How NOT to write subject lines for your marketing emails

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Tuesday teardown – In summary:

  • If you’re selling a complex product to a busy consumer (i.e. B2B) then email marketing is one of the best strategies for reaching potential clients
  • Open rates are an important measure of subject line success and content : audience alignment.  Your aim should always be to maximise long term average open rates (rather than looking for one-off spikes)
  • Don’t ever “bait-and-switch”: using a highly provocative subject line that’s ultimately unrelated to the content that you’re delivering

Transcript of this teardown:

Hi. I’m Steve Pell from TLP. I’m here to do another one of our Tuesday Teardowns, where we pull apart some well-known digital marketing examples to improve the way that you go about marketing and selling online.

Now, today I’m going to talk about email subject lines. If you’re in B2B, of if you’re selling to a sophisticated busy consumer then email marketing is one of the best strategies for reaching those people every day of the year in their inbox.

With email marketing you own the list and you own the ability to market to that list. It’s a strategy that despite the fact it’s been around for a long time… there is still nothing that gets quite close to the effectiveness of email marketing when it’s done really well.

What I’m going to talk about today is a question that I’ve got for you, which is: “Is a higher open rate always better?” A lot of people who do email marketing are very, very focused on their open rates. This is an example that I’d like to show you where a higher open rate might not necessarily be the best thing for your marketing, for your sales strategy long term.

Now, the example I’m using is Jeff Hyman. Jeff was the CEO at Retrofit, he is now the chairman. He has also started up this consultancy called “Startup Therapist.” They do talent consulting, recruiting consulting for start-ups, and the email that he sent here that really caught my attention had the subject line “OMFG! I have a quick question.”

For me, this is really a good example of click bait in a subject line. This catches attention, using OMFG in the email, but what’s happened is, the subject line doesn’t align in any way to the article. It’s a classic bait-and-switch. When this bait-and-switch happens, that is, for me, what click bait really is.

If his article delivered on this promise that it was a massive question that he just had to ask me right now – instead of a promotion for his new eBook this subject line would probably be fine. But instead he has given me the bait-and-switch. He has used a very, very provocative subject line that would have seen great open rates, probably a 50% open rate on this, but he has damaged his long term relationship with me as a reader, because next time I receive something provocative – and if you look through the emails that Jeff sends, he does do this a bit – next time I receive something provocative I just don’t open it, because I know that he is doing it to get me to open with the bait-and-switch. The article I’m going to read or the content I’m going to read isn’t what was promised in the subject line.

As soon as you break your promise to your subscribers – to the people who are reading your emails – your open rates will be damaged long term. So, I’d say, always think about the long term. What you want to do is maximize your long term open rates, get the maximum number of people who are long term engaged with your content. Don’t fall into the boy who cried wolf trap of getting all the attention you can right now and sacrificing the long term engagement and trust of your list.

I’m Steve Pell. That’s been another one of our Tuesday Teardowns. We’d love you to comment or share below. Thank you so much.

What Fred Wilson, Penelope Trunk and Mark Cuban can teach you about vulnerability

By | CEO blogging, Content marketing, Tuesday teardown | No Comments

Tuesday teardown – In summary:

  • To get leverage from digital marketing, you must build a real human relationship. If you can build trust online, you reduce your reliance on physical sales meetings as a relationship building exercise. Being authentic and vulnerable are critical in building a trusted relationship with potential buyers.
  • Generally, under 50% of what is said by a CEO of a company online is trusted by the reading public.
  • The most important topics for building CEO trust are personal values, obstacles overcome and personal success story.

Transcript of this teardown:

Hi. I’m Steve Pell from TLP. I’m here to do another one of our TLP Tuesday Teardowns, where we look at a popular website to take away some practical lessons, so you can get better results online.

Today I’m going to talk about vulnerability, trust and authenticity – all these topics are critical when we come to online content.

They are critical because they are the foundation of building a real human relationship. That means people trust what you’re talking about, which means they’re more likely to buy online (even in B2B), which reduces your necessity to do physical sales meetings. This can really start to give you some sales leverage and improved sales efficiency right throughout your business.

