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Things I’ve been reading recently

In an attempt to get some of the things I find interesting out of my head and into my blog I’m sharing links to stuff I’ve stumbled on this week that has made me think…

There is too much talk and not enough action in the charity sector – Simon Burne, The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network

Simon talks about a culture of risk-aversion, looking inwards and being afraid of innovation within charity fundraising:

“We should learn from the fast-moving consumer goods (products that are sold quickly and at relatively low cost) sector. Those companies expect up to 90% of product tests to fail, but they make a mint on the other 10%. I know of few charities that are even happy with a 10% failure rate. Low failure rates tend to lead to low success rates.”

This article chimes with my experience of students’ unions sometimes. Within the sector (I refuse to call it ‘the student movement’ (or worse just ‘the movement’) as it sounds too much like bowel movements) there are definitely cool innovative things going on and people prepared to try new things but I feel there is also a great amount of fear of breaking away from the traditional model of students’ unions and the things they’ve always done.

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while and mentally drafting a blog post on it so hopefully I’ll get it out of my head and onto my blog at some point…

My year at a standing desk and why I’ll never go back – Cia Bernales, Fast Company

I’ve long been considering trying a standing desk at work. I spent 99.9% of my day (approximately) sitting down which isn’t good for you but the palaver of getting the right set-up and not wanting to give my colleagues more reasons to mock me (we’re a very friendly bunch who are very comfortable with winding each other up!) means I’ve never got round to it.

We recently rearranged the furniture in our office so now I have a little more flexibility to adapt my desk for working standing up sometimes. My current plan is to wangle flexible monitor arms and something to put my mouse and keyboard on and give it a try. I’m not quite hardcore enough for a treadmill desk (yet) though!

Why Custom Audience targeting proves that email has won the internet – Parry Malm, Econsultancy

An overview of how you can upload email lists to platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to target your advertising. The article opens by comparing an email address to a passport which gives you access to other online services. This is something I’ve found missing from ‘omg email is dead’ discussions – most of the services pointed to as replacing email still require an email address to sign up. I appreciate this doesn’t mean people check their email accounts or use them to send/emails but email addresses at least are still at the heart of many chunks of the internet.

Handling prison visit requests: the inside story – Leigh Money, MOJ Digital blog

A great case study of switching to a digital process in the prison service. I’m going to be talking to all of my colleagues soon about the exciting prospects and tangible benefits that digital can bring and this is a great example to refer to. This post outlines the benefits of switching to a digital system as well as the importance of a successful transition.

Oops! 7 Awkward (But Common) Grammar Mistakes – Lisa Toner, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing blog

Yes I love good grammar. Love it.

Webinar 24/04/14: Leading the digital business revolution – Brilliant Noise

This webinar will focus on “what it takes to be a customer-first, digital business, the barriers that prevent organisations from changing, and what role you can play in leading the digital business revolution” aka ‘loads of the things I’m interested in at the moment’. I won’t be able to follow this as I’ll be at BrightonSEO but I’m hoping to be able to catch up afterwards.

April 13th, 2014|Lots of links|0 Comments|

Data-driven decision-making

Ashamed of having to write ‘blogs sporadically at joannwalters.co.uk’ in a few profiles recently I am determined to blog more regularly about the thoughts floating around my head.

This is a somewhat cop-out blog post however as it is just pointing to a conference session I ran at Students’ Unions 2013 – a national conference for students’ union staff and officers.

I pitched several sessions (never shy about waffling on in front of a room of strangers who are bound by social norms to stay until the end then clap) and was asked to talk about how we can use data to help with communications decision-making. You can view slides from the presentation on SlideShare though my presentation style means they’re quite light on text and heavy on random images!

I will endeavour to write a more lengthy post including my thoughts on some of the topics I covered but for now just enjoy the colourful pictures and imagine how long it took me to find them all on Flickr…

Jo

 

July 3rd, 2013|Digital|1 Comment|

Freshers newsletter campaign

In one of those great ‘two birds, one stone’ scenarios a project I was working on fitted the brief for part of my course. It has also led to much smugness so I’ve decided to up the smug factor by sharing the project with you, the people of the internet.

Essentially, the Students’ Union wanted to launch a newsletter for new students (‘freshers’) to capture incoming students’ email addresses, get them interested in the Students’ Union and its Freshers Week events and start building a relationship between students and their Union.

This is the presentation I gave for my course outlining the project (which features some early drafts of the newsletter itself). It uses Prezi, a super cool online presentation tool which instantly makes your presentation infinitely more interesting than if you use PowerPoint (you might have to wait a mo for it to load), just use the back and forward buttons at the bottom right to move around or click and drag to move around. You can also view it full screen if you’d rather.

Permission MarketingI created a series of autoresponder emails which subscribers will receive over the summer in the run-up to the start of Freshers Week. Each email features one of the Union’s elected officers with tips and information relating to their area of responsibility and Freshers Week.

