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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Turbocharge Your Newsletters With RSS

November 22nd, 2008

Does your company send out hard copy or email newsletters to your customers? If done correctly such can be cost-effective ways to retain clients, increase revenue per client and build equity in your customer evangelists.

The inherent benefit to legal and ethical email marketing (i.e. emailing only to subscribers who have opted in and can easily opt out) is the very low cost of publishing and distribution. While response rate numbers can vary based the quality and relevance of your lists and content, on average they’re only 1-2%.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

As you’re no doubt painfully aware from a personal perspective, the problem with email marketing is its overuse and the fact that it shares a sometimes blurred line with the scourge of the 21st century−spam.

Pause for a moment and consider how effective email marketing is when directed to you. Keep in mind I’m not talking about unsolicited emails, but rather emails from those newsletters that at one point you made a conscious decision to subscribe. How many email subscriptions can an individual sign up for before they’re completely inundated with information? Chances are that many people have long ago passed that threshold. I receive many email updates from organizations in which I’m keenly interested, yet rarely do I have the time to devote my undivided attention to read through their contents.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing that email and hard copy newsletters are a proven means of marketing. But there is a better way . . . an easy way to turbo charge your emails so they’re much more effective. What I’m referring to is RSS (Really Simple Syndication), a universal data format that broadcasts the content of your newsletter to the world in a very similar fashion to how a radio or television station broadcasts.

With RSS someone can subscribe to your newsletter in the same manner they preset their favorite radio stations in a car or set their favorite TV stations on a remote. The appeal, and the reason for the rapid growth of RSS, is that the end user is in complete control and no unwanted feeds can force themselves onto the user.

For example, my default homepage is iGoogle which I’ve loaded up with subscriptions to RSS feeds from organizations and topics of interest. The three most recent headlines are displayed for each feed and they are updated automatically when a particular publisher posts a new article. Most of these RSS broadcasters send out email updates of the same info too, but by broadcasting in RSS they’re picking up a wider audience at no additional cost.

RSS provides another important benefit that email does not. Because RSS broadcasts to the world your message is no longer restricted to your closed email subscriber list. Keywords in your newsletter can now be picked up by all the major search engines and thus your newsletter can be found by anyone on the Web. So unlike email or hard copy newsletters RSS is a powerful tool for generating new awareness.

The benefits don’t stop there. When you broadcast a newsletter via RSS, typically a new Web page on your site is automatically created. If people find value in what you have to say they can create a backlink to your article. According to Google, backlinks (aka linkbacks) are the single most important factor for search engines in determining the value of your Website. Increased links back to your Website benefit your search engine profile and ultimately increase your Google PageRank and place your site higher on keyword search returns. From our experience, when utilized with quality content, RSS is the most powerful search engine optimization tool available.

The good news is that if you currently publish an email newsletter adding RSS broadcasting capability to it is not a difficult or expensive proposition. How it can be integrated into an email campaign will vary, but in many cases it can be no more effort than simply typing the newsletter at a single portal. For example, on the Web 2.0 sites we develop your newsletter can be entered online and published with a click. Immediately a new dedicated page is created for your newsletter, a nicely formatted email automatically sent to your subscribors, and the content of your newsletter is instantly broadcast and indexed by the major search engines.

Web 2.0 Marketing Strategy

August 1st, 2008

In a previous post post, I presented a definition of Web 2.0 as the widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication. The main points of the post were:

  • The most important aspect of Web 2.0 is not the technology itself, but rather the new culture of free and open communication that comes about because of technology.
  • The old era of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) that was supported through biased and untrustworthy advertising is past.
  • Web 2.0 technology has birthed a new era of caveat venditor (let the seller beware) since consumers are now able to communicate freely amongst themselves and provide unbiased feedback on sellers’ claims. Amazon.com is a prime example.

How can Web 2.0 help your business?

From a marketing perspective, the questions are simple:

  1. How can Web 2.0 help us reach more prospects,
  2. deliver a more effective message and
  3. decrease our message cost?

Is your business Web 2.0 compatible?

Again, the most vital element to success is not the technology itself, but rather the real value your business presently offers consumers. For those businesses who meet this criteria, Web 2.0 technology is tailor made to effectively assist in achieving the marketing goals mentioned above.

Bear with me as I give yet another Web 2.0 analogy. If I buy this 2006 ADR3 race car for $85k, its got the technological capability to win races. However, just because I buy the car does not make me competitive with professional drivers. Assuming I could con my way into entering a professional race, it would soon become apparent, when I crashed and burned on the first corner, that I was an amateur. The technology would do me little good if I did not posses the real ability to utilize its potential.

Likewise, the benefit that Web 2.0 technology can bring is directly proportional to some more fundamental aspects of your business, such as:

  • Do your current customers (not you, your employees, or executives) consider the products you offer to be truly unique and superior solutions?
  • Do you receive a significant portion of new business through referrals?
  • Is it easy for your prospects to understand your unique value proposition?
  • Is the leader of your business dedicated to establishing a front facing culture of transparency, honesty and direct communication with customers?
  • Do your employees understand and embrace this vision?

