Tony Albanese | Writer & Marketer

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Create a Versatile Email Marketing Campaign

Let's be honest for a bit. I check my email on the toilet almost daily. I've even made the excuse to use the restroom just to sit down and check my emails when I didn't want to be rude. Or to check personal emails in a business setting. We all do it, so now that it's out of the way. Why aren't more companies embracing this? Why aren't they creating responsive emails? Because honestly, when one of my hands is occupied in the restroom it is hard to pinch the screen to zoom in. Sure, I've opened your email, congratulations. But I didn't read it.

Let's talk about just two huge mistakes when it comes to email marketing. There are plenty out there, but we'll keep those for future posts. Today, I want to discuss responsive design and branding.

Though I'm a marketer, you're never going to hear me say off-brand or some other funky cliche. I hate these buzzwords. Things like hyper-personalization, growth hacking and other industry jargon make me want to vomit. BUT, notice the capitalization, you should make sure your emails feel like an extension of your product and have a shared experience. For the buzzword drivers out there, make sure your emails are on-brand.

Don't Lose Your Branding with Shitty Emails

Earlier today I received an email notification from Bank of America. One of my Direct Deposits have gone through (sweet!), but the email was just a paragraph of plain text. No BOA red, white and blue, no flag logo. Nada. Sure BOA have sent other HTML promotional emails that utilize their brand, but a Direct Deposit notification is as literal as you can get when you say email should be an extension of your online product.

To often notification emails are completely neglected. Promotional emails get love from the marketing and sales teams, but then they just brush off the most common emails sent from the company. These Direct Deposit emails are a great opportunity to make your branding more familiar with your company to build trust. It is also an opportunity to provide additional information! Maybe tips about how to save. Or to invest in a CD, IRA, even open a brokerage account. Shame on you Bank of America.

On the flip side, we have Groupon. First, I absolutely love their subject lines. They're attention grabbing and usually make me want to scream, "Yes! [I do want to jump on a trampoline]." Not only are there subject lines actionable and create curiousity, but their promotional emails feel like I am visiting Groupon.com or loading up their app on my phone:

These emails direct me through the rabbit hole of deals and entice me to make purchases. Like everyone, I have Groupons that I have never used due to their marketing efforts. Dam, that Fencing class seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Groupon does an absolutely amazing job to make me feel like I am actually interacting with their product although I never left Gmail. But Groupon, I've got to tell you I'm a little disappointed. Though you recently reported that 40% of your sales are via mobile devices your emails aren't responsive, your two-column layout simply shrinks and my fingers are a little big making it hard to navigate. The text becomes small so I have to pinch the screen to read about the deal. And remember, my other hand is a little occupied at the moment. Why not have a responsive email that switches to a single column on mobile?

Take a look at desktop and mobile view of one of their emails below:

Maybe, you should take a lesson from Tweet Adder.

Let Your Emails Adapt to their Window

Creating a responsive email is more important than creating a responsive web page. Why? Because people chose to go to your website. This means that they are more willing to tolerate a little pinching or something that isn't quite optimized. (This isn't to say you shouldn't make your website responsive, but I'll let you weigh your options) Emails on the other hand aren't a choice. You're telling somebody that what you have to say is important. This means that your information better be important and it better be easy to consume.

Take a look at this email I received in April from Tweet Adder. Yes, I have to scroll all the way back to April to find an email that was responsive (at least one that I didn't create):

Notice how the images and text stack on top of one another. Also the text in the mobile version becomes larger, which is extremely helpful when you using your mobile device. Sure, this email from Tweet Adder isn't perfect. It's a generic announcement about their product and doesn't feel like an extension of their app. But it is easily digestible and can be navigated through and read with a single hand.

If Tweet Adder has not used a responsive template for this email, it would be nearly impossible to quickly scan on a mobile device.

What Should I Take Away From This?

Great question. Well, in order to create a great email there are a few steps you should follow. By no means are these the only steps, but they will be a great addition to your already established practices:

  1. Provide value directly in the content of your email, whether the user clicks through or not.
  2. Make your email feel like an extension of your product
  3. Make sure your email is easy to read on any device by using a responsively designed email.

That's it. Follow these steps and your customers will appreciate your emails a lot more. They will probably unsubscribe less frequently and even may spend more money with you. And isn't the point of all of this really to make money?

What email practices are most important to you? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Retargeting Doesn't Have to Be Creepy

Last night I was watching a news clip online where a reporter was telling us that of all our children were going to be raped and kidnapped. This is the crazy stuff that my parents would hear and believe, despite their son being 27-years-old. Why will be all be attacked? Because the geolocation on your phones camera tags photos with where they are taken. If you take a photo at home rapists will know where you live by bringing the coordinates up on a map. The way the newscaster explained this concern was pure sensationalism. This optional feature can easily be turned on and off. In fact, when you first use your camera you are asked if you would like to have this feature turned on. Sure, education is needed for people to understand these features but the media was making a villain out of our phones' creators.

People are all up in arms regarding privacy. Why? We share everything publicly, but expect that information not to be used? Sure, even though I’m adult I still don’t want my parents to know how drunk I got the other night or who I may or may not be sleeping with. But who cares if Facebook or Google uses the information to send me a local deal? Or that a website knows that I have visited it? When I walk in a store do I scream, "don't look at me?"

If you care, simply shut off your cookies. Leave sites that require them (you will get warned) and move on with your lives. But then you should also never visit a store in person with video cameras, use a credit card or give out your zipcode to a cashier. Instead I embrace this behavior and this data infused world we live in. As long as it’s done correctly.

