email marketing

My Attempt at Giving Up Online Shopping

This winter, I thought I’d try to give up online shopping for 40 days. I don’t think I spend too much money online, most of what I get is stuff I need- and I’m actually part of the 8 out of 10 Americans that participates in ecommerce (source). I even started writing this post about the experience 2 weeks in. I had to change the title of the post, though, because…well, I didn’t make it through the whole 40 days. Instead of writing about my successful endeavor, I get to write about how and why this experiment was a glorious failure.

Convenience

Perhaps the biggest hurdle going into this experiment was the knowledge that everything I needed/wanted wasn’t exactly right at my fingertips for 40 days. Instead, I’d have to be a little more thoughtful about upcoming purchases (especially since we live in a place where geographically you might have to drive a bit for certain things). This isn’t impossible, just inconvenient at times.



Mindful Internet Browsing

The thing that was surprisingly hard was how much more of a conscious effort I had to make whenever I was online. It was actually a bit jarring to realize how complacent I’ve become in my internet browsing. For instance, I’d go on Facebook and an ad for a dress or something baby related would appear in my newsfeed, so I’d usually just click on it and see what there was to see, whether or not I was planning on making a purchase. During this experiment, “window shopping” also wasn’t allowed (meaning I couldn’t just go to Amazon and put stuff in my cart to save for later)- which made things a little trickier.

Scarcity Mindset

Another thing I had to battle was a scarcity mindset. When I got emails with subject lines like “You’ll never see deals like these again,” a very small part of me almost went into panic mode. It was like hitting a tripwire in my brain and suddenly I was like, “Wait, I should probably check and see, just to be sure.” The rational part of my brain knows that next month, I’ll still be getting emails from the same companies with the same message. The irrational part of my brain desperately wanted to see what these deals were, just in case. It doesn’t sound like it should be that hard, but I was fighting against some brain wiring.



Exclusivity

The other thing that was hard to work around was making purchases on registries. Around the one-month mark for this experiment, my cousin shared her Amazon Baby Registry with the family for her upcoming baby shower. Then, we got the registry information for my brother and future SIL’s registry for their wedding this fall.  Sure, worst case I could’ve waited until the last minute to buy something, or just gone rogue and purchased some things off-registry, but as someone who just went through the whole birth thing, I understand that registry stuff can be based on needs so I try to be sensitive to that. Point is, there are a lot of things that you can only find online (some stores will even have certain products listed as “online only,” for instance).

Overall, this was a pretty interesting learning experience, even if I ultimately failed.

  1. I’m not as impervious to marketing messages as I thought. And it turns out, 71% of people believe they’ll find a better deal online than in stores (source), and it might have something to do with really good marketing.
  2. I’ve gotten used to the convenience of online shopping. It’s so easy to “just order it online” when I’m getting low on something…and it’ll just come right to wherever I am, no driving or having to deal with crowds (ok, that part isn’t as much of a concern).
  3. It might actually be really hard for me to give up online shopping. Not in a way that I think I’m overspending or anything like that, but in the case of online registries, it’s a part of the lifestyle I’m used to having. I remember the days when you would have to go into a store (like Filene’s) and find someone’s registry. It’s a lot of effort compared to what you can just do from your couch these days.

I do recommend this experiment to anyone who might want to get control of their budget or anyone who wants to understand what kinds of online marketing they are most susceptible too. It’s one thing to buy things because you like them but knowing why could help you find awareness, discipline, and intention in other parts of your life, too. In the meantime, if you have a business, think about what kind of business you could be doing online (our course might help). 

Now please excuse me while I run three errands at once from my web browser.



The Story Behind Email Open Rates

The other day I was checking out the stats from one of our client’s email newsletters (who does not use Mailchimp or Constant Contact but instead iContact). I noticed an interesting statistic that I hadn’t seen before, and thought “Now THERE’S an argument for mobile friendliness!”

Out of curiosity, I went to look at some other email accounts, in Mailchimp specifically, to see if they had similar reports.

