In a few days, children (and cool adults) will search high and low for colorful egg-shaped vessels filled with yummy candy goodness.

Everyone knows a good Easter egg hunt is all about the chase – the harder you search, the bigger the joy when you finally spot that fluorescent plastic egg nestled away in a secret location.

When it comes to email marketing, you must leave behind the Easter Bunny’s hide-and-seek mentality and assume the role of Captain Obvious.

Start with the Sign Up

Before subscribers can engage with your awesome email content, they must be able to opt-in first.

If email is a key component of your marketing strategy then you better believe your sign-up form needs to be highly visible on your website.

Above the fold? Below the fold?
That’s your call. Some audiences respond best to an opt-in form smack-dab at the top of your site, while others need a little context before handing over the keys to their inbox.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the “above the fold/below the fold” debate, but all parties do agree: don’t make soon-to-be subscribers hunt for your email opt-in.

Navigate with Content

A good chunk of time is spent developing content for your email campaigns. You’ve done your research. You’ve mastered the art of storytelling. And you’re ready to share it with the world.

Unfortunately, the world is totally distracted and probably doing 10 things at once.

Have no fear – Captain Obvious is here.
Think of your email like a roadmap. Use elements that will help guide your reader, such as clear headlines, bullet points and supporting images. Make sure your copy is easy to navigate in a short amount of time.

But, this is not to say you shouldn’t add some flair… after readers give your email a once-over, they will find their way back to the pertinent parts that strike their interest!

Subscribers Aren’t Mind Readers

Being a firm believer that email is a gateway– not the end destination, there should always be a clear call-to-action that lets subscribers continue engaging with your brand.

Use action-oriented call-to-actions – both as text links and buttons and consider placing your CTAs throughout your email design. However, don’t go overboard on the hyperlinks. Too many options may distract your audience causing them to abort the mission all together.

If engagement is critical and readers are skimming, don’t leave them guessing about what you want them to do next.

When you look at email marketing through the eyes of Captain Obvious, it’s clear to see your approach should be simple and direct. There’s a time and a place for hide-and-seek, but the email experience isn’t one of them.

And, speaking of Captain Obvious…

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Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.50.25 PMOne of the most difficult tasks in advertising has been attributing cause and effect between a marketing campaign and its commercial impact. In the pre-digital era, demographic research and focus groups were often the starting point for a campaign of any kind, and profits and growth in consumer base was the assumed end point. Any intermediary between the two was used as validation of a campaign’s effectiveness (or lack thereof). This left a sizable lapse in between strategic planning and the eventual gains in earnings and public awareness. Aside from perpetuating the campaign, there was little active participation once everything reached inception.

With the advent of the Internet and its various methods of information dispersal (search engines, content aggregators, social media,  etc.), message broadcasting has become more finely granulated. Traditional radio or television broadcast, or print ad placement, could rely on reaching a predetermined audience. There was a degree of predictability largely because the channels were so few and their mechanisms generally predictable.

Things are different now. This is both a blessing and a curse – the internet can easily complicate the execution of a marketing strategy. On the other hand, it’s democratized media channels and made reaching new audiences far more possible. The digital era also allows for a finely honed, strategically astute campaign to yield an exceptional return on investment.

That being said, what are the best ways of succeeding in an environment where digital behavior is so unpredictable and the communication channels multifaceted?

Audience Research

This old mainstay is as important as ever, but the methodology has changed. Google recently began incorporating statistics from its display ad network in its analytics reporting. It’s much more direct and incisive than broad census research, but there are caveats. This feature, available since last October, allows you to estimate the age group, gender, and hobbies/interests of your visitors. While geolocation data can be delivered with high accuracy, other demographic information requires deeper scrutiny. The information released from the display ad network has wider margins of error, and requires both a large data set as well as cross-reference with other statistics to provide useful visitor intelligence.

Taking all this into account, you can finely parse what your current audience is doing and whether it aligns with your demographic goals. Are you trying to attract customers from the Midwest, but mainly have visitors from Pennsylvania? Alternately, this can provide a sense of potential opportunities. If your presence is particularly strong with visitors from a particular state, you can attune your marketing strategy to coordinate with regional interests.

Performance and Time Lapse Analysis

This is often the lynchpin that determines the success of a marketing campaign. It  requires a fine eye for data and the ability to zero on what specific markers indicate success. If you’re hoping to disperse content through social media channels, then you’ll need to tag it by some means (whether through UTMs or custom tracking), and then note precisely how the content performs against the priorities outlined in the prior section. Has an opinion piece attracted strong clicks among visitors age 45-55? Has it been shared and reposted, and been effective at drawing viewers from California?

Assuming your goals have been met in terms of demographics and audience reach, then you can analyze your marketing strategy to determine which techniques caused this to happen. When the next piece of content is prepared for drafting and posting, you’ll have a strongly informed sense of what creates high impact. Alternately, if it underperformed or reached an unintended audience, you can dissect the factors that caused disappointing returns.

Impact Analysis

This is the conclusion of the data trail. Connecting the performance analysis to the original research is a full evaluation of commercial or broadcasting gains. If the Facebook page for a New Jersey political candidate has received a surge of “Likes” from within his state following the dispersal of opinion pieces, then you’ve clearly hit your marker. Same goes if a user engagement campaign for a sportswear brand has resulted in higher e-commerce sales among visitors aged 23-35. While this step involves linking data points back to the original strategy research, it’s just as reliant on fresh analysis and a keen read of statistics as any other part of the campaign.

When all is said and done, digital marketing requires a thorough data system to keep a pulse on your efforts. Internet communication channels are too finely serrated to risk not having a gauge of day-to-day performance. Considering that online behavior is so unpredictable, the safest way to clear the fog is through leaving a trail of numbers.

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7 Secret Email Marketing Tips As Told By An Advertising Agency

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Ever wonder how an agency makes sure their emails create a lasting impression on subscribers? Here are 7 secret email marketing tips that will set the stage for a successful campaign and build brand loyalty. If at first you don’t succeed… Try, try again. Email marketing is all about trial and error. From subject lines [...]

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