Matthew Paulson - entrepreneur, investor and author of Email Marketing Demystified

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What is the biggest email marketing mistake or mistakes that you see companies make every day? 

MP: The biggest mistake that companies make regularly is that they email people they have no permission to send mail to. Many companies, especially small businesses, will enter the email address of everyone they know or have gotten a business card from into their mailing list without asking permission from them. Inevitably, recipients of their email will click the “report spam” button and all of their messages will start going into the spam folder or not delivered at all. 

The other big mistake that people make is that they fail to segment their list. I can’t count how many companies I’ve purchased a product from and then gotten an email from them promoting the product that I’ve already purchased. Every email marketer should break down their list based on their subscribers’ past behavior (such as purchasing products, signing up for a lead magnet, etc.) and then only email the people who are relevant to any given email. 

There have been a lot of changes this past decade – CAN-SPAM act, mass migration of personal communications from email to social networks, meteoric rise of mobile messaging apps and so on. Which email marketing strategies still work despite these changes, and which ones are now obsolete? 

MP: Mass email blasts to everyone on your mailing list are a lot less effective than they used to be because of the sheer volume of email that people receive. If a message that an email user receives has no relevance to them, it’s going to be ignored or deleted without being read. What continues to work well is sending relevant content to people based on their past actions. In the email marketing world, this is known as marketing automation. More and more companies will need to move toward sending much more targeted email toward subscribers that show interest in a specific product or services and away from sending generic blasts to their mailing lists. 

How do you see email marketing change during the next 10 years? 

MP: It’s going to become harder and harder for email marketers to get their content into their subscribers’ main inboxes. Gmail’s inbox tabs is the first wave of innovation in email that cordons off commercial messages into a separate folder that people will rarely (if ever) look at. There are dozens of apps that are trying to “fix email” by making it only so the most relevant content shows up in a user’s inbox. Email marketers are going to have to make sure their list stays very engaged with their mailing list to make it past the filter of this new generation of “smart email” apps. 

Given how popular WhatsApp, Viber, SnapChat, Telegram and others have become, how is this going to impact marketing, since it’s MUCH harder to reach clients via IM than email? 

MP: I think that SMS alternative apps like SnapChat are great communication tools for individuals to chat with each other and can be good ways for brands to advertise, but I don’t think that they will replace email. Email remains the preferred communication channel for most people to do business, receive order receipts, get coupons, etc. A 2015MarketingSherpa survey showed that 72% of consumers say that email is their favorite way to communicate with the companies that they do business with. 

Self-restraint is probably one of the most important traits for email marketers. Do you have any tips how to resist the urge to send emails to clients or prospects too frequently? 

MP: The key with email sending volume is to determine what the right volume is for your clients and set that expectation from day one. Depending on your industry, it might be appropriate to email your subscribers daily or only email them once per month. A lot of it depends on how much your subscribers want to hear from you. If your industry is in a niche with a lot of hyperactive fans, you might want to email them three or four times per week. If you’re in a slow moving B2B industry, you might not want to send out more than one or two emails per month. 

Would you mind sharing a few tips and tricks from your book Email Marketing Demystified about growing your subscriber list, writing subject lines that get emails read, and cold emailing effectively? 

MP: Growing your list – Try to get past the mindset that your website is the only way to build your email list. You can do cost-effective list building campaigns through co-registration advertising network, Facebook Lead Ads and Twitter Lead Cards to build your mailing list. You can often pay as little as $1.00 or $2.00 for a new email sign-up on your list. You can also leverage your other channels, such as social media and in your physical location (if you are a retailer), to build your mailing list. The key is to attack list growth from every angle. Yes, you should put highly-visible opt-in forms on your website, but you should also work other angles as well. 

Good subject lines – If you want to get your email opened, the best way is to make the message appear personal in nature. The “from name” of the email should be your full name and not the name of your business. The subject line should be something simple like “Quick question for you”, “I had an idea the other day…” or “Hey, check out this thing I made.” 

Cold Email – I wrote a blog post about this in detail. 

What resources should email marketers use/read to stay on top of their game? 

