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Triggered e-mail: Extending the life cycle of multichannel campaigns

Event-based and behavioral (triggered) e-mail marketing is a great way to continually communicate with prospects and customers and to extend the life cycle of any campaign, whether it is traditional or interactive. As long as the messaging gets respondents to visit your Web site, and you are able to get them to opt in with a free offer or other premium, you’re in business.

Behavioral or event-based triggered e-mail campaigns center on one or a series of messages that focus on special events or actions taken by a customer or prospect that automatically “trigger” the sending of a message. Personal information provided to your company—such as birthdays, anniversaries or vacation plans acquired via a sales contact—can be the basis for a triggered e-mail communications. User actions, meanwhile, such as white paper downloads, also can be set up to send an action-specific e-mail urging a stronger relationship with the Web site visitor.

It’s important to understand that the information you have in your database (and how it’s organized) will largely determine the success of a triggered e-mail campaign. When planning a lead generation effort with an event-based or behavioral trigger component, be sure to take the time to think about the following:

  • The information you want to capture (online or by your sales team), so that later relevant, timely and personal e-mail communications can be sent automatically, based on that information;
  • How your prospects and customers already are interacting with your company and Web site;
  • The way a recipient might respond to each triggered e-mail;
  • The number of times you communicate with a prospect without causing an opt-out;
  • The actions that will signal the time to stop triggers altogether.


A next step is to develop a communication strategy for the different segments of your database, including existing customers, existing prospects, past or inactive customers, new leads, etc. Though the end goal for all of your campaigns may be to generate sales, the strategy, messaging, offers and frequency of the triggered e-mails could be quite different depending on whom you are talking to.

Once your communication strategy is in place, it’s time to create the targeted e-mail messages themselves for your campaigns. These can be based on the answers to the questions in a lead capture form, as well as which campaign is being responded to, and the actual interaction with your product or service.

Let’s say you’re offering a free 30-day trial to test drive project management software. Once a prospect opts in to try out the product, you might create a series of benefit-driven e-mail messages to encourage upgrading to the paid version. You might schedule these to go out once a week.

To take it a step further, consider the recipient’s industry, with triggered e-mail illustrating the benefits specific to that industry. This obviously helps make the e-mails even more relevant.

As you plan such a campaign—again using our example of a software test drive as a special offer preliminary to gaining a paying customer—you want to consider what to do with those who don’t choose to participate. Here, you might schedule a different set of triggered e-mails offering assistance in getting started. Once a recipient starts using a trial account, the industry-specific e-mails can kick in. Finally, you’ll want to set up a rule to stop these triggered e-mail completely when a prospect converts into a paid customer.

The beauty of event-based triggered messaging is that you can make it extremely relevant to the person receiving the e-mail. It also enables you to automate a large portion of your marketing campaign while coordinating efforts with a sales team.

If there’s a danger in any of this, it’s in never looking back once you’ve implemented such a strategy. It’s extremely important to continuously monitor every campaign, to do things better next time.

Optimize Your PDFs to Generate Better Search Results

PDF documents have become extremely common place in day-to-day business.  However, they are frequently overlooked as an SEO tool.  In the SEO world content is king.  Therefore, if you are posting a PDF document to your site, you should make sure it’s optimized so that the search engines can read them.  Below are a few things to keep in mind when posting a PDF document to your site:

