November 2nd, 2009

How not to write an email subject line.

The two most important factors that determine whether an email is opened are the From line and the Subject line. Obviously, if the From is someone they’re familiar with, the odds of the email being opened are increased.
The Subject line can also  make a big difference.  Here are some things to avoid.
•    The word “Free” is a killer.  Don’t use it.  It’s a prime target of spam filters and it’s likely your email won’t get through.
•    These seemingly safer words won’t trigger the robotic spam filters but will probably trigger the human spam filter at the other end: “Help”, “% off” and “Reminder.”  Studies show that the open rates for emails with these in the subject line are abysmal.
•    Although there are some exceptions, generally subject lines with more than 50 characters have poor open rates.
•    And avoid ending a subject line with a “!”.  People have an emotional response to exclamation marks, viewing them as pushy and hard sell.  Don’t use them!

Note: This post is reprised from the first issue of our newsletter, “On the Level”.  So many of our readers commented on how valuable they found the information that we’ve added it as a blog entry. What have your experiences been with subject lines? Let us know if you have anything to add.

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October 26th, 2009

What makes a good design “good”?

How do you know it when you see it?

Should good design be judged on aesthetic principles, by the awards it has won, or should it be evaluated on how the market responds to it? Is good design only “good” if it’s effective?

What part does the vision of the designer play?  How important is or her background, training, experience?  Many people have access to the software programs designers work in, but few non-professionals are able to come up with a great piece of marketing communication. So what differentiates the “good” from the “bad” and the “ugly”? Read the rest of this entry »

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October 22nd, 2009

The viral power of social media

A few days ago I was a witness to the power a few people can wield over a big issue as I participated in a discussion in one of my Linkedin groups (On Startups). I was attracted to the discussion “Chase hates small business” and posted a comment because, like the originator of the conversation, I, too, have been disturbed by the credit card companies’ policies of increasing their interest rates by up to 24.99% and decreasing credit limits even for their good customers with good credit ratings who pay their bill on time.  This after receiving huge government bailouts and posting record profits.

Apparently a lot of people feel strongly about this issue: over a 24-hour period, the conversation went at the speed of light from complaints and commiseration to action. Spurred on by the sharing of a home-made video posted on YouTube by Ann Minch , a handful of group members took the lead and began suggesting activities: the creation of a day without using credit cards, writing letters to the White House, creating a Cause page on Facebook, generating press releases and giving the cause a name: “Don’t Bank on Me”.  With over 200 posts and going strong, the cause had become a movement. At this writing, the organization is growing, committees are being formed through teleconferences, and a web sit is in development.

If you’d like to keep tabs on the action or become part of it, look for the web site launch or the Don’t Bank on Me group on Linkedin …and spread the word.

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October 16th, 2009

Home Sweet Home Page

Nowadays, your web site is probably your most powerful marketing tool. And your Home Page is usually the portal or front door through which your prospects and customers enter. Here are a few things you can do to make your Home Page more effective and more productive.

Have simple, clear, intuitive navigation. Make sure your visitors understand how to navigate around your web site, where your links will take them, and how to find their way back to Home if they need to. There are many ways to use sub-navigation within a web site so visitors don’t get lost: for example pulldown menus, side navigation, or “bread crumbs” on each page that show the section and sub sections.

Have a simple, clear, focused message. Your visitors should understand what you do and what’s in it for them from your Home Page. So keep the copy simple, use search engine-friendly key words, make sure the font is large enough to read comfortably, and don’t make your visitors scroll below the fold to get your message.

Give visitors a reason to return. Have some content on your Home Page that’s dynamic. ie that you change periodically: News, events, a video, latest case history, a free offer etc. Or it could be helpful tips from your area of expertise, relevant articles, calculators or tables if the subject is financial. With a content management system, you don’t even need a webmaster to make these changes for you.

Harvest Prospects through an opt-in form. Consider a signup for an e-newsletter, white paper, or other content that your visitors might trade for their email address. Once you have their information, you can begin to cultivate an online relationship with them.

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October 12th, 2009

Year-End planning can be fun? You’ve got to be kidding.

I’m not.  If you bring creativity to your year-end planning a) you’ll probably come out with better ideas and b) you’ll have some fun.

At The Next Level, we use creativity to develop marketing strategies and tactics as well as ads, brochures, commercials and web sites.  You can put that same creativity into your planning process by using one of the key creative tools we use— brainstorming.

Here’s how it’s done.

Read the rest of this entry »

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October 6th, 2009

Blogging on Blogging

I’ve been intending to start a blog for quite some time.  I read several blogs on a daily basis, and even post comments.  I’ve sat in meetings with clients over the past couple of months and heard myself recommend to them that they start their own blogs, especially those who are experts in very niche areas. But as we all know the story of the shoemaker’s children who go without shoes, up until now, I’ve been remiss in actually launching a blog for the Next Level.

Yes, it’s been on the to-do list. I’ve made a commitment to do it, and have told my colleagues I’m going to do it. I’ve made a list of possible blog topics to write about so I’ve got a backlog of ideas ready to go.  And yet… Read the rest of this entry »