Push Notifications: Is this the death of email newsletters?

In the world of Digital Marketing, there is a constant need for innovation to stay ahead of competitors and create the next novel experience in order to sell to customers. We saw it first with the use of email marketing communications in the 90s which was a bandwagon – everyone jumped on board and our in-boxes got swamped with newsletter.

Nowadays there are a plethora of services available to the digitally savvy, but how effective are they, and are they likely to oust the tried and tested methods?

So our thesis is that email newsletter subscriptions are falling because we get too many of them. EdgeRank removes the free postings by businesses on Facebook and Twitter is too crowded.

BUT people want high quality content.

So how can we deliver content from our website without using a newsletter or social media?

To answer this question, let’s look at a relatively new service to enter the market, Push Notifications  and how they compare to our most powerful channel at present, the good old fashion email/newsletter subscriber list.

So before we go any further, what exactly are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are simply alerts that pop up on your computer or mobile, on demand when the publisher releases something of interest to you.

“Hmm well this sounds kind of invasive though…“

I hear you. Pop-ups generally are annoying and frustrating, however these alerts only appear when you opt in to the list. A cookie is placed in your browser and each time the publisher wants to send out a notification, every browser containing that specific cookie receives the alert, regardless of whether they are browsing the web or not. In some ways they are less invasive than the hassle of having to enter your contact details to download an eBook. 

To find out if Push Notifications were a worthy substitute or indeed even a necessary supplement to our tried and tested marketing methods, we asked ourselves the following questions:

Are consumers growing weary of newsletters and email marketing?

I recently unsubscribed from at least 5 different brands’ emails because of the constant bombardment of marketing material. If others are finding themselves doing the same, does that pose a risk to the future of email marketing communications? And if so, are Push Notifications a smarter way to engage?

Are people still interested in content?

The old adage that ‘content is king’ may have held weight in the past, but do customers actually want to receive endless articles and information related to products they might purchase? With every brand under the sun fighting for your attention as a consumer, how much is too much?

My answer is yes. Emphatically. Good content gets liked, shared and commented upon.

Will people actually engage with these invasive interruptions?

My initial thoughts are yes, if used sparingly. Too much of anything can be bad. I feel the key to making the most out of Push Notifications is moderation. Subscribers aren’t going to respond well to being pestered several times a day while they browse the web. But they may be interested in what’s been going on if it is restricted to once a week, for example. Similar to SMS notifications, users must interact with the push notification in order to view it or close it. Compare this with email, where readers can simply delete, filter, file or ignore without having to open the message at all. Push notifications by-pass this barrier to opening email by displaying the message title straight away. 

You have to respond one way or another!

Would Push subscribers never have joined the email list anyway?

Perhaps. Even if there is no clear preference for one over the other, having both allows your brand to capture your audience’s attention in a medium that works for them. Without having to provide an email address, we may never know who has opted in to Push Notifications, which makes communicating outside of Push challenging unless we can cross-match against other subscriber actions.

With email and push running simultaneously, which one performs better?

We ran Push Notifications for the second half of February on a client website. Our provider of choice was OneSignal – a service that promises to remain free forever! An interesting claim, but what’s the REAL cost? I suspect Edward Snowden would fall off his стул (chair) in frustration  – let’s save it for another day.

Results from Push Notifications test

  • At the beginning of February, we had 5,334 email subscribers. At the end of the month, that figure had risen to 5,426 – a gain of 92 subscribers.
  • Push Notifications began on February 15th. Two weeks later we had 63 push subscribers.

Our Push Notifications were promoting the same material as our emails, so which one performed better?

Our blog article “Plan, Develop and Write – Content Training Workshop” was published on both. The newsletter received a respectable open rate of 30% and a Click Through Rate (CTR) of 1.4%. The Push Notification received a surprising CTR of 21.43%!

The Push list is much smaller than the email list; that is a significant difference.

This was obviously only one campaign and we have not yet built up a data set large enough to draw significant conclusions.

So do we think Push could supersede email? Well the jury is still out on that one, we’ll continue to test them both and come back with our conclusions in the future.

In the mean time, what do you think about Push?

Plan Develop and Write – content workshop training

There’s a training event run by The Online Academy coming up next Friday 3rd March in Auckland.