MP: I like to read the blogs of major email service providers: 
https://sendgrid.com/blog/ 
http://www.activecampaign.com/blog/ 
http://blog.mailchimp.com/ 

Thank you for the interview. 

Bitrix24 comes with email management in its CRM. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.

See also:

 

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A branding enthusiast, serial entrepreneur, and resilient businesswoman, Karen Post helps businesses stand out & step up their brand. 

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Before we start, could you first explain how the advent of intranet, social networks, mobile revolution changed branding and how digital branding is different/similar to traditional methods used pre-2000s?
 

KP: There is a lot of common ground in both traditional and digital branding. 

Same path forward 
Attraction, belief/values, attachment and advocacy. 

They both are reputations, images and perceptions of business entities, products and or services. The brand is that mental impression and emotional connection with the seller and prospect or the buyer. Both are created by a sum of actions, communications and experiences. While the consumer makes the final decision about a brand, the brand owner has a lot of control to drive the opinions around its brand. 

Big difference 
Digital is 24/7, real-time, responsive and can be personalized. The experience is limited to visual and audio senses. Relies on data and must be fast. 

Traditional means has a heart beat, a human smile and can leverage all 5 senses. Humans still need humans. 

Many digital branding books rely heavily on punk aesthetics. Be yourself, break the rules, polarize, etc. Is ‘provocation’ really the only way to get noticed today? What advice do you give readers of Brain Tattoos? 

KP: The degree of provocation should align with the brand’s essence. If your brands is edgy, extreme measures makes sense. If your brand is conservative stay true to who you are. 

One of the trends most visible today is that corporates brands increasingly depend on personal brands of business leaders. Apple – Jobs, Tesla-Musk, etc. Could you elaborate on this dichotomy and synergies/pitfalls that come with it? 

KP: There are pros and cons to mixing personal/leadership branding with corporate branding. 

Pros 
People like to do business with people they relate to and admire. If your leader is likable, that’s a plus. 

Cons 
People are human, they can do stupid things and get hit by a car. Both can hurt a brand’s image. 

What branding mistakes (digital or otherwise) do you see companies and individuals make most often. 

KP: 

  • Lack of focus, by trying to be everything to everybody, they end up being nothing
  • Complexity, simple brands are smarter.
  • Being tactical instead of strategic. This means not working from a brand essence (purpose, points of difference, promise and personality)


If we go outside the usual suspects (Apple, PayPal, Tesla, Google), can you name a couple of smaller companies that do outstanding job with digital marketing and are good role models? 

KP: 
https://www.simple.com/ 
http://movement.com/ 
https://www.canva.com/ 

What resources, blogs, books, podcasts do you recommend to our readers who want to build a successful digital brand? 

KP: 
Branding 
Mine: Karenpost.com/blog 
https://www.martinlindstrom.com/ 

Content 
http://www.copyblogger.com/ 
Entrepreneurship/innovation 
http://theleanstartup.com/ 

Thank you for the interview. 

Bitrix24 offers free collaboration software. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.

See also:

 

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I originally wrote this article for TheNextWeb almost two years ago. I am ready to write another one that’s going to be titled ‘Why We No Longer Pitch Techcrunch’. I just though it would be a good idea for my Medium readers to learn about what PR strategies we’ve used in the past and what has changed since (hint: A LOT).

PR is hard. And expensive. Most of the time, you get nothing out of it. And when your company finally is mentioned in an article, even in a big publication, the results can be disappointing. One time, we got a whooping 169 visitors after being covered by ZDNet.

Over the past two years, I’ve made a lot of PR mistakes. I’ve also got Bitrix24 into Forbes, VentureBeat, ReadWrite, PCWorld, PCMag, TechRepublic, CIO, ITWorld and 200+ other tech publications.

I’ve learned that what you do with the article after it’s published is frequently a lot more important than what do you before. And I am happy to share my insights with you.

1. Get LinkedIn Inmail

LinkedIn Inmail is the cheapest and most effective way to pitch journalists. My account cost me $100 a month and at least 50 percent of all mentions of Bitrix24 in the press are results of LinkedIn pitches.

The most amazing thing about LinkedIn is that once you find one or two journalists, their network will actually show you who else to contact –editors in the same or other publications. It saves you a lot of time.