This by no means is a comprehensive list, but hopefully you get the idea. The more “yes” answers you can give to these types of questions the more potential your business has for excelling by implementing Web 2.0 technology and tactics.

For a more detailed look at how Web 2.0 technology can help you achieve your marketing goals you may want to check out our “Helping you achieve your goals” page.

What is Web 2.0?

May 29th, 2008

Web 2.0 is a term that has proliferated rapidly over the last few years. The term has become so popular that it’s now being used by about anyone for about anything (Web 2.0 Easter greeting card anyone?). For most businesses, it’s not necessary to understand Web 2.0 in much technical detail. What is important to understand are the massive social and business environment changes that the Web 2.0 phenomena is driving.

Web 2.0—The widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication.

Web 2.0—The Basics

Web 2.0 is simply the widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication. As you may be aware, some of the most common Web 2.0 applications are blogs, podcasts, Content Management Systems (CMS), social networking sites and user forums. Each of these technologies can be defined within Web 2.0 depending upon how they’re utilized. Technology is a prerequisite for Web 2.0, but it’s the widespread acceptance and use part of the definition that really matters.

Let the Buyer Beware

The most important aspect to Web 2.0, from my perspective, is that it has sparked a grassroots revolution by consumers. The era of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) progressively grew through the 20th century until we languished under a never ending stream of unbelievable advertising. Regardless of consumer protection laws, the reality was that we were largely forced to rely on the naturally biased advertising and promotional information provided by businesses.

The losers in this environment were of course the consumers, but also those businesses who truly did offer unique value and could not afford to carpet-bomb our televisions, magazines and mailboxes. Nor could a business offering real value do much in their advertising to show they were different, since their competitors would make the same claims.

Consumers who wanted unbiased information about a seller relied on personal referrals—the most unbiased and believable feedback available. They were limited however by the finite capacity of their own personal networks.

Let the Seller Beware

Web 2.0 has ignited a new era of caveat venditor (let the seller beware). The rapid change in the marketing nvironment is not due to legislation or litigation, but rather the widespread practice of consumers sharing unbiased
information about a sellers product to other customers and prospects.

A simple example can be seen with books. Outside of our friends’ recommendations, we’ve had to rely on the
publisher’s information or from the questionably neutral editorial reviews. Now, thanks to Amazon and others, we have access to a large and active community of other consumers who provide us their unbiased feedback. Of course this is not a perfect system, those with ulterior motives can post reviews but we can use common sense to evaluate the reviews collectively and form a more reliable conclusion about a product.

For example, if I were to rely on attractive cover and glowing editorial review for Deck Planner: 120 Outstanding Decks You Can Build I might convinced to buy this book. But when I look at relatively low rating by consumers and their mixed reviews, I opt for a better choice.

The important point to understand about Web 2.0 from a business perspective is that our products and services will increasingly be promoted or demoted in the marketplace by consumers, and that advertising and PR will continue to lose effectiveness. Consumers now have better choices of where to get information before making a purchase decision.

The Web 2.0 revolution is only bad news for those sellers who have gotten away with neglecting their customers. In my next post, we’ll explore some of the unprecedented opportunities and strategies for businesses offering true value.

Why should I buy your product?

July 28th, 2007

This is a real email I just sent to a company today. It struck me, that the challenges I faced as a prospective customer with them are typical shortfalls that companies of all sizes make in their messaging. Read through this letter to see if yours shoes start pinching. Company names and identifying terms have been changed to protect the innocent (me).

Hi,

My company has been using <a competitor’s software> but are in the process of exploring other alternatives. <Your company> was recommended to me…I’ve been poking around your site and forum for the last half hour but I’m having a hard time finding specific info on what makes <your company> different and better than <your specific competitors>. So far I’ve seen a lot of great features, but everything sounds pretty much the same as the aforementioned competitors.

I’m not suggesting that <your company> is the same, based on the referral I’m optimistic that you are better. I just asking if you can articulate to me the reasons why? Can you have one of your sales people contact me with this info?

I strongly suggest too, for your own marketing benefit, that you make a clear statement on your frontage answering the question “What features-benefits make <your company> totally unique and the best choice.”

You do have a generic value proposition stated that states: “We offer more flexibility, security, help, value, choices, stability, features and support. Get more with <our company>”….and that you’re technical
jargon> with more features than any other application in it’s [sic] class” This entire statement could be easily used by any of your competitors on their website…it would do you great benefit to call out the specific features and their benefits that are unique only to <your company>.

One last suggestion…your site is very feature heavy, I suggest you associate a clear benefit statement with each technical feature you list. The prominent feature button on your front page leads to your features page which lists a lot of technical features including multiple references to your “Hybrid X Core”.

Frankly, none of this means anything to me.

I am technically savvy on this topic so I understand much of what your saying but it really doesn’t mean much to me in terms of why I should go with <your company> … I covet finding out what the unique benefit that such features as the “Hybrid X Core” bring to me.

Please know, I am a legitimate prospect and all the above is intended as constructive advice. I suspect that I am a typical prospect for your product and I’m certain you could improve your sales conversion rate with more specific “why” info prominently displayed.

I’m looking forward to hearing from your sales dept.

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