Email Marketing in 3 Steps

Email Marketing in 3 Steps

Whether you’re starting from scratch or just looking to refresh, we’ve gathered the info you need to begin building an email marketing campaign.


Step 1 – Foundation

Before you start any digital marketing, make sure that your whole “ecosystem” is operational. It’s a lot harder to go back, tear down and rebuild than build it right the first time. It’s easy to silo the different elements of your marketing campaign and forget that by connecting pieces like your website, content, email and advertising, you can create more sustainable success.

>> Review the 5 Pillars of your Digital Ecosystem


KPIs may sound like just another marketing acronym, but key performance indicators can be a crucial way to track your campaign’s progress and know when things are going well or when you need to pause and rethink your strategy. KPIs can also help you pinpoint which elements of the campaign are the weakest link. If you have a high click-through rate and a high bounce rate, chances are you should start testing different ways to improve your landing page.

>> Make sure you know what success looks like – establish your KPIs


A finely tuned, segmented email list of relevant contacts is one of the best tools you can develop for your company. If you’re starting from scratch, good news, it will be much easier to start from the ground up. Think about your long-term goals as well as what you need immediately and try to build those parameters in from the beginning. If you’re working to segment an existing behemoth of an email list, that can be a little more daunting, but we believe you can do it. It’s a great opportunity for some sales/marketing teamwork.

>> Set your CRM up and segment your list


Step 2 – Build Your Email Campaign

Start out on the right foot and work on removing the word “eblast” from the conversation. It’s a subtle thing, but setting your intention from the beginning can make all the difference. When you develop emails to educate or share information and updates, your audience will be more receptive (especially if they’re targeted and relevant thanks to your segmented list). If you “blast” them with a message meant for everyone generally, you may still hit the mark with some, but typically your message will be lost on the majority.

>> Check out our Do’s and Don’ts blogs for quick tips as you start construction.


Step 3 – Test and Measure

Pay attention to your performance data. Try talking to your audience if possible and get direct feedback. Experiment with different CTAs, email layouts and deployment times. Find what works for you.

One last tip is to make your campaign manageable from the start. Go too big too fast and you will likely not be able to keep it going. Start small and build on your success over time.

A Beginner’s Guide to #Hashtags

A Beginner’s Guide to #Hashtags

The hashtag is one of the most defining symbols of the social media era. Alongside the Like button, the ubiquitous hashtag has played a leading role in the ways social media has transformed our world. From the commercial to the political, from the comical to the deadly serious, hashtags have played a role in almost every major social media moment of the last 15 years.

So how do brands wield their power to generate awareness or grow their audience? We’ll take a look at four key elements of hashtags, and how your brand can use them in smart, effective ways.

What is the Point of Hashtags?

This is often the most common question we get regarding hashtags. They are everywhere, and almost everyone uses them…but what do they actually do? In simplest terms, hashtags help group digital conversations around a specific theme. Much like the 90’s chat rooms of the Internet 1.0, hashtags allow like-minded users to share their thoughts and create discussions around a subject that remain tethered to a central hashtag.

While the grouping of posts and comments around a hashtag can still be somewhat haphazard on platforms like Twitter, platforms like Instagram have added the ability for users to “follow” specific hashtags much like they would any other account. So if you’re especially interested in seeing content related to #CleanEating, for example, you could follow that hashtag and receive interesting new posts that feature that hashtag in your timeline next to the brands you follow.

There Are Different Kinds of Hashtags

While the convention is the same for all of them, hashtags can be used for very different purposes. The most basic application is the branded hashtag, where the hashtag is literally just a brand name: #BouvierKelly, #Oatly, etc. This is perhaps the best place for any brand to start in the collection and use of hashtags on their social media platforms. Including your branded hashtag in all your official social media posts helps make sure you’re represented in conversations about your brand.

Community hashtags might relate back to your brand, but are not necessarily the same thing as your branded hashtag. They are often a way to generate and group UGC (user-generated content). These are posts shared by fans of your brand that can then in turn be shared on your own platform or website. The #MyWestElm community, for example, allows fans of the furniture brand to show off their new purchases with the possibility of being featured on West Elm’s digital properties.