I’m going to start with a couple of key pieces of data, and and then jump into three very successful CEO blogs – Fred Wilson, Penelope Trunk, and Mark Cuban.

Before we get started, this data I’ve got up here is from Edelman. It looks at how trusted different sources or different people are online.

Edelman_trust_index

The sad state of CEO and corporate trust

You can see the general population trust about 80% of what’s said online by “My friends and family“. In contrast, “a company’s CEO” sits at under 50%.

So, under 50% of what is said by a CEO of a company is trusted by the general population online. Now, that’s pretty shocking when you think about that as a flip of a coin.

The key point here is that the general audience that you’re going to be speaking to are very, very sceptical.

So, what does it actually take to build trust in a market that is so sceptical? Let’s just have a look at one more piece of data here. This is another outcome from that same survey, from the Edelman Trust Index in 2016. I encourage you to go and have a look – there is some fascinating data.

Here we’ve got here the percentage of the general population who agree that each type of information is important in building trust:

  • Personal values, 80%
  • The obstacles that they have overcome, 70%
  • Their personal success story, 65%
  • Their education and how it’s shape them, 62%
CEO trust

The percentage of the general population who agree that each type of information is important in building CEO trust

These are all topics that you’re not used to reading in your typical newspaper article, CEO blog, or company website. Because they are not what you typically see, that’s another reason why they are so powerful.

So, to come back here and just recap on this data, the trust of CEOs and businesses online is very low. It takes authenticity to break through and build that one-to-one relationship where you can start to earn the right to sell to someone online.

Fred Wilson

Let’s jump in and have a look at some examples of these done really well. So this is a post by Fred Wilson.

Fred is a venture capitalist out of New York who has a very big following. This blog has played a big part in turning him into a very successful venture capitalist. He has generated large amounts of deal flow from this content. This blog, you could say, is his primary marketing activity.

The blog we’re looking at here is about distraction. It’s a post by Fred about how he struggles to focus. This is not something that goes directly to why his audience are coming to this blog; To find out more about his investments and strategy.

Fred wilson

Fred Wilson, discussing distraction and how he struggles to focus. The post has generated 200+ comments

But you can see that this article has generated 226 comments – a very high level of engagement. It’s very hard to do that unless you’ve got a passionately engaged audience. This is not what you would typically expect to see on a traditional CEO blog, but a great example of building a personal relationship.

Penelope Trunk

Let’s go to another one here which is Penelope Trunk. Penelope is a CEO of a company called Quistic. This blog seems very personal, but is actually a big, big lead generation tool for her businesses. In the article we’re looking at, she is writing about the connection between abortion and careers.

Penelope trunk

Penelope Trunk discussing abortions on her business blog.

Again, this is not a topic you would expect to see CEO commentary on. It again has generated 610 comments – exceptionally high level of engagement with her audience. She’s achieving this because she is so authentic, and she just does not hold back on her personal views. That has generated a really strong connection with her audience that has powered all the business that she’s been involved with. So, again, another example for you to jump into. Not right for everyone, but a very good case study on just how powerful it can be vulnerable and authentic.

Mark Cuban

The last one I’ve got here is Mark Cuban. Now, Mark Cuban, you might have seen from the US version of Shark Tank. You might know him as a Dallas Mavericks owner. He is talking here about his colonoscopy. Now, not a topic that you would expect to see on a CEO’s blog, and he says he doesn’t usually talk about personal issues, but he thought it was “important to share”.

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban discussing his colonoscopy (it doesn’t get much more vulnerable!)

It goes back to that data that we saw from Edelman on using personal values to build a relationship. Cuban has nearly five million people who follow his blog every time he publishes, so it’s clearly resonating with an audience. He is authentic and he is building a relationship. Again, this is a good example for you to jump into and have a quick look at to see what authenticity looks like when done well.

In conclusion

The key takeaways for today are that being authentic and vulnerable are critical in building a personal relationship online. If you’re going to build a CEO blog that gives you sales leverage, you have to build a personal relationship.