They did not.

The closest thing I could find was the following:

You may think, “wow, that’s way better isn’t it?” Mainly because it has a lot more detail.

Here’s the thing: that first image is from one email campaign, an October newsletter. The second image from the overall lifetime of the account, because this level of specificity doesn’t exist for an individual campaign send. So, it could be better, depending on what you’re looking for.



If you’re like me, at this point you might be curious as to how iContact can give individual metrics about individual campaigns but Mailchimp and Constant Contact can’t? After lots of digging and getting sucked into a black hole on Quora, I discovered that it’s not a matter of “can’t,” but “won’t.” In fact, Constant Contact used to have this feature until 2016. So why’d they get rid of it?

The answer is a little complicated, but it has to do with the math/science of the open rate. Open rates aren’t a perfect science. According to Comm100, “email open rate reporting can be off from anywhere from 11% to 35%” and it has nothing to do with the service you use and it’s “legitimacy.” Open rates are measured by a 1×1 pixel that gets inserted into the email, so every time it loads, it’s counted as an open. 

Which means if someone doesn’t load graphics for some reason, it doesn’t count, even if it does get opened and the text gets read.

Personally, if my phone is slowly loading an email I want to read, sometimes I’ll choose the HTML or text-only version, which means no 1×1 pixel image, which means my mobile user open doesn’t get counted.

Just because these statistics aren’t 100% accurate doesn’t mean they aren’t useful (just maybe the device-related ones). For instance, comparing your open rates for different campaigns works well (it’s kind of like using the same scale consistently to measure yourself). The other thing to pay attention to is whether you’re looking at unique open rates (based on how many of your subscribers open the email at least once) or total open rates (based on the number of times it gets opened overall), since you want to be consistent about how your open rate is calculated (more information about open rates here).

The moral of the story: don’t get overly wrapped up in your email open rate, no matter what service you use. Instead, consider paying attention to trends in your email marketing (i.e. if your percent opens are consistently moving up or down) as a way of measuring your success. And regardless of whether you look at overall account information or information from a specific month, making your email newsletter mobile friendly is the right thing to do.



Five Tips For Organizing Email

Sometimes, I think the universe assigns me these blog topics on purpose.

I run two businesses, have a few personal projects, and some social correspondence which means I check about ten different email addresses from one interface.

This can get a little overwhelming.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends helped me move everything into a Google Apps account which meant that suddenly, the kind of band-aid system I had in place became apparent because EVERYTHING was getting dumped into my inbox at once.

Tip 1: Make a generic Gmail for some purposes (you can have it forward to a spot in your real email that’s not your inbox).

One thing I’ve learned is lots of people have been spoofing my domain, sending email and pretending to be affiliated with Breaking Even.

One way to stop that (and to give your email a lot more street cred in the process) is to tell your domain which services you use to send email (ex: Mailchimp) and exclude all others. (This is kind of a technical thing but if you live and die by email like we do, worth getting it set up by a pro. Let us know if you need help; we know people who do this.)

But if like me you made accounts that send auto-updates (ex: automated backups in Wordpress) with your usual email, then you are out of luck. I had to move these to a generic Gmail.

Switching things like this and online shopping accounts, etc. to a generic Gmail can filter the non-work (i.e. non-productive) stuff to another area before it even hits your work email.



Tip 2: Use Unroll.me or similar service to batch your marketing emails.

Unroll.me is a free service that connects to your email and pulls in any marketing emails. From the interface, you can select which ones go to your inbox, which ones get ‘bundled’ for a once a day delivery/processing, and which ones you want to unsubscribe from.

With over 1800 email subscriptions (many of which I swear I didn’t even sign up for), this has been a huge timesaver for me. And if you run a local business or non-profit, you can tell people about this and make sure your emails get in your customers’ inboxes (if they want them to anyway).

Tip 3: Use filters.