 

Content marketing workshop

 

Learn more at The Online Business Academy – how to Plan, develop and Write content that will rock your brand.

 

 

We’re hiring – Marketing Assistant – Digital Marketing

Marketing Assistant specialising in Digital Marketing and Copywriting.

Creative Agency Secrets provides digital marketing services for brands and businesses. We are a leading agency innovating with marketing techniques like social media, community building, direct response and advanced blogging.

Working with us you will learn how to run a website, ecommerce shop, blog, email marketing, database management and social media marketing.

This position is suited to an applicant with 1+ year experience in a similar role who wants to accelerate their learning and move up towards being a Marketing Manager.

An interest in the internet is essential and a marketing, communications, business studies degree is optional. Some prior knowledge of websites, blogs and online marketing is needed. Excellent written communication is required and a writing test in English will be part of the application.

Send your CV and one page describing an event you ran (party, event, gig, trip to the beach etc) what you did to market and promote it. Include a list of the tools and techniques you used, what worked and what didn’t work and the outcomes.

This is a full time job based at our Eden Terrace offices.  Pay is from $40,000 per annum plus 20 days holiday.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning Impact on the Future of Content and SEO

The age of Artificial Intelligence is here and it’s powering up the simplest things in our daily lives. In a nutshell, Machine Learning is the science of giving computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Kinda like showing it pictures of kittens until it creates enough patterns to identify another kitten by itself from new images. It’s very similar to how our human brains learn while we are kids. A few companies already have this type of technology running (and evolving by the second), like Facebook and Google. Every day we input more and more content online as check-ins at favourite restaurants, search queries for hotels for our next vacation, pictures with friends and peers. The list goes on.

Big Brother is watching and he can help sell your stuff

This is a bit of a futurology exercise, I know. But don’t get it confused with any supernatural nonsensery, I’m certainly not writing this article on an Ouija board. It’s pure (computer) science that you don’t have to understand completely, just harvest its potential.

Taking advantage of the massive quantity of data stored online is incredibly useful to pinpoint your target audience, facilitating conversions. Because we blindly “agreed to the terms and conditions” of most online services, social media platforms can freely record information and trace it back to your profile for future use. In a world where virtually everyone is connected 24/7, this is actually a cool thing from the marketing perspective (if you ignore the obvious user privacy issues of having every move tracked online).

Ever noticed how Facebook shows (mostly) spot on sponsored content on your timeline? By analysing everything you like and share, Facebook creates a detailed persona of each user to target ads in the best way possible. And it’s not only what you do on the platform, they can track your footprint in other websites thanks to their Facebook Pixel.

Machine Learning helps predict your client’s future actions

As you probably know, we humans are creatures of habit, which makes recording our behaviour a simple task to the machines. Knowing that, Amazon and Netflix have mastered how to give the best “related products” suggestions you can find online. Their state of the art database is taking advantage of Machine Learning to predict your next clicks offering highly tailored content. Forget one-size-fits-all. To thrive in the current market, companies must pay attention to User Experience like never before.

A simpler (and free) way to implement something a lot less fancy as that is two tools called Content Analytics and Heat Maps, both part of the SumoMe suite. They record data of how far down your readers are getting in your articles and what links are generating more clicks on your pages. With this information, you can do very good educated guesses regarding what’s working and what to change on your website. This is not the “machine learning” approach, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

Forget that “beep-boop” bullsh*t R2-D2 has been feeding us for decades

Artificial Intelligence is also being used to write texts without human supervision. For example, the biggest Wikipedia contributor, Sverker Johansson, with more than 2.7 million articles published, is actually using a bot called Lsjbot to create all content.

If you think it would be obvious to differentiate between human or computer generated articles, think again. According to a study from Karlstad University, Sweden, “the readers are not able to discern automated content from content written by a human“. The researchers used two sports articles (these tend to be more factual and analytical) one written by a journalist and another by a software previously called Statsheet (now called Wordsmith). Big media outlets as Los Angeles Times and Forbes already use similar technology as a base for some articles, with humans later improving the content before they hit publish.

And what if I told you that the previous paragraph wasn’t actually written by me, but by software?

Well, I would be lying.

But for one second you actually thought about the possibility, right? Welcome to the future.

