Growing Your Business With Email Marketing

October 11, 2011  9:00 AM

One Simple Question Every Tech Company Should Ask Their Customers

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

I subscribe to a service called Net Promoter Score for my company, VerticalResponse. I think getting behind it and getting employees behind it works wonders. Here’s the lowdown on what it is and why I’m such a fan.

First of all, I really believe that any business person – especially if you’re a marketer – should be aware of all of the feedback they get from their customers, whether it be positive or negative. Net Promoter Score is built on a simple question that you ask your customers: “Would you recommend my company to your colleagues?” Respondents then rate you on a scale of zero to 10, zero being the worst, 10 being the best.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 0 to 6 are your “detractors” – People who wouldn’t recommend your product or service.
  • 7 and 8 are your “passives” – People who think you’re all right, but not great.
  • 9 and 10 are your “promoters” – People who tell all their friends/colleagues about your company.

Then you take the percentage of all detractors and subtract them from the percentage of all promoters. You ignore passives. You’ve got your NPS rating.

It’s a great metric to find out how your customers feel about you and track any changes or trends over time. It’s also a great opportunity for you to ask for open comments. If your customers are saying great things about you to their friends, you’ll potentially get a new customer, and you didn’t have to pay for it.

NPS isn’t just for internal knowledge; it also gives you a chance to reach out to customers to let them know you’re listening to them. The key to success is the communications that go back to the detractors about their issues (which they’ve explained in the open comments section) and what you did – or what you are doing – to fix them. Here at VerticalResponse, our customer support team follows up with all of our detractors via email and phone.

Create Your Own Rating Survey

While I love NPS, you can create your own version of an online rating survey. Don’t forget to include the option to add any open-ended comments at the end. Then use email marketing to send the survey out to your customers and add a link to the survey in your order confirmations/invoices/transactional emails. To encourage participation, consider running an incentive for any customers that take the survey, like a contest. Just make sure anyone can win, regardless of the rating they give you.

Have you done this type of survey with your customers? Share your learnings!

September 21, 2011  12:54 PM

Why You Should Hire a Social Media Expert

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

About three years ago, I was convinced to hire a person dedicated to social media. We had a few folks internally posting to their own Facebook and Twitter accounts and when time permitted I’d post to my own networks as well. We had a community that was a small part of someone’s job when they had time, and we had been blogging since 2005. So, it wasn’t like we didn’t believe in social media before we hired someone; we were just a bit disjointed in terms of how it was being managed.

Our marketing coordinator at the time saw the need for a social media expert, justified it and presented it to me. She knew there would be metrics to track and she was willing and able to take on the chore, as long as the company backed the idea.

I rolled with it. What could we lose? The first mission was to consolidate a lot of what we were doing in a one-off fashion. We started to consciously build a Twitter and Facebook following to see the types of engagement we’d get. And we’ve had really great luck with our social media since we focused a person on the tasks.

Now we look at it as a communications channel just like our website, our PR and our outbound customer communications. It’s important that we have one person with one voice communicating the “real-time” content.

I’ll list a few ways in which having a social media expert has helped our growth as well as customer service.

An online community. We used the platform Ning and rolled out our community under the wings of our social media manager. We’re trying to build it into a community destination where people help each other.

Our Facebook Page. Our social media manager places customer stories, fun internal pictures, sales, and tips and tricks on our Page.

Twitter. Our social media manager uses HootSuite to manage outbound tweets and distribute customer questions to the proper customer support person to answer. We also use HootSuite to monitor what people say about VerticalResponse so we can reply in a timely fashion. I use TweetDeck to give me a quick snapshot of the same. We also have a separate customer service Twitter channel that our customer service team monitors, and they too proactively tweet tips and tricks to those who follow.

Reporting. We track what everyone says about us, myself, our competition and the exact sentiment of all those things using a software called Radian6. We also use Google Alerts to do the same.

Our social media manager does much, much more than this, but if you’ve got this much going on with your social media channels, it may be just the right time to bring it under one roof.