It builds on some of the principles of Seth Godin’s ‘Permission Marketing‘ which I recommend (though some of the examples now seem a little dated – it was written 10 years ago when Amazon looked like a promising little online bookseller…). The idea is that we get people’s permission to contact them via email by offering them something useful in return (in this case, exclusive news and content about Freshers Week). According to Godin (and common sense) they are then more likely to pay attention when we communicate with them than if we just put ads everywhere or thrust flyers into their hands.

Putting theory into practice

The newsletter is now live and is picking up between 10 and 20 new subscribers per day. We expect the subscriber rate to increase much faster once most students’ places are confirmed on 18th August. I’m using Aweber to manage subscriptions and send out emails and I thoroughly recommend it, it is really easy to use and their customer service is great. It also gives you lots of graphs and numbers to play with which makes me very happy!

So far the messages are getting very good open rates, much higher than our typical term-time emails. I attribute this principally to the niche content of the newsletter (whereas the term-time emails cover a wide range of topics) and new students’ enthusiasm for news about Freshers Week (and the well-crafted newsletter campaign obviously…). We’re hoping to transfer this high level of interaction to our term-time newsletter and other campaigns in future.

Message
Unique opens Unique clicks
per open
1 – Hi [first name], welcome to our Freshers newsletter 68% 0.60
2 – [Sussex Freshers] Our top tips for settling in from Indi, Welfare Officer 58% 0.99
3 – [Sussex Freshers] top 5 Freshers things to get excited about from James, Activities Officer 68% 0.70
4 – [Sussex Freshers] How to find out what’s going on from Ariel, Communications Officer 47% 0.36
5 – [Sussex Freshers] A guide to the Sussex campus by Becca, Operations Officer 65% 0.67
6 – [Sussex Freshers] Tips for getting the most from your studies from Poppy, Education Officer 59% 0.26
7 – [Sussex Freshers] A look at the year ahead at Sussex from David, Students’ Union President 66% 0.44

I’ll keep this updated as the newsletter progresses, if nothing else it’ll encourage some friendly rivalry between the officers over who is the most ‘popular’! The table above was last updated on 22nd August, the first emails were sent on 27th June with follow up emails every four days.

I tagged the links in the emails so I can use Google Analytics to see how people browse our site by following links from the newsletter. A quick glance the other day suggested that these are driving people deeper into our site than normal which suggests the targeted nature of the emails is working.

After Freshers Week I’ll post some examples of the emails we’re using, I can’t do them earlier as they’re ‘exclusive content’ for subscribers only! If you’re super keen you can head over to www.sussexstudent.com/freshers and sign up yourself!

Jo

August 2nd, 2011|Digital|5 Comments|

Email marketing analysis : Oxfam Unwrapped

As an email ninja I get very few email newsletters that I’m not interested in or don’t read so it was interesting to see how many people on my course have written about emails that they don’t open. I decided to write about one of the emails I pretty much always open so I could be all gushing and nice rather than shouting at some poor email marketer who dared send me an email I opted in for.

Oxfam emailI chose an email that had worked on me, the latest one from Oxfam, one of my favourite charities. I always read their emails as they contain a mix of campaigning actions, product information and updates on their progress. I receive emails from Oxfam as I’ve ordered gifts from them in the past and have clicked through from prior emails about their campaigns.

This email (pictured left, click to view the full size version) promotes their Oxfam Unwrapped range of gifts as ideal Mother’s Day presents.

The header comprises three links which relate to the three themes of the message; Mother’s Day, the special offer of free chocolates with every order and the weddings range which forms the second half of the email body. This helps people who read their emails in a preview pane (where only the start of the message is visible) as well as opening the message with key messages to encourage people to keep reading.

Email body textThe main body of the email combines several short paragraphs of text, a photo and a testimonial quote which appears to be from a prior recipient of Oxfam support. The text is full of links (six in total) to various sections of the Oxfam Unwrapped site; a special offer landing page (used three times) and three individual product links that are based around families and women. The section ends with a ‘start shopping’ call to action to emphasise the point.

The text moves from referencing your mum (not in a ‘your mum’ joke sort of way I hasten to add!) to mothers who have benefitted from Oxfam Unwrapped before tying the concepts together with ‘Thank your mum and mums all over the world with an Oxfam Unwrapped gift this Mother’s Day’ using empathy to reinforce the call to action.

The quote and photo aim to give a human touch to the story. The use of an individual quote rather than statistics about the scope of problems such as dirty water reminded me of this recent Guardian article about how people find it easier to relate to individual stories rather than broad statistics.

The email is then divided with eight colourful boxes linking to other gift categories, this is quite a good discreet way of reminding readers of the breadth of gifts available as well as potentially prompting sales unrelated to the Mother’s Day theme.

Categories

The second section of the email introduces a new range from Oxfam with three images linking to the relevant sections of Oxfam’s site. There is no call to action in this section, maybe because weddings are more of a niche market.

The email ends with a three updates from Oxfam on different topics; fundraising opportunities, gift ideas and campaigning. This is a great way of illustrating the range of Oxfam’s activities and definitely something charities and commercial organisations could use. The footer contains links to Oxfam’s website and social media channels as well as unsubscription information, contact details and legal information about the sender.

