abstract concepts, making visual marketing a great tool for B2B companies. Visual marketing can ultimately make your overall marketing strategy more powerful and more memorable. (Visual marketing should not be confused with visual merchandising, which refers to designing retail space in order to maximize sales.)

90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.

(Sources: 3M Corporation and Zabisco)

Brands today are spending increasingly more time on visual marketing. In fact, many experts agree that visual marketing is the way of the future. This week we’d like to show you 3 tips to help improve your visual marketing campaigns.

Tell stories.

visual marketing should tell a story
A picture is worth a thousand words. Create images that can tell the story of your business or brand. For individual social media posts, use one eye-catching image that concentrates on a specific point of interest. This will draw your viewers into the frame.

40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text.

Source: Zabisco

Get your employees into the action. You can either showcase your business by taking photos of your employees, or you can give your employees a little bit of creative control and let them take pictures that capture their unique point of view.

Get your fans involved. Photographs are an excellent way to encourage conversation. Ask them to share their photo moments as it relates to your image. Photo contests are also a neat way to engage with your fans.

Evoke emotion.

facebook_header_image-blog-full
If you sell products, use pictures in your social media marketing in the same way you’d use a display window for window shopping. The pictures can lure potential buyers into your e-commerce site. Nordstrom’s does an excellent job at this across Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+.

If you don’t sell consumer products you can still utilize visual marketing successfully. Think outside of the box and create images of interest. Ask yourself: What would an outsider want to see about your business? How can you show the personality of your employees in images? For example, maybe you could do a montage of people’s lunches or work spaces.

Be consistent.

Boon-Marketing
It’s important to remember to incorporate attributes of your brand into your photographs. Maybe you want to always use the same frame or filter so that viewers will instantly recognize who created the image. Consistency is key in order to gain loyal followers and fans in the social media world.

Do you have a specific marketing question as it relates to your business? We’re happy to help! Give us a call today at (818) 806-3868 or shoot us an email and we’ll be sure to respond. You can also browse our other social media blog articles for more tips and advice on how to supercharge your marketing campaigns.

Shocking Amazon Cart FAIL: Learning from Big Brand Customer Experience

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

For years, Amazon.com’s cart and checkout process has been used by clients and digital marketing consultants as a best practice. Its ease of use, simplicity and seemingly flawless process is void of friction to the end user.

That is…until now.

eCommerce Conversion Optimization

You may be familiar with the latest Target credit card compromise causing hundreds of thousands of people to have their bank accounts cancel their debit cards and reissue new ones. Whether you’re a Prime Amazon customer or not you probably have that same credit card linked as a default payment in your Amazon.com account.

This reissue of cards did not impede on proceeding as usual with my purchases on Amazon, until Amazon sent me an email saying that my purchase could not be completed due to a declined payment.

Thank you Amazon for sending this email notification. I really do appreciate it.

Customer Experience Friction Point #1:

I receive an email notification that DOES list the products in it that have been declined for payment. I delete and do not click the button in it that says “Manage payment options.” Instead I use the mobile application to attempt to update my billing but, this functionality is not available.

I’ve already deleted the email so I don’t want to go back and find it, plus I feel reservations on clicking a button from an email using my iPhone. Also, I’m more forgiving because Amazon.com usually makes everything very simple for me. Plus, I understand there are certain limitations to billing and payment options/updating through mobile applications.

But, this is where things start to unravel. I need to now remember to update my payment options in the morning when I am at my desktop.

As it happens, I forget. I forget the next day too. I remember just before I fall asleep the night before but I can’t grab my phone. I’ve forgotten too many days in a row to late to update my payment information. My order is cancelled. Okay, fine. I get it. I’m not mad. It’s my fault anyway.

Customer Experience Friction Point #2:

Finally, I remember! My expectation is that I will log into my account (from desktop computer), go to my Orders or Order History and select the declined order. Right? Seems intuitive. But…nothing. No order to be found.

Okay, I start to panic. I then use some positive self talk, “Oh, they probably just put those items back in my cart.”

CART EMPTY! Panic.

The one scenario, quite possibly overlooked, no matter how small a percentage of folks (like me) wait too long to update their payment option. However, the issue is that there is no way for me to find out what items were in my order (unless I go back and find that deleted email, which may have been deleted deleted – you know what I mean). I remember one item, an Animal Bag from Boon, but I don’t know the others because my husband had added them.

Suggested Solutions for this eCommerce Problem:

  1.  Move the declined ordered items back into the customer’s cart, suggest adding a notification that indicates these specific items were added back to the cart due to incorrect billing information or declined payment.
  2.  Allow payment methods to be updated from mobile applications to allow customers to act when they can without device interference.
  3.  Send a new email notification with urgency “Your order will be cancelled unless you update your payment options in the next 24 hours.”
  4.  Send another email notification or SMS text to notify the customer of what has happened to these items OR if you can’t fix #1 and #2, tell the customer to save this email so they can add these items later and provide a link to update their billing.

How can all types of organizations learn from this eCommerce scenario?

45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly.

Forrester
While a good majority of businesses are still in the process of getting basic conversion tracking in place, it is not impossible to plan for optimizing conversions and your customer experience for the future.

Take some time to sit down with your team and map out different cart, checkout and user experience scenarios. Not just for the desktop experience but for your mobile experience too. Sometimes a good old whiteboard comes in handy for this type of exercise versus wireframes. Start from the ideal cart and checkout experience then throw in real life user scenarios to nail down where the holes and friction points are in your process.

55% of consumers would would pay extra to guarantee a better customer exprience.

Defaqto Research

No doubt, as seen in this secnario, some will be missed but if you can map out a good majority of these customer experience scenarios you will be improving your bottom line and eliminating a good percentage of loss in sales or leads.

Need help with creating these user paths for cart and checkout? We can help. Call us at 818-806-3868 or contact us today.

Photo credit: Bill Thompson