The easiest way to organize something is to organize how (and if) it comes into your life. With filters, I can have things from certain clients go into certain areas of my email, meaning I can batch tasks. Much more efficient than dealing with a mass pile of email looking for one particular thing.

Filters may seem like a technical thing to set up but most of the work is just deciding how you want to get information. Here’s how to create filters in Gmail and other popular services.



Tip 4: Templates are your friend.

If you’re like us, there are certain kinds of emails you get all the time:

  • I want to be a member but I’m not sure. (for Anchorspace)
  • What are your rates?
  • I don’t know anything about X service. What do you do?

I have a Google Doc called ‘Email Templates So I Don’t Have To Rewrite Them All the Effin Time’. I never remember exactly what it’s called but I can always find it via the word ‘effin’ in search. (Whatever works for you.) Taking the time to thoughtfully write these once and use them over and over will save valuable brain time. Part of my template says ‘INSERT PLEASANTRY HERE’ which allows me to add a personal touch before clicking send.

Tip 5: Find your most soul sucking email task and see if you can automate it.

Is it sticking reservations into a Google Calendar? Scheduling meetings? Sending out weekly Google Analytics reports to the team? All these things can be made automatic.

For me, my email used to be a place of some excitement… and as it turned to more dread, I realized why. It was because I was spending an average of 7 emails to schedule a one hour meeting.

Then I got Evie and she schedules things for me, and it’s lovely. Point is, since I got rid of the thing I dreaded most in my email, it has become a lot funner of a place once again.

The thing you hate the most about your email may be something you can have automatically happen. Give it a shot.

Email is here to say; it’s part of all our lives and by helping get it under control, we can feel more organized about a lot of our digital lives.

More Resources:

5 Tips To Achieve Inbox Zero

Send emails later (or reminders) in Gmail with Boomerang

27 Prewritten Templates For Your Toughest Work Emails

Email Game (because we all need a little incentive)



Your Webinar After: Distribution

When we think of an “event,” most of us forget that they don’t have to be a one time thing. This is especially true if you’ve had the foresight to record them. For instance…webinars!

Not only can you host a webinar live but you can offer it as a replay or even sell it as a course.

You may ask yourself, ok so I have this recording, what are my options for ‘archiving’ or ‘distributing’ my webinar?

CDs

Arguably the most old school choice, you can save your recordings in a physical format (CDs or on a thumb drive). I completely forgot this was something we used to do until I ordered a good course I heard about a few months ago online… and got mailed a binder with notes in it, CDs (that were like DVDs I guess since they played different sections of the course), and a personalized thank you note. It was all very old school but, hey, got the message across.

Podcast

A lot of people don’t realize podcasts do not have to be an exclusively audio format- they can be video, too.

You can chop up your webinar into a series of video podcasts… or if you are going to do multiple (regular) webinars, you can use a podcast format to curate them together.

Note: You can have a one episode podcast… but everyone will wonder.

An example to show that, yes, video podcasts are a thing.

An example to show that, yes, video podcasts are a thing.



A Third Party Course Website

So there are plenty of ‘learning’ websites that people go on to learn skills: Skillshare, Lynda, etc.

Your material could go on one of these websites to be distributed by these providers. The upside is these sites are already attracting traffic of people who like webinars. The downside (if you are trying to sell something) is your relatively small cut if you are approved as a provider. (Ex: Skillshare is around $1-2/student as I understand it.)

Basically, these websites vet you as a teacher and in exchange for the marketing and customer service, they get a pretty good cut.

udemyteachers

Your Own Website

Your own website will always give you the most options. You can put your webinar behind a login screen or you can send participants/customers a unique download link via email, it’s entirely up to you.

The main takeaway: using your website, you keep more money, you do more of the customer service and marketing, you give your customers the exact experience you want them to have. And you can take the good and bad that goes along with that.

Here’s a video going over the third party option versus the on your website option:

However you decide to distribute your webinar will ensure more people will see it for your efforts. Don’t skip this step, even if you want to.


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