I like the layout of the message as it is simple but interesting as it features a variety of topics and colours without being overwhelming.

The special offer’s landing page reiterates the free chocolates offer then lists some of their bestsellers. This acts as an endorsement from other customers and encourages confidence in the product and organisation. The page lists as three-step process to complete the purchase which presumably helps convert potential buyers.

The email doesn’t contain any personalisation though it would be interesting to know whether this email was targeted in any way based on the demographic or interaction history Oxfam know about me. It is unclear whether the campaigning, fundraising and sales messages I receive from Oxfam are connected at all. It would be interesting to know whether targeted or personalised emails, ‘you signed our petition about X so you might want to donate Y’, would lead to more sales or donations. As Oxfam work in so many countries, across so many projects and in different ways I wonder if and how they segment their subscribers and supporters at all.

P.S. Mum, if you’re reading this, act surprised on Mother’s Day!

March 24th, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|

Driving business online

At last year’s TFM&A exhibition, Steve Lomax from Experian CheetaMail (who have a range of white papers on email marketing available for download) gave a presentation about email marketing which you can watch online.

In it, he gives an overview of how email marketing is changing using information from a range of their clients, the most interesting of which is that the overall volume of emails sent has increased by 42% and overall revenue has increased by 35% from 2008 to 2009.

Email marketers have implemented a range of campaigns with more relevance, targeting and variety to increase sales (which then increase volume rather than the other way around).

He uses Boden as a case study to illustrate his point. They’ve moved from a catalogue retailer (with a single, standard catalogue) to making 75% of their sales online. This has allowed them to target their marketing activities and provide relevant and personalised information. They combined their online and offline data to create clear pictures of their customers and segmented their customers. Their emails now include dynamic content such as offers and products. Boden’s new email strategy has seen increases in open rates, click-throughs and sales and a decrease in unsubscriptions.

They have also developed their website to incorporate user-generated reviews (and now have over 43,000 reviews!) Shoppers are now able to base their buying decisions on other customers rather than just the marketing messages provided by Boden. To generate reviews, Boden sent thank you emails to purchasers asking them to rate their purchases. Boden used Bazaarvoice to organise and generate reviews who have some other case studies and white papers on their website. Other companies have used user reviews in their email marketing campaigns to generate further sales.

Steve goes on to talk about other email marketing tips such as making the most of transactional emails to build relationships with the customer and provide opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. These emails have very high open rates so it makes sense to use them as a marketing opportunity. In his example from HMV, this has been extended throughout the customer lifecycle, e.g. order updates, service information.

He talks about remarketing, following up on abandoned transactions/processes, to increase sales and conversion rates. Experian’s research suggests that around 40% of customers would complete their transaction after a service-based email reminder as it is a very effective, targeted technique.

Social media provides opportunities to increase email subscriber lists and by allowing users to share content directly to social media networks, make sure your message is spread more widely. As mentioned in a session at this year’s TFM&A, SMS can be used to increase list size.

March 9th, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|

Thoughts from TFM&A – tying social and email together

Today I went to the Technology For Marketing & Advertising (TFM&A) show in London where my time was spent alternating between making apologetic faces at exhibitors (no I don’t have thousands of pounds to spend on your shiny software) and scribbling pages of notes in the seminars.

Ironically (for a day about digital stuff) I scribbled pages and pages of notes in my notebook (well, its a little book and I have big writing) and will be adding them here for you to read and ponder. If you want to buy me one of these I can make sure I get my thoughts to you faster in future :)

As I picked up so many interesting bits and things that might be useful for other people on my course I’m breaking this down into a series of posts.


The first session I went to was ‘Tying Social and Email Together – Designing a multi-channel campaign‘ by a speaker from ExactTarget which focused on how email and social media can complement each other.

We’ve moved from a one way organisation to consumer relationship in which the organisation tells the consumer what to think to a consumer to other consumers relationship where they tell the brand what they think. Data about customers is now a key business asset.

Email: Familiarity, manageability, trust & privacy, relevancy, exclusivity
Facebook: Connection, self-expression, entertainment, discovery, control
Twitter: Influence, brevity, accessibility, interaction, versatility -> Twitter has the most potential to drive affinity (or damage your brand) as users talk about your brand

Email marketing is becoming more targeted and more relevant, e.g. Amazon emails based on purchase/browsing history, which means a higher conversion rate and higher ROI. Advanced segmentation can be based on demographics, engagement, purchase behaviour and/or brand advocacy

‘Forward to a friend’ in emails can be developed using social share, e.g. encouraging people to share things on Facebook/Twitter. This also helps identify brand advocates.

SMS can be used to convert customers to online (with all the data analysis benefits that brings), e.g. high street shops (an environment where most people have their mobile phone with them) using an in-store discount as an incentive to text your email address to their shortcode.

March 3rd, 2011|Digital|6 Comments|