  • Make sure the PDF is text-based. The most important step towards creating search-engine friendly PDFs is to make them using a text-based program like Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign. If you make your PDF with an image-based program, like Photoshop for example, web crawlers won’t have any text to read and will disregard the file.
  • Keywords, keywords, keywords! PDFs rife with keyword-rich titles, headlines, sub-headlines, and introductory paragraphs – especially on the first page – are more likely to yield elevated rankings in search results.
  • Optimize your content. Make sure your document’s text is focused, relevant, and unified around a cohesive subject.
  • Formatting matters. Just like on your website, text attributes like bolding and hyperlinks will help emphasize your document’s most important information to both readers and web crawlers.
  • Support images with text. Web crawlers can’t “read” images, so be sure to support images  with relevant text-based captions.
  • Formatting matters. Just like on your website, text attributes like bolding and hyperlinks will help emphasize your document’s most important information to both readers and web crawlers.
  • Support images with text. Web crawlers can’t “read” images, so be sure to support images with relevant text-based captions.
  • Use Document properties. Use Adobe Reader’s document properties window (File>Properties) to create a solid meta description of the document and, more importantly, give your PDF a title! The text assigned as a PDF’s title is what search engines will refer to when generating the headline for a PDF in search results. If the title is left blank, search engines will generate one for you – one you may not have chosen – from text inside the PDF. Additional metadata to update includes: Author, Subject, and Keywords.
  • Tag your PDF. Just like tags in an HTML page – text, images, headings, etc – tagging contents of PDFs enhances their search performance. To find out whether or not a PDF is tagged, view the document’s properties (File>Properties in Adobe Acrobat) and check the “Tagged PDF” field toward the bottom. If the PDF is not tagged, open Advanced>Accessibility>Add Tags to Document. Adobe will run a quick report on the document and recommend changes to consider. Next, open Advanced>Accesibility>TouchUp Reading Order, and begin tagging the document by highlighting blocks of text or images and assigning appropriate tags from the list of options.
  • Edit the reading order. The descriptive text beneath the search result headline of a PDF is derived by the document’s reading order. Use Adobe’s accessibility menu to review, assign, or rearrange the order a PDF will be read. Search engines assume that a document’s most valuable content is early in the reading order, so it is the text most likely to be used in search results.To check your document’s reading order, open Advanced>Accessibility>Add Tags to Document in Acrobat. Then select Advanced>Accesibility>TouchUp Reading Order to arrange the order that search engines will review your content.
  • Lead crawlers to your PDF. Optimizing a PDF’s content and metadata does not guarantee it will ever be crawled. To increase the probability and speed that a PDF gets crawled, link to it from another page on your site that get crawled regularly. This can help lead web crawlers in the right direction.

5 Easy Ways to Track Your Campaigns

1. Web Analytics: use your current analytics software or sign up for a free Google Analytics account. This will enable you to track how many people are visiting each page on your site and pinpoint which campaign they are coming from.

2. Landing Pages: if possible, create a separate landing page for each marketing initiative. By doing this, you will be able to mirror the message, look and feel of each e-mail, banner, PPC ad, etc. This will increase your response rate and help you track your campaign

3. Dedicated 800 numbers: there are services that will provide you with a range of 800 numbers that redirect to your main phone number. Including a dedicated 800 number on each landing page will enable you to associate each call with a specific campaign. Some services even offer integration with your analytics software.

4. In your lead capture form, include one question asking people how they heard about you with a drop down menu where customers can select from a list of your current marketing initiatives.

5. If you have access to a developer, you can also develop your own tracking mechanism by writing a script to capture a source code that you embed in your URL. This code will pass through to a specific field in your database when the person who clicked on the URL fills out a form.

What to Look Out For in 2010

Social media – it’s here to stay!
People are spending more time than ever on social networking sites (Facebook estimates that roughly half of its 300 million users log in to their account everyday) and the ad dollars are following suit. A study conducted last year by Equation Research found that 59% of companies already use social media and an additional 28% plan to implement it this year. Furthermore, 25% of companies said that they plan to “significantly” increase spending for social media, compared to 3% of companies that plan to increase spending for TV and 1% that plan to increase spending for print. Bottom line, if your organization isn’t already leveraging social media, they’d better start in 2010. It’s becoming an increasingly important channel and if you don’t start paying attention, you’ll be left in the dust.

Mobile is about to ignite.
There’s been a lot of hype about mobile for years, but it seems that now it’s here to stay. In the US, more people have cell phones than cable TVs, web access or home PCs and nearly 50 million use their cell phones to surf the Internet. With such penetration, mobile will be an increasingly important channel for marketers in 2010 and beyond.