With Inmail, the results are guaranteed. You pay only for those messages that got read by their recipients.

2. Contributors are better than editors

Publishing industry is about pageviews — that’s how advertising is sold. To get pageviews, you need content. To get content, you need journalists. To have enough journalists in the world to cover the vast tech industry, you need to pay them.

That’s exactly why many popular publication now have guest blogger and contributor sections.

Your competition and traditional PR agencies are pitching editors, who receive dozens, if not hundreds of proposals every day. My personal experience suggests that contributors and experts are actually much better ‘targets.’

3. Twitter stalking

 

 

After you get to know most editors who cover your niche, you should start following their Twitter accounts. When you see a tweet that you can meaningfully respond to or comment on, do so.

If you consistently comment and retweet someone’s account for a couple of months, they’ll start noticing. Now you can pitch. I’ve found that the best way to do this is with a question.

4. Pitch in multiple formats

The same data can be presented in multiple formats — report, infographics, slideshare presentation, webinar, video and so on.

Last Christmas we did a report about social intranet use. We first pitched it as a study that got picked up by major tech publications, like ReadWrite. We then released infographics based on the same data and got a score of mentions again.

I now know that I should also include podcast and videocast friendly materials in my pitches (you can’t easily show infographics in a podcast, and podcasters are almost universally overlooked).

5. Content amplification (free)

We’ve got mentioned in Forbes twice, both times by contributors. One article had 50,000+ views within the first week. Another one got less than 2500 views in the same period of time.

Why the difference? Reddit and StumbleUpon. Your corporate Twitter and Facebook are a given. Submit articles that mention your product or service to Digg, Reddit, Delicious and other free content amplification tools to drive more traffic to them. You won’t always have 100 percent success rate, but when your articles get picked up by Reddit or StumbleUpon, the results are amazing.

 

 

6. Content amplification (paid)

If you can’t get your content amplified for free, don’t worry, there are affordable services like Outbrain (what we use) or Taboola that let you buy amplification.

There are several instances when using them makes sense. Some publications rank articles according to pageviews. By driving traffic to your article, you get more pageviews, ranking it higher.

Another instance is when your old article got tapped out and is buried so deep no one can see it.

7. SEO

Let’s face it — Google likes Forbes.com a lot better than your company site or ours. You can use that to your advantage.

For hyper-competitive phrases like ‘productivity tools’ or ‘collaboration tools’ where our own website has no chance of getting to the front page results, we use SEO (links with anchor text and social media mentions) to improve ranking of articles that mention Bitrix24.

Not only it’s easier to improve search engine results page (SERP) results for high authority domain, people trust publications a lot more than vendors sites.

8. Giveaways

When we launched the service, we decided to make it free to startups for a year, but journalists weren’t interested in covering this. So we changed our PR pitch to Bitrix24 announces $1.2 million grant program for startups. That minor tweak made all the difference.

 

 

We also routinely partner with other publications for giveaways (most recently, we raffled away a Parrot AR.Drone to TNW readers). Many publications are happy to promote your giveaways for free, but the advantage of giveaways is that you can run them all year round, and not wait for a new release or major product update to contact editors.

9. Lists

There are two ways to get onto lists. First way is to find a year-old article and contact the author, asking if he or she is planning an update. That’s how we got onto PCMag’s Best Free Web Apps list.

Another way is to impress a guest blogger to get them to put you in a list, which can extend to placements in a myriad of websites. The best thing about them is that lists beget lists. When I see our service mentioned on a list that I did not solicit, most of the time I know which older list was used as an inspiration.

10. Promote others

I try to mention as many other tools and services when promoting Bitrix24 as possible, even when these services partially compete with us. Most social media managers are happy to retweet any article that mentions their brand. A lot of time they’ll link to the article from their website or social media pages too. The more qualified traffic, the better!

There are actually a lot more techniques that we used to improve Bitrix24 visibility and drive traffic to our website. Through these strategies, we’ve increased our ROI by more than 10X after we dumped our last PR agency.

Unless we are running a big promotion, our PR related expenses are around $500 a month, and we get 10 to 20 new articles mentioning Bitrix24 during a typical 30-day period. Our last agency cost us $7,000 a month and delivered no results.