Event and holiday hashtags are two more ways conversations find unity on social media platforms. Whether it’s at a conference or tradeshow (such as #NACS2020) or an awareness event for a particular illness or disease (#MSAwarenessWeek), hashtags are a great way to introduce your brand into an ongoing conversation. For tradeshows and similar events, organizers will often promote specific hashtags, and using them may yield additional exposure for your brand in the form of retweets, shares and the like. Holiday hashtags help demonstrate support and solidarity for particular causes or events, allowing you to contribute in a way that is true to your voice and brand. This website is a great resource for keeping track of the many official (and unofficial) “hashtag holidays.”

Open Your Ears with Brand Listening

With the right social media monitoring software (we like Sprout Social), you can use hashtags to monitor ongoing conversations about your brand. Social media users who discuss your brand might not always “tag” you in a conversation, but they might use a branded hashtag—that’s where “brand listening” comes in handy.

Additionally, there might also be conversations about your brand that are not using your specific branded hashtag. They might even be talking about your brand with a misspelling or a common euphemism or slogan for your brand (i.e. “#McD” for McDonald’s). Keeping track of those additional hashtags can be a great way to discover new conversations or address negative sentiment that could damage your reputation. 

How to Choose and Use Your Hashtags

If you’ve got a unique brand name, congratulations: creating your own branded hashtag is as easy as it gets! However, if your brand name is similar to another or might be mistaken for a different company or general word altogether, you might need to get a little creative. #Apple or #Amazon might be able to get away with it because of their sheer market dominance, but chances are you’ll be better off if you can create something that is unique to your brand.

In addition to your branded hashtag(s), it’s good to have a cache of related hashtags at your disposal. These come in handy for your day-to-day posts, which can benefit from the organic boost provided by broader hashtag conversations and threads. The best way to find what’s most relevant to you is to explore other industry leaders, trade publications, influential accounts and the accounts of your audience. The hashtags they’re using are going to be the most relevant for you—if you post a hashtag that no one ever uses, you’ll just be talking with yourself.

As far as how many to use in a given post, that can always depend on the content and/or brand, but here is a general rule of thumb for the major platforms:

  • Facebook: 1-3
  • LinkedIn: 1-3
  • Twitter: 2-4
  • Instagram: 2-4

With Instagram, though, you can utilize a little trick we like to call “hashtag soup,” in which you post a cluster of hashtags either below your main comment (hidden with stacked periods to drop them “below the fold”) or as the first comment on your post. That way, you still reap the benefits of the hashtags and their organic presence without cluttering up your caption.

An example of “hashtag soup”

While there are always best practices for anything, there are not necessarily any fixed rules when it comes to hashtags. The best thing is to experiment and see what works. You won’t always see the same return on the same hashtags, so play around and see what helps drive  more engagement. Get rid of overly broad hashtags that bring in unwanted, untargeted traffic (things like #fun, #goals or #summer) and try to stay specific—especially if you’re in a B2B category. Above all—as with any marketing tactic— try and be as strategic as possible. The more thoughtful your approach, the better your results will be.

4 Social Media Trends to Watch Out for in 2020

4 Social Media Trends to Watch Out for in 2020

The new year is upon us, bringing the start of not just the calendar year but a whole new decade. It’s undeniable that the last 10 years brought about changes in the marketing world that we’ll be adapting to for years to come.

It would’ve been hard to imagine back in the year 2010 just how dominant social media would become. Then, most marketers thought it would be a mere flash in the pan—a shiny object to distract from tried-and-true methods.

10 years later, you’d be hard pressed to find someone—marketer or not—who doesn’t have their own opinions about social media. So what lays ahead in 2020 for the world of social media marketing? We’re keeping our eye on 4 trends and predictions, but one thing is for sure: social media ain’t going anywhere.