September 6, 2011  6:39 PM

Write About Benefits, Not Just Features!

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

Tech marketers often market or promote their product or service with long lists of specs. While engineers and product developers might be impressed, chances are, your everyday customer who’s not in the industry, might not be convinced. Why? Because you’re speaking to them using features, not benefits.

One of the things I often wrestle with is the fact that so many companies are so enamored with their features, they fail to talk about the benefits; that is, what problems the features are going to solve. This was one of the points I made in my last post about writing for technology marketing, but I’d like to dive a little deeper and focus on writing benefit-oriented copy in email marketing campaigns.

Benefits, Benefits and More Benefits

Your copy should tell your recipients why they’d want your widget, not just how cool your widget is. People are emotional; they buy because they want to know how your product or service will benefit them first. Features are secondary.

Here’s a great way to test your copy; when you list a feature, make sure you include “… so now you can …”  or “… for better …” in your copy.

Some Beneficial Examples

I went through my inbox and found a couple emails that outlined both the need for, and good use of, benefit-oriented copy.

In one email, a company that has a partnership with Amazon sent me a note saying it transferred my Amazon account and log-in information to its e-commerce system. The email text read:

“You’ve got the password, we’ve got all the hot new toys! To make shopping easy for you, we have transferred your username, password and address book to our new website. Now you’ll be able to shop using your existing account information.”

Why doesn’t it work? We’re never told why it’s going to be better for us to shop using our existing account information. If I were drafting this email, I might’ve also added:

“So now you won’t have to create another new account and manage yet another user name and password! More time for shopping and saving!”

Or something to that extent.

Here’s an example of a great way of presenting three benefits for a tech product. In this case, it’s for a computer:

“Thin and light 14.1″ widescreen for incredible performance in a compact notebook. Optional TrueLife display delivers a stunning viewing experience. 5-in-1 media card reader and Media Direct Buttons for on-the-go entertainment.”

They’ve listed a few of their popular cool features and the reasons why they are actually cool.

So take another look at your email marketing copy and make sure you explain the benefits, not just the features, of your awesome product or service!

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August 16, 2011  12:29 PM

Writing Effective Copy for Technology Marketing and Beyond

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

Drafting effective copy when you’re in the BtoB technology space can be particularly challenging because it’s so easy to fall into “geek speak.” My company is an email marketing service provider, so technology is in our bones. (Ruby on Rails or MySQL, anyone?) But in our marketing communications, we usually write for the non-techy person because many of our customers are not in the business of tech – they are photography studios, construction companies, law offices, real estate agents, you get the idea. The last thing you want is to turn them off because they can’t understand what you’re selling to them.

Here are some tips to make sure that your copywriting can be more easily understood by readers and customers, whether they’re techy or not.

Ask yourself: What’s the point? As marketers, we usually write because we want to sell our readers on something, but that alone isn’t enough to convince them to buy from you. What are you selling on an emotional level? Who are you selling to? Why are you selling this now, and will it make sense to the reader? What do you want your reader to do? Having the answers to these four questions before you put pencil to paper (or finger to keyboard) will help produce better, more effective writing.

Read your copy out loud. If it doesn’t sound natural out loud, it probably doesn’t read easily either.

De-clutter. William Zinsser wrote, “Clutter is the disease of American writing.” I agree. Keep things short, simple and to the point.

Include short paragraphs. Do you enjoy reading large blocks of text? Neither do your readers.

Use the “Rhythm of Three.” Ever notice that examples often come in threes? It’s because groups of three provide great cadence to your copy.

Mix up sentence length. This is a neat trick to keep readers attentive, and adds a little variety to your copy.

Focus on features versus benefits. Features are the things the product has. (The iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch touch screen, 5 megapixel camera, 16 GB flash drive.) Benefits are what the product will provide to users. (The iPhone 4 lets you easily take and store high-quality, print-ready photos.) Customers will always ask, “What’s in it for me?” Be sure to tell them.

Don’t bury key points. What are the most important messages you want your readers to take away? Make it loud and clear by putting them in the beginning of paragraphs, and/or segmenting them into bullets and lists.