If you want ‘predictable’ and affordable PR, here’s what you have to do:

First, contact journalists directly via social media with short pitches, not press releases, and try developing relationships with them over time.

Second, keep looking for new formats, because you aren’t Google and nobody cares about your new release. Third, develop a solid post publication strategy to squeeze out as much traffic from each article as possible.

Finally, concentrate on ‘grassroot PR’ activities that improve your chances of being mentioned in media, without you pitching them directly. Good luck!

More Links:

Free CRM For Startups

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Free CRM For Event Planners

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Free CRM For B2B Sales And Marketing

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Being creative and solving problems are important skills for any team, no matter the area or project. Getting those creative solutions can be difficult, though; it’s not easy to help your team develop a skill that is not quantifiable or formulaic. The very nature of creativity and the demands of problem solving make both endeavors difficult to standardize. 

 

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Asking questions–lots of questions–is one way to help your team think more creatively and see more potential solutions. Asking the right questions will get even better results. Here are several questions you can adapt to use with your team. 


1. What would you do if there were no risk in trying it? 

Your people are smart. They know that risk is, well, risky. They know that creative solutions don’t always work well for the first thirty or so iterations. They may want to be creative, but feel that their job security isn’t worth losing just to be the “rockstar idea person” for this one project. So they dumb down their suggestions, going with the tried-and-true approaches rather than striking boldly into creative but very risky territory. 


When you ask them to imagine solutions with the risk removed, you’re telling them it’s okay to get crazy in a theoretical wonderland. Encourage discussions here; you’ll get quite a few unrealistic ideas, but out of those may spring something both creative and actionable. That’s your gold nugget. 


2. What’s another way we could ______? 

This is a question to spring after the discussion has been going for a while and the standard solutions presented. Keep asking for alternative after alternative; eventually, you’ll find people willing to voice the ideas that didn’t make the initial cut. 


You have to be patient with this approach, not pushy. Most people do not respond well to pressure, and if they feel like you’re tyrannizing a discussion that could have ended a long time ago, they’ll shut down. Instead, appeal for different methods or approaches on specific aspects of the idea in play. Offer your own ideas–however outlandish–as well. The goal isn’t to come up with a hundred doable ideas; it’s to throw about a thousand ideas across the table, and find the few creative and doable gems in the pile. 


3. What are the main obstacles to _____, and how will we overcome them? 

For some reason, negative events and emotions stand out more than positive ones. Framing the need for creativity as an open-ended, fun-filled “let’s create a solution!” time might turn off your more realistic or even cynical team members. But presenting obstacles, or better yet, asking for others to come up with them, will open the door for information and insight. 


The next half of the question is when the creativity comes in; now that the obstacles are out there, turn your team’s collective brain power to figuring out how to get past them. Try to come up with a five or ten item list of potential solutions for every single obstacle. 


To come up with a cohesive approach for a set of obstacles, you and your team can review all the potential solutions and look for patterns or connections. There might be a few solutions that solve multiple problems. Or, in the midst of the discussion, those creative brains might see the pattern that exists and create a new comprehensive solution, or find a better way to connect the existing ideas. 


All of these questions help your team to realize that it’s not only okay, it’s great to present ideas and solutions that might not work. The presenting is only the first step in the creative process; it’s often in the subsequent discussions that you’ll find the best creative ideas and innovative solutions. Asking questions helps your team keep moving that discussion forward, taking it deeper, diving into their reserves of creativity and breaking out of the security mindset. 


Bitrix24 is a free web based CRM system available both in cloud and as self hosted solution that you can deploy on premise. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

 

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This blog post originally appeared in my Medium blog. This is where I plan to post my thoughts on the industry, share marketing tips that worked for us and do other types of postings are more appropriate for a personal, rather than the corporate blog.

You want your SaaS to be successful. You want it to conquer the world. So you are sitting in your SF headquarter, making plans. You are probably thinking that your Silicon Valley office address gives you a tremendous advantage — you have access to the best talent, ‘smart money’, billionaire mentors and so on. Yet, you might soon find out that your plot for world domination is flawed and hardly any sales come outside US. So, what’s going on? 