#1: Say Goodbye to “Vanity” Metrics

There’s no shame in admitting that we’ve chased our fair share of so-called “vanity” metrics over the last 10 years. Checking in to see how many new Facebook Likes a page has or how many people shared a post is a natural way to gauge whether a strategy is working or not. But now as some of the biggest social media platforms are talking about doing away with “Likes” and “Favorites” altogether, it’s high time marketers shifted their focus to more substantial measurements.

While the removal of the Like button is purported to help sever the ties people have built between social media metrics and their own mental health, it also means a great deal for marketers and brands. If your social media strategy isn’t helping to build towards a larger, less engagement-focused tactic (e.g. sales or leads), 2020 might be time to start using social media more as a funnel towards other stages of the Buyer’s Journey.

#2: Take a Less Filtered, More Approachable Tack

Instagram changed the way we present ourselves online—both as people and brands. The 2010’s saw the rise of the “influencer” and a hyper-curated peek into worlds we rarely had access to. But the days of the perfectly cropped coffee cup-and-planner combo or brightly colored “Instagram wall” are numbered, especially as Generation Z embraces less stylized and filtered platforms like TikTok to talk to the world.

While we certainly wouldn’t advocate for an unprofessional, haphazard approach to presenting your brand image on social media, gone are the days where people expect perfection at every turn. It’s critical for brands to appear human and relatable—not impeccably tailored. Talk to your customers and your audience the way you want to be talked to. Being casual and conversational is not the opposite of being professional, and the best brands are striking the right balance of both.

#3: Private is the New Public

If you’ve managed to avoid the whole “social media is now the center of disinformation and privacy invasion” debate over the last few years, we are jealous. To those of us who live in these spaces every day, it’s been a hard conversation to ignore. From political turmoil to data harvesting and beyond, the general public is understandably more wary of social media than they were 10 years ago. So it’s no surprise that many users are flocking to “private” (in quotes because, you know, they’re still owned by very large corporate interests) channels such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

So is the time of “oversharing” coming to an end? Probably not, but there is immense value in being able to speak to your audience one-on-one in private channels. Many brands are even reinvesting in a decidedly “old school” Facebook tactic of using Groups as a way to create private, personal communities on the platform without the burden of worrying about paid and organic reach. Though maintaining a responsive, personal connection through these channels is time consuming, it’s becoming the way people prefer to connect with brands.

#4: It’s Never Too Late for B2B

Though social media platforms have transformed consumer-facing marketing in a very public way, it’s had a marked effect on B2B brands, too. Though a lot of that activity has gone on in more professionally-oriented spaces like LinkedIn, it’s nevertheless been a game changer for B2B marketers. And while many brands not yet participating in this space might think their time has come and gone, we couldn’t disagree more. It’s easy to think of social media broadly as a time-suck or a space for consumer-friendly brands only, but that is simply no longer the case.

Try this on for size: 80% of B2B leads originate on LinkedIn, and 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content. That means if you’re not taking advantage of the platform, your competitors might be. Creating a B2B social media strategy will take time and investment, but with numbers like that, it’s no wonder why so many players have flocked to this space over the last decade.

While it’s impossible to predict what lies ahead for such a broad category as social media, we’ll be keeping an eye on these trendlines. If the previous decade taught us anything, it’s that anything and everything we know about social media will change. But don’t worry—we’ll stay on top of it so you don’t have to.

A Beginner’s Guide to Google Ads

A Beginner’s Guide to Google Ads

When it comes to building a solid digital marketing strategy for a client, PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns are a tactic that is always on our “considered” list. Google Ads is perhaps the best known PPC platform, so we’re taking a look at how you can take advantage of this agile tool. From choosing what kind of Google Ad campaign to run to assessing your efforts after it’s underway, we’ll give you an overview of the process from start to finish.  

Why Google Ads?

For starters, it’s helpful to outline what falls under the umbrella of “Google Ads.” The most commonly understood iteration is the Search ads feature, where brands can bid on specific keywords on Google Search to capture that traffic in real-time. Here, you’re harnessing the power of Google’s search engine—which processes nearly 40,000 searches a second—to attract targeted traffic or activity.

Google