Get creative, experiment, innovate

And how can you take advantage of this in your business? There are a few services (like the IBM Watson) that offer the power of “computer minds” to businesses.

One experiment that I believe is worth the try is applying “robot talk” to your images SEO. Using a free tool like Microsoft’s CaptionBot you can let their machines determine the Alt tag for your image in your website. With Google giving more autonomy to RankBrain and relying more upon machine learning to deliver the best search results, it’s not about how you describe an image anymore. It’s how the machines see it.

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

Preparatory work for direct mail lowers costs

Direct mail is a highly effective marketing technique that delivers sales revenue in a short time frame.  

Some direct mail is poorly conceived and so does not achieve its potential.

[WARNING – this is not always true].

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

I received three mailers from a printing firm which serve as a great example of a campaign that could have been much more effective with some pre-planning working with an expert in direct mail campaign structure such as us.

Direct Mail campaign structure

Using a mailing list of marketing agencies, three print pieces of DM were posted out.

The copy promoted “digital by nature” and a new world of digital printing.

The positives

  • Each card had a number to show where it came in the sequence
  • Each one showed different paper colours front and back
  • Each card had the print specifications for the front and back detailed which was cute
  • All print was beautifully executed
  • The 3rd card showed how to set up artwork to work with digital White Toner
  • The 4th card showed how to set up artwork to work with digital Clear Toner

The negatives

  • I did not receive the first card so the campaign opener was lost
  • My agency does not buy print or do graphic design, we are not a good prospect for this service
  • No landing page for the campaign on the website
  • When I first visited there wasn’t a mention of the campaign on the homepage, there is now.
  • This goes to a landing page which has the wrong link in the contact us button.

    wrong link

    Wrong link – testing would have showed this up

How I would have improved the campaign

  1. Combined telephone canvassing with direct mail
    1. Checked the database by phone first asking one question “Do you design for print?”
    2. This would have reduced the downstream print and mailing costs, focused the campaign
  2. Published a landing page URL on the collateral
    1. Tested all the links so the contact us URL was correct (it currently references the same page it’s on)
    2. Included a “behind the scenes” video to show the inside track of the skill Valley Print used to create the mailers and the challenges they faced e.g. printing white on black for the envelope
  3. Used a courier delivery not NZ Post to improve delivery success
    1. This is particularly important for a posted print direct mail series
  4. Followed up by phone with
    1. an invitation to watch the video
    2. stay in touch
    3. subscribe to news updates
    4. further qualify for future work opportunities
  5. This would have built a mailing list, fully up to date and ready for in-house new business sales team to continue to work in the coming months
  6. Planned follow up campaigns including more of the excellent tutorials for designers

Ready to talk direct mail with us?

Give us your challenge and let the creative team loose!

2017 light trail fireworks art

January website checks you MUST make

It’s January – we are back from the Christmas break and many firms are still on a skeleton staff.  Some are back full time – but we’re all filled with the pressures of a new year – new marketing plans, new services, new products.

For most of us, we’ve already forgotten the marketing we did in December.  But we shouldn’t.

Because many websites are now inaccurate, out of date or just plain giving WRONG information.

Here’s a good example I called up today.  I got their “out of hours” telephone answering recorded message. It is past the 9th January and nobody’s home…. cooeee…..

Company contact information is wrong

Company contact information is wrong

So if you have a holiday closure message on your website – get that fixed up and corrected pronto.

Copyright dates on website footers are another culprit.  Some are obviously years out of date and others still say 2016

Website with date out of date

MOZ footer date out of date

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Automate publishing

Post Expirator Plugin for WP

Post Expirator Plugin for WP

Website CMS systems mostly offer automation services which allow you to set future dates to un-publish pages and posts.  Take a read of this explanation of how to “expire” a WordPress post using the WP Post Expirator plugin.  Set a future date at which the post will stop being visible – you can choose whether to return to draft or to delete the post.

Use code to update dates

Here is the code to insert into your footer to ensure that the copyright year automatically rolls over on January 1st.  Get it pasted into your website FAST.

<script type=”text/javascript”>

document.write(new Date().getFullYear());

</script>

Better marketing processes

Of course, fixing up your mistakes now is fine – but wouldn’t it be better to not have made them in the first place?

How about you set up reminders in your calendar to nudge you to manually remove or unpublish information?