Email marketing will continue to grow.
Given the economic climate, the low cost and predictable performance of email marketing can’t be beat. Social media may have taken away some market share, as people turn to sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with friends, but email remains the predominant communication tool in the business world. So, if you don’t already have an email marketing program, you’d be smart to invest in one in 2010. If email is already part of your marketing plan, bolster your list with lead generation techniques and offer value-add content to existing subscribers.

Popularity of online video will continue to rise.
More than 78% of US Internet users view online video and this number is increasing. People like video and current technology makes it easier than ever to capture, edit and distribute. If you haven’t already ventured into the video arena, 2010 is the year to do it. The right video can quickly turn viral and catapult products or organizations into the public conscience. With such a tremendous upside, why not give it a try?

GPS chips and triangulation technology?
With the rise of applications like Loopt, FourSquare, Gowalla, Yelp, etc., Internet and mobile users have demonstrated a strong demand for location-based services. Add to this that more people are buying phones that feature GPS chips and triangulation technology, and it’s clear that the market for location-based media is expanding. Expect to see a lot of companies outside the technological realm leveraging this technology in 2010.

Search engine battles will spark innovation.
With Bing’s launch in June 2009 and subsequent agreement with Yahoo to power its organic and paid search results, Google has its first true challenger in years. In 2010, as these companies try to “one-up” each other, consumers and marketers will likely benefit from a slew of new search products and services. Google has already released Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), which displays real-time listings from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in search results.

Engage, engage, engage!
Engagement is no longer a buzz word; people want to interact with your brand and create an emotional connection. In pursuit of this, marketers should leverage social media and mobile as well as new video and ad technologies to manage the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs consumers have of their brands.

10 Tools for Social Media

With up to 266 million Facebook users (O’Reilly Research) and around 44.5 million unique monthly Twitter visitors each month (comScore), it has become undeniable that social media is here to stay and can greatly impact the success of your business.

Contributing to the undeniable success of social media (especially Twitter) is the plethora of third party applications and tools. Below are some third party applications and tools you can use to better leverage social media for your business.

Facebook’s Lexicon tool, the Google Trends of Facebook, allows you to see patterns for keywords in public places like walls and status updates. They have two versions of this tool, the latter being more robust. See if anyone is talking about your company, or you!

If you want to know the top 100 tweeters, this is the place to visit. Twitterholic scans twitter multiple times a day to keep us up to date on who has the most followers, tweets, their locations, number of updates and how long they’ve been a member. The list may surprise you.

Virtual Business Card:
There are many applications you can use to send a virtual business card, I have chosen just two. Simply create an account, customize your own business card and send your link to others via your social network of choice. Think of it as a more personal Outlook V Card.

Twitter Voicemail:
This tool allows you to leave a virtual Twitter voicemail. Sign up for an account and enter the name of the user you wish to leave a private voicemail for. Pockets will then call you, prompting you to leave a message. It then sends the private message via @ reply.

Link Shrink and Track:
These URL tracking tools are great for marketing initiatives. They shrink your URLs down so you can fit them into your 140 characters, or elsewhere, and even give you a report for clicks, locations, etc.

A new way to blog for those on the go, Posterous allows you to post to your blog via email. This is especially great for those interested in live blogging from their smart phones. You can even attach pictures and mp3s and use your own domain name.

Perhaps the most popular Twitter directory is Twellow, which was created by the folks at WebProNews. Twellow allows people to categorize themselves in the directory, add links, create an extended bio and follow others you find in Twellow.

File Sharing:
FileTwt allows you to tweet files (up to 20 MB) using your Twitter login and password. However, if you want to send files via private tweets, you must create an account.

Geographic Trends Map:
Twitter doesn’t yet (to see what’s in store, read here) allow for location targeting, so marketers trying to find followers locally can settle for something like the Trendsmap.
Seeing trending topics by geography can mean great implications for local businesses.

What the trend?
Perhaps my favorite of all the tools listed, What the trend? is great for people who never understand why Twitter trending topics are trending topics. This site shows a real time feed of trending topics and next to each is an explanation. You can even click through and read the tweets on the topic to piece it all together.