June 20, 2013

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Run Better Social Media Contests Contests are a staple of social media. They generate leads, opt-ins, sharing, comments and virility. The conventional wisdom is that simple contests spawn cost efficient customer engagement that makes people happy. Consumers are comfortable with the give-to-win proposition. They will give up bits of personal information, post or tweet, upload a photo or a comment, vote, take a survey or refer somebody in return for a chance to win. Few calculate the odds. Many contests and giveaways are designed for lead generation. Recently Unbounce released a study, based on 3 million visitors to 100 websites using their platform between March 15 and April 15th, which promises to improve contest performance and lead conversion. For example, contests with prizes of $500 or more generated 700% more subscribers than landing pages without contests. Here’s their POV. Set an end date. People don’t respond to open ended contests because they figure they have plenty of time to do it later. By specifying a start and an end date, you build-in urgency. Consumers understand that the clock is ticking. Use the word “Giveaway.” “Promotion” sounds like it might or might not be a sale. “Sweepstakes” feels too chancy. “Giveaway” resulted in 27% more conversions than sweepstakes and 50% more than promotion because it connotes a freebie. Like Gating Sucks. This trick has been played out. Widgets that asked for email addresses drove 80% more subscriptions than the request to “like” a page. The like gate has become a signal for consumers to bug out. Bottom Right, Brand Names and Photos Win. The contest sign up box in the bottom right corner of the page drew 125% more subscriptions than bottom left. Similarly when the promotion box had a picture, almost any picture, conversion increased by 22 percent. When a brand name is attached to the giveaway details conversions saw a 28% spike. We have trained consumers where to look and what to look for. Don’t swim against this tide. Signal Ease of Entry. Site visitors are lazy. They want all the goodies but don’t want to work for it. When you direct them to “enter in seconds” versus a big honking “enter” button, opt-ins increased by 33 percent. Tell them how easy it is. Optimizing giveaways and contests is a matter of tweaking and re-tweaking. These simple tips suggest, as Michael Aagaad suggests, “value plus relevance equals more conversions.” This is true for contest rules and prizing strategy as well as the subtleties of constructing effective landing pages.
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Write Sizzling Subject Lines Subject lines initiate successful email marketing. The right subject line opens up a conversation or a relationship as quickly as “abracadabra.” The wrong line condemns your brand to die alone in the dark. Great subject lines are like great billboards or great headlines; they telegraph easily understood information to drive immediate comprehension and action. Marketers are sending more email than ever. They stack up in an inbox, which may or may not be fully opened. Multiple adjacent subject lines compete for fleeting attention. Faced with huge numbers of emails lined up one after the other, a SUBJ line must signal instant value. An open Inbox displaying sequential emails is email marketing’s “moment of truth.” It’s just as easy to click as to delete. Your 50 characters are competing in real time against genuine friends, family, personal messages and other brands making claims or offers. An open is life. A deletion is death. Adestra, a UK-based email service provider, looked at 2.2 billion emails representing 90,000 campaigns in an attempt to benchmark the words and phrases that work best. Defined using conventional email metrics, a best SUBJ line contains those words or phrases that drive more opens and clicks, improves the open to click ratio and/or reduces the opt-out or unsubscribe rate compared to industry benchmarks. Get the complete report here. Consider four topline results. Skip the Expected. While everyone sends monthly newsletters by e-mail, using the word “newsletter in the subject line has just a marginal impact on open rates (+0.7%) but really hurts your click-thru-rate (CTR) which plummets -18%. Maybe it’s too pat and too expected. Other expected terms like “report,” “learn” and “book” and “monthly” trend downward in terms of driving opens and clicks. Evidently people don’t want to see themselves as scheduled or predictable. They discount standard message cadences. Aim for Immediacy. The implied urgency and immediacy of the word “alert” prompts a 38% bump in opens and a 61.7% spike in clicks. People are hooked on knowing what’s going on right now. Words like “daily” get 27.8% more opens and 100% more clicks than the norm. “New” yields +17.2% clicks and 38.2% more opens while “News” drives +34.8% opens and +47.7% clicks. “Breaking” gets +35.4% opens and +77.6% clicks.Present your message as new, exciting and of the moment. Present a Deal. Predictably “free delivery” drives 50.7% more opens and 135% more clicks. “Sale” has +23.2 opens and +60.7% clicks. “X% Off” has a similar impact. Everybody wants to save money or get more for less. Watch out for generic terms like “save” or “cheap” or “free” and avoid aggressive terms like “buy.” These classic retail words depress opens and clicks. Try Multi-Word Headlines. Multiple key words separated by a straight vertical line drive +27.5% opens and 90.7% clicks. The same kind of alignment separated by commas drive +17.8% opens and 67% more clicks. This newspaper/news ticker approach probably signals the same kind of immediacy and urgency as the immediacy phrases. The beautiful thing about email is that consumers vote with their cursors so marketers and copywriters don’t have to rely entirely on intuition or imagination. Research like this helps us engage customers and prospects faster and better.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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