Write in the second person. Focus on one person (by using “you”/”your”) rather than a group (e.g., “our customers”). This makes your readers feel special and highlights how your product or service can benefit them.

Do you have any copywriting tips that you find useful and want to share? Enter them here in the comments section. Would love to hear them!

August 2, 2011  1:17 PM

Include Social Links in 3 Areas of Your Business

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

As a technology marketer you know how important it is that you work at building your prospect and customer lists. And it’s OK to have separate contact lists. And to make matters more complicated for you, your customers like to be reached through various channels; some like email, some like social media and some still like the mail!

So here are a few brand-spanking new ideas to get your customers to help you build those lists by using THEIR social media followers. One way to do this is to add social media icons that encourage your customers or followers to talk about you to their networks. You’ll benefit from your customers “liking” you, or tweeting about you where your message or link will end up in front of their followers.

One way to easily do this is to try out a free sharing tool called AddThis. It’s very simple code you put on your website that allows your visitors to share your content and links to their social networks with just one click. You’ll also be able to tell how many times your page has been shared. AddThis enabled my company to put sharing icons on our pages in just minutes.

Here are three places to include your new social media icons that will enable your visitors to get the message out to their followers!

1. Your Confirmation Page – After a customer orders from you online, give them an opportunity to tell their friends that they just got the latest and greatest from you!

2. Newsletter Landing Page – When someone signs up for your newsletter, present them with a page that says, “I just signed up for the Widgets Newsletter! You should too!” Then give them a link to your opt-in form.

3. Your Registration Process – If you require your customers to sign up and have an “account” with you, give them an opportunity to easily share their registration with their friends and followers. Include a link directing their networks to a page where they can register, too.

You can also add social media icons into your email marketing campaigns. This enables your recipients to share the hosted version of your email marketing messages with their networks. Your recipient’s social networks can even re-tweet or share, too.

July 19, 2011  7:26 PM

How to Promote Your Webinar

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick
In my last post, “How to Give a Great Webinar,” I provided five tips to create and present a webinar. Now that you have a killer presentation that’ll knock your audience’s socks off, how do you get the word out? Unfortunately, the “If you build it, they will come” strategy doesn’t always work, especially in the world of technology marketing.

Email marketing is a smart and relatively easy way to get the message out about an event, whether online or offline. To help you fill that virtual room on the date of your webinar, here are some tried-and-true tactics that my own company, VerticalResponse, has found to be quite effective.

1. Remember the basics. It may seem obvious, but sometimes we, as marketers, get so caught up in the creative aspect of hyping up an event that we often forget the most important information. In your email correspondence, don’t forget to include the date, time (with time zone!) and name of the webinar. Make sure there’s a link that recipients can click on to pre-register for the webinar, and include opt-out and opt-in links, too, so you can track overall interest in your company and your offerings.

2. Keep descriptions simple. No one likes a long, drawn-out email, so make sure yours is succinct. (Besides, you don’t want to give away all the content of your webinar in the email invitation, do you?) Get right to the point by providing the who, what and why upfront. If you have guest speakers and a moderator, provide bios that really highlight their expertise so that recipients feel like they’re getting something truly special and valuable. Instead of paragraphs, consider using bullet points to identify exactly what audience members will get and take away from the webinar.

3. Show, don’t just tell. In direct marketing, customer quotes and testimonials are incredibly effective. Leverage this in your webinar’s email marketing, too. You can include links to previous webinars in your current invitation, and call out the benefits of attending one of your events by letting a recent attendee explain what he or she got out of the experience.

4. Send email reminders. Despite our best intentions, we all forget things from time to time. Create a separate email list of all the people who’ve signed up, and schedule reminder emails to go out one week prior and again one day before your webinar. It won’t seem intrusive if you keep it basic – usually just the webinar name, date, time (with time zone!), speaker/moderator list and quick program synopsis should suffice.