1. Why localize your SaaS? 

So, why even bother? It’s not that everyone doesn’t speak English, there are two real advantages when you localize your SaaS. First, many developing markets grow faster than US. Case in point — India is expected to add 60 million NEW internet users this year. Second, there is a lot less competition in many of these markets, meaning that you’ll acquire new clients faster AND cheaper. In our case (that would be Bitrix24.com) India brings in 1/3 of US revenue, but the cost of acquisition is 1/5th , and we see this in other markets, like Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico. Granted, this is not a universal rule, but it is something to keep in mind, if you what to stretch your marketing dollar. 

2. Translation is not enough 

Many services erroneously thing that if they want clients in Germany or Russia, all they have to do is add German and Russian languages and perhaps MySaaS.com/de/ru page. Nothing could be further fr om the truth. In many countries, like the two I just mentioned, there are laws that mandate that certain data absolutely must be stored inside these countries. If you want to sell in Europe, google Directive 95/46/EC . While individual users may not care where their data is stored, banks, municipalities and large corporations do, and these have deep pockets. Complying with local data storage laws is not that hard. Amazon cloud, wh ere we store client’s data, has many data centers and their European ones in Dublin and Frankfurt are fully compliant with these laws. Azure and Google cloud solutions offer similar choice. Likewise, we’ve launched Bitrix24.de service the same day we launched Bitrix24.com, showing our German users that we care about their needs. This matters a lot to your clients outside US. 

3. Show me the money 

The almighty dollar is your biggest enemy when selling outside US. Most of the world lives with so called ‘soft currencies’ but exchange rates for euros, pounds or yen can fluctuate against dollars quite significantly as well. A few countries (think Venezuela or Argentina) have currency controls, meaning you can’t pay in US Dollars without special permission. Some countries require that you report expenses in foreign currencies using separate tax forms, no matter how small the amount is. We saw our sales or Bitrix24.inand Bitrix24.com.br explode once we switched to using Indian rupees and Brazilian reals for those countries. Our users no longer have to guess how many rupees they’ll have to spend next month for the service 1857 or 2032. Best of all, accepting foreign currencies is extremely easy, most payment processor (BrainTree in our case) offer this service. Once a month they’ll convert your euros, pounds and yuans to dollars and send it to your bank account. 

4. Find local partners 

Sure you could open office in another country. Yes, you can provide support in Polish. But it’s much, much easier (and much cheaper) to find local partners who will do that for you. These people know how businesses operate in their country. They can meet your prospects in person (never underestimate face to face meetings). They understand what’s important for this market. They can provide quotes and invoices in familiar formats. Partners are awesome. They help your business grow fast. 

5. Proximity marketing 

We used to be inundates with daily request like “could you please tell us which companies in Croatia are using our services, we’d like to talk to them first”. There were two problems with those. First, we needed to find out who actively used Bitrix24 in Croatia. Second, we’d have to ask permission to be contacted. Then one day these requests stopped. And all we did, we simply place a real time map for Bitrix24 accounts across the globe at the bottom of our main page. Now people could see how many companies near by used our services for themselves. You don’t have copy our idea exactly. You could mention this in a registration email (‘Hi Mark! Thank you for registering with us, you are actually 485th person from London, who signed up this month’). But any proof that someone nearby uses the service has huge influence over people. Hey, 16978 newyorkers can’t be wrong! 

So, how did these strategies work for us? US is still #1 in terms of Bitrix24.com registrations, but it’s only 20% of our registrations world wide. Over the past three years, more than 4.5 million people tried Bitrix24. We will soon celebrate 1,000,000 accounts registered across all Bitrix24 domains and one account is one company typically, so that’s not an easy task to achieve in just three years. 

We pay less than $10 to get a new client, whereas $30-$50 is considered standard for our industry. We got a ton of free publicity. In many countries we are the only game in town, since no one else is providing free service in their native language. 


So, who needs Silicon Valley, anyway?


Bitrix24 offers free sales management software. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 


See also:

Free CRM for accountants

Free task dependencies

Free LAN Messenger

Free sales tracking software

Free Salesjunction alternative

Free Trello alternative

Free Hubspot CRM alternative

Free Sage CRM alternative

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