Get those plugins and extensions installed so the work is done for you by machines.

Or pay an outsourced marketing consultant like Creative Agency Secrets to do it for you.

Happy new year – and if you’re in need of some marketing and new business year planning, come to our Auckland workshop on 26th January.

New Website Needed for Business Coaching Professional

The website has to portray the client’s professionalism and be a strong institutional platform to establish the brand as worthy of their prospects’ trust.

Of course, it has to be fully mobile friendly and take SEO elements into consideration.

An easy to use CMS like WordPress is suggested, but a custom website can be discussed if the price is not prohibitive.

Most likely, the sitemap will contain those 6 pages:
– Home
– About
– Services
– Blog (not yet decided)
– Resources (downloadable checklists and white papers)
– Contact

Timeframe:

To be ready around February / March 2017

How does Sub-Contracted Services Work?

We send you a brief against which you do a quotation.

We send your quote to the client who makes a selection.

You deal direct with the client – bill direct – brief direct.

Creative Agency Secrets does not take a fee from you for this work, nor do we want you to pad the quote in order to pay us commission.  Transparency is key as it builds trust.

We are frequently retained as project managers for the job and so you will find yourself working alongside us.

Are you an agency needing more work?

If you are an agency or a freelancer looking for the easiest way to get new client work – you’ve found it.

Join our “Sub-Contracted services email alert”.  Enter your details below and you’ll automatically be emailed every time we have new projects available.

Enter Your Email To Receive Our Latest Projects instantly.

 

Why Whitespace Matters in Web Design

Your website is a valuable marketing asset.

So it makes sense to invest in its design to make it better for potential prospects. In fact, many of the largest companies pour a tremendous amount of resources into their websites. Because even a single design can have a dramatic impact on conversions and bounce rates.

But it is also important to remember that a simple design is key to driving conversion goals.

Cluttered designs with poorly contrasting colours only serve to confuse visitors. Your website design should be readable and easy to understand so that visitors have an intuitive sense of what to do next.

One way to create a more enjoyable browsing experience is to implement whitespace. The use of whitespace is perhaps one of the most important elements of web design. Yet there are still a countless number of websites that look like an infomercial with elements that bombard new visitors.

Here we look at whitespace in more detail and how this simple design principle can boost engagement on your pages.

What is Whitespace?

Whitespace refers to negative space, or the empty space between elements on a page such as images and text. In other words, whitespace is the portion on page that is not filled up. Although it is called “whitespace”, the empty space can actually be any colour such as black.

Perhaps the best example of whitespace is Google’s homepage:

Google homepage

Other businesses including Dropbox make ample use of whitespace on their sites:

Dropbox Business Page

Now contrast those two examples with this website:

Gates N Fences page

It is not immediately clear what the business offers or what actions visitors should take.

Just with a simple comparison, the advantages of a clean design is immediately apparent. Whitespace may seem like a waste. But as we have seen, it can be used to great effect and keep visitors on the page longer. And this can ultimately mean the difference between exceeding sales goals or struggling to meet them.

Why Whitespace Matters

Whitespace is advantageous for the following reasons:

  • Improved legibility: Nothing is more frustrating than landing on page with text that is too small or with minimal line spacing. Improved legibility is one obvious benefit of whitespace. Just by adjusting line spacing and adding more space around images can help visitors better understand what they are reading. This is key to boosting engagement and reducing bounce rates.
  • Ability to highlight CTAs: Imagine if Google’s homepage was filled with links to other pages or other elements such as banners. Both would likely have a negative impact on the number of search queries, which is the last thing that Google would want. Making use of whitespace then is a great way to highlight call to actions and get visitors to take a single action.
  • Creates a lasting impression: There is a reason why some of the largest invest heavily in their website design. Because online users are quick to make impressions based on what they see. Whitespace is especially important as it adds a sense of elegance to your site.

Less is more as whitespace can really make a difference in terms of your website design.

A clean interface makes it easier for visitors to immediately grasp what a page is about and what actions to take next. The goal for any website is to keep visitors engaged and generate more sales or leads. Whitespace helps to achieve those objectives.

The use of ample whitespace is a basic web design principle that can dramatically improve your website performance in terms of conversions. So take a closer look at all the aspects of your website to identify how you can make your design simple and uncluttered.