5. Follow up with email. Once someone has registered and taken the time to attend your webinar, it’s safe to say you’ve got their interest – and now’s the crucial time to make sure you keep and grow that interest. Emailing a thank you note – with a link to the archived, recorded webinar and perhaps even a special offer – immediately after the presentation shows that you value their time and gives you another opportunity to engage with them. Consider dividing your list into attendees (those who actually attended) and registrants (those who registered but didn’t attend the webinar, for whatever reason), and tweak your email message to each group accordingly, so that it’s even more personalized. And while you’re at it, why not use the follow-up email to attract recipients to your website or blog? Include a sentence that says, “If you didn’t get your question answered, check out our blog” or “For a rundown of the great questions and answers we received during the webinar, check out our blog.” This way, recipients – especially those who didn’t attend – have another reason to click through.

Have you implemented any successful tactics to promote your webinars? Would love to hear it!

July 5, 2011  6:54 PM

How to Give a Great Webinar

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

If you’re a company in the B2B space (like mine!), you probably know that there’s more to acquiring new customers than just having a herd of salespeople, not to mention most companies can’t afford herds. Webinars are a great way to generate qualified leads and ultimately more clients, because you’re offering something of value, not just a sales pitch right out the gate. An even more compelling approach is to provide webinars for free. The idea here is to use the webinar to attract potential customers, get them to know your brand and company, and then try to convert them later.


At my email marketing company VerticalResponse, we conduct several webinars every month on various topics, from how to effectively use social media to how to leverage events. Here are five things to think about when preparing your first or next webinar:

1. Flaunt your expertise. Your webinar should not – I repeat, NOT – be a sales presentation. This is the time for you to show off your knowledge of the business and provide useful, interesting content to your audience. People attend webinars because they want to learn something to improve their work and/or their lives; give them advice and “how-tos” that they can act on right away.

2. Don’t pack too much into your presentation. Pick one topic or subject and stick closely to it; too much information will confuse your audience. You can always conduct a second webinar if you find that there’s more you want to say. Also think about ways to “dress up” your presentation with images, screenshots, real-time surveys and statistics. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to sit through a presentation that has nothing but block after block of text, so keep that in mind when developing your deck.

3. Promote it! Launch an email marketing campaign to your current customers letting them know about the upcoming webinar and encourage them to forward the email to any colleagues or friends who might be interested as well. Be sure to include social media sharing buttons in your email so they can easily post it to their social networks and spread the word. Don’t forget to send reminders a few days before the webinar, as well as the day it takes place.

4. Timing is everything. If your customers are mostly based in the U.S., pick a time that works for both coasts. At VerticalResponse, we’ve found that 10 a.m. Pacific time works pretty well. Also aim for a Tuesday or Wednesday, so that people aren’t just starting or ending their week.

5. Be prepared. Rehearsal isn’t just for in-person presentations. Run through your webinar at least a couple of times to make sure the transitions flow smoothly and your talking points are succinct. Have a list of questions ready in case people are too timid to raise their virtual hands and to prevent any awkward silences during the Q&A section. The day of, open your presentation at least 15 minutes before the start time so that those who log on early will see that you’re there.


After the webinar, make sure you get the list of people who attended and follow up FAST. Shoot off an email marketing campaign to your attendee list with a link to the archived version of the presentation, along with an offer for your services. (If there’s something exclusive about your offer, all the better.) Also, you might even want to do a separate campaign to those who didn’t attend with the same link. After all, you eventually want all of these people to be paying customers, right?


Ready to get started? Here are a few companies that “host” webinars. I haven’t tried all of them, so I definitely recommend doing your own research to see if their technologies are right for you and your business.


  • AnyMeeting: Free for up to 200 participants. It’s also advertising supported.
  • Fuze: Pricing ranges from $9.99 to $69 a month.
  • WebEx Meeting Center: Unlimited meetings with up to 25 attendees starting at $49 a month.
  • GoToMeeting: Their webinar product, GoToWebinar, starts at $99 a month for up to 100 attendees.


Happy webinars ahead!