Building trust is so important because it’s what gives you the right to speak to a prospect on a one-to-one basis. Perfection is boring. People don’t want to build a relationship with people who are presented as perfect. They want to build a relationship with other humans (flaws and all). So, look at how you can introduce some elements of your real personality to add depth to whatever it is you’re talking about. You’ll see much better results. You’ll build a one-to-one relationship that then gives you the right to start selling online.

That’s all for me today. We’d love you to jump into the comments and let us know your thoughts.

Qlik vs. Tableau: Why you must write unique headlines

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Tuesday teardown – In summary:

  • The more unique and specific a headline is, the better it will perform (holding everything else constant)
  • You should always aim to write headlines that could never have been written by one of your competitors, or someone in a different industry
  • The easy way to check the uniqueness of a headline is to type the headline in to Google with quote marks around it and see how many search results are returned
  • Being more specific will drive better search performance and click through rates, because browsers know exactly what they’re going to get (before clicking through)

Transcript of this teardown:

Hi I’m Steve Pell from TLP. I’m here to do another one of our TLP Tuesday Teardowns, where we use some well-known examples to give you some practical tips to improve how you market and sell online.

Today I’m comparing Qlik and Tableau – both big software vendors. They both sell business intelligence software, but the takeaways today don’t really have anything to do with business intelligence. The takeaways are about how to improve your headlines. This is a topic we’ve touched on recently. Today we’re going to add something to what we talked about last time, which was focused on writing headlines that are emotional and practical.

What we’re going to talk about today is writing headlines that are specific and unique. Holding everything else constant, the more unique a headline is, the better that headline will perform. You’re aiming to write headlines that could never have been written by one of your competitors or someone in a completely different industry.

The easy way to check uniqueness is to just type the headline in to Google with quote marks around it. You can tell if it’s been used before by how many search results come up.

Now to illustrate this, I’m going to compare the Qlik blog to Tableau’s blog.  Both of these blogs are generally quite good: they’re well-developed, they’re very well updated, they’ve got a broad range of topics, so we are comparing like-for-like.

Let’s look at Qlik to start with. I’m going to use a couple of posts from down the bottom here, so, “Distilling your data“, and “Stepping into the impossible.” Now, you can see where I’m going here that neither of these posts have names that are unique to business intelligence, unique to Qlik; there is nothing specific about this that couldn’t have been written on any one of a million other websites or a million other companies across the web. That is not generally a good thing.

I’ll show you what I mean here, in terms of uniqueness. When we search for “Distilling your data“, those exact words have been written about in 100 other search results. It comes up in a number of books. So we can quickly see that this headline is not specific or unique. It doesn’t give me a preview of what I’m going to get when I click through to read the article. An article with the title “Distilling your data” could be about any one of a thousand topics.

Stepping into the impossible” is even worse with 35,000  results. You can see here that it has been a title of a book with the subtitle “a story of healing on the streets“.  This is a good practical takeaway, if your blog post can be used in a completely different industry or for a spiritual healing book it’s not the right title for what you’re writing about in your space.

Let’s jump across to Tableau and there are some better examples here. I’m going to just look at these two: “Tableau Online Tips: A Security Checklist for Publishing Data to the Cloud,” and then “Thanks to Your Feedback, Tableau Shines on User-Review Sites.”

So, when we search for “Thanks to Your Feedback, Tableau Shines on User-Review Sites“, we see just nine search results. All of these are results Tableau sharing their content on social. So there has never been article that has been written with this headline before. This is exactly what you’re looking for if you’ve written a very specific and unique headline that can only be written by your company.

The other article here gives similar results. So when I search for “Tableau Online Tips: A Security Checklist for Publishing Data to the Cloud.”, Google is showing me only four results – all of which are Tableau sharing this specific article on social.

The takeaway for today is you should always be aiming to write unique specific headlines that have never been written before.

You need to be this specific to get busy readers to take the time out of their day to engage with your content. That level of specificity will also help with click through rates, because browsers know exactly what they’re going to get. Specificity stands out in general search results.

That’s all for me today. I’m Steve Pell, and that has been another one of our TLP Tuesday Teardowns. If you got value here, we’d love you to share or comment below. Thank you so much.