The Annoying Side of Retargeting

Imagine this: you're shopping online for clothes. Maybe you need a new pair of underwear. As you may know some sites specializing in underwear may also have a sexual persuasion. Take Andrew Christian, an undergarment site targeted at gay men. I had visited this site while entering the rabbit hole of online shopping. Despite its demographic and indulgence in scandalous clothing they also offer some tamer stuff that anyone could enjoy. However, Andrew Christian is a huge heavy hitter for retargeting.

How do I know this? I simply visited the site once, but almost a month later I see a ridicules amount of display advertisements. Loaded with nearly naked men filling the side bar on my Facebook page each time I log in, on various sites around the net and even popping up on YouTube clips of cat videos.

The frequency that I have seen Andrew Christian’s ads have begun to annoy me. Plus they are showing me products I am not interested in. I wasn't visiting for the “sexy” clothing, but instead became interested in a few products innocent products. Admittedly, I recently tried out MeUndies. Although I didn't like there product, I became curious on what other online shops had to offer in the comfortable underwear department.

If Andrew Christian would give me a second to breathe and then remind me of some of the clothing that I was actually interested in, maybe, just maybe I'd make a purchase. Instead, I am turned off by their brands (pun intended). I don't want to revisted the site, knowing that my sidebar will be loaded with nearly naked men for the next 30 days.

Retargeting the Right Way

The number one thing to remember when retargeting is to set your frequency cap. The best way to build a relationship is to be there for your customer. When they want you, whether they know it or not. Think about a time you may have built a relationship with an animal. You may approach it slowly, it backs away, you leave it alone, and you approach it again. What you are doing is building trust. The animal becomes familiar with you and eventually trusts you.

Retargeting is the same way. You build trust through healthy reminders. But if you are always there, like Andrew Christian, you will annoy the animal and you will anger it. While customers are not likely to become aggressive and attack they probably won’t purchase anything from you.

Whether we want to admit it or not, familiarity breeds trust. This is why celebrities are used to sell products or become spokespeople for non-profit organizations. You are more willing to trust someone who seems familiar to you. It’s why politicians spend millions on campaigns to get there face in front of you on television, online, at bus stops or stopping by your small home town. They want to appear familiar, appear to be just like you.

By using retargeting your brands can appear familiar. But users need to be lied to. They need to think that they are seeing this ad by chance, not because their browser history was recorded. This way they won't feel violated or spied on. We want them to think, “oh, yeah! I meant to purchase that ice sculpture of Anthony Weiner on Etsy,” when they see your ad.

This is so easy to accomplish. Just set your frequency cap so your ads appear less often. This may even allow your ad to be seen by more people as it won't compete for the same person in the bidding war, allowing you not to waste impressions or clicks. Remember, your users don't need to be bombarded by your brand. They just need to see you every once in awhile like an old friend. Besides if they weren't ready to buy 10 minutes ago, they aren’t ready to buy now. But tomorrow is an entirely new ball game.

Bullseye: What Sites Should I Avoid?

Great question. Here a few brands that I have noticed retarget at an alarming frequency. These companies may offer great products, but that doesn't make their ads any less annoying:

Have a site that has annoyed you with retargeting cruelty? Add it in the comments below.

3 Products That Need to Go Mainstream

There are a lof of products out there that look really awesome, but for whatever reason they don't take off. Maybe it's market readiness, maybe because they don't have Apple's cool factor to make them popular. Back when I was in high school I owned an Archos MP3 player, by no means did I want an iPod. My Archos player was in full-color, had a few gigabytes of storage, easily could hook up to my computer as an external hard-drive and most impressively, with a quick hack, could record live TV. Oh, it was cheaper too.

Unfortunately, Archos never went mainstream. The far inferior black-and-white, 512 mb iPod won. Yet, neither the iPad HD or the iPhone 5 have replaced the VCR to record television. The following products need to go Mainstream, and hopefully not via a dialed down version from an established cool company.

Bone Conduction Headphones

I'm weird. I don't listen to music when I work out. Why? Because I hate having ear buds shoved in my ears. If I'm running outside or even sitting in an office cubicle I hate not hearing the sounds that are around me. Maybe, I'm just paranoid. Maybe, I'm just concerned for my safety. Bone conduction headphones are nothing new. They are on-sale, but generally expensive and limited options.

This technology allows you to wear headphones, but keep your ears free to hear ambient noise. The military and other government agencies have used this technology for decades, but hasn't gone mainstream. Hopefully it will in the near future and we can stop hearing Apple brag about their iPhone 5 earbuds.

3-D Printed Shoes

I was never a runner. Hated it my entire life. However, after I discovered Vibram Five-Fingers my world changed. My knees no longer hurt when I ran, my toes gained incredible strength. They are the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. Though, I'm still not the biggest fan of running, they make the experience much more pleasant.

There is one huge downside though to my Vibram Five-Fingers. They are not the perfect fit. A few toe slots are too long, a few others are too short. 3D printed shoes would fix the age old issue of shoes that don't fit or feel good. No more worrying about width and a variety of half-sizes. Just a scan of the foot and BAM, custom shoe.

Video Eyewear

If you walk into any Sony store, they are pushing hard on their video eyewear. The technology gives you a personal 3D, HD, and theater-sized right in a pair of glasses. Unfortunately, Sony's models haven't been the best. Most of there models have been discontinued. Was the market just not ready for this?

Maybe, but I believe Sony was just too quick with there marketing before perfecting the technology. Companies like Vuzix have been working on this technology for years and are constantly iterating. But nobody has heard of Vuzix, who is also working on their own version of Google Glass.

Feel like another product should have made this list? Shoot me an email at albanesetr@gmail.com. It may make a follow up list.

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