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June 21, 2011  1:45 PM

Why Content Works for Tech Marketers

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

At my email marketing software company VerticalResponse, we spend a lot of time on content. What I mean by content are things like “how-to” guides as it relates to marketing your business, or articles, blogs, videos and just anything in general that will help a small business succeed. And when we write or develop the content, we try not to be salesy. We include the problems our small business customers are trying to solve and how they might be able to do it. We’ve found that over the years we’ve had hundreds of thousands of people viewing and downloading our content, and it works for us to build a brand and ultimately be trusted and get customers.

Content Type

We’ve tested this quite a bit and found the following to help us along the way in being that trusted voice to the customer:

  • Articles – Like a “how-to” article I’m writing now, post articles to relevant sites.
  • Blog posts – Post a “how-to” blog on something relevant to your customers. Avoid being too salesy. We have an email product blog specifically for that, but our general marketing blog is not trying to sell at all.
  • Videos – Do a series of videos where folks from your company talk about one issue that might resonate with your customers. Post it to your YouTube account.
  • Tutorials – Assemble small videos of your product, no longer than two minutes per area. We use ScreenFlow to do this; you can also do PowerPoint videos.
  • Guides – Write two- to three-page guides or whitepapers on issues your customers might have and how to solve them. Lightly mention that your company does this; it should not be a sales piece.

Promote It!

Once you have this great content, you have to promote it or your hard work is going to fall on deaf ears!

  • Make sure you put it prominently on your site. Include an area for “Resources” or “Articles.”
  • Buy Google Adwords for it. You might find you’re getting traffic from customers who are searching on your content and converting at a higher rate.
  • Make a webinar out of it and invite your prospects and customers. This is a great idea to get engaged with them.
  • Put it in your monthly email marketing newsletter. This is a surefire way to get it read or watched.
  • Make an event out of it or a user seminar.
  • Post it to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn at the very least. And anywhere you post it, make sure it’s shareable to the social sphere.

One last note: When you write your content, make sure you’ve included your keywords and make sure it’s posted on your site as well as available as a downloadable file. Search engines love great content and sites that update regularly, and you’ll see the benefit of this when your traffic increases by leaps and bounds.

June 7, 2011  2:58 PM

Why Free Trials Work With Online Software

JaninePopick Profile: JaninePopick

We’ve always thought that free trials work very well, especially if you’re selling your products to small businesses, which my email marketing company VerticalResponse does. If you’ve worked with small business you know that they are far more careful with their budgets than their larger counterparts. They treat any money they spend for the business as their own … because it is.

So when we decided to give our online product away totally free back in 2001, people looked at us like we were crazy. Our largest competitor wasn’t doing it; they gave a free trial of their product for the first 30 days, but you had to input your credit card. Then they would charge it on the 31st day and monthly thereafter. That’s not really free in my opinion.

We not only decided to give away a free trial of our product, but we also took away that nasty notion of a subscription (which we offer now if our customers want it), so that our small business customers wouldn’t get their credit card charged every month if they simply didn’t use our product. Think of the real estate agent in South Dakota who might not have a great February, and might not want to spend any money on marketing then. We didn’t feel that they should pay for what they didn’t use.

Our potential customers log onto our application, create an email and send it up to 100 recipients (in some cases 500 depending on the channel). They can track their reporting in a full working version of the product so they can see the exact experience they’d see if they paid. Since we also have surveys and direct mail postcards, they get 25 free responses on surveys and they get to send themselves a free postcard so they can see the quality.

And it turned a tough sale into an easy sale. When asked by prospects, “How are you different?” or “What makes you better?” we could simply say, “Why don’t you try us out; it’s totally free. And try our competitors, too. Then pick which one did the best job for your company.” It was, and to this day is, the greatest sales pitch I’ve ever had. It takes any pressure off, and puts the decision right into the hands of the prospect. No hard sale needed. We obviously message them pretty hard during the first trial month, which helps push them to interact with our product.

Giving a full working version of our product has been the way we get over 2,000 new customers each month and how our customers become accustomed to our product — without them having to fork over a credit card or pay us a dime. It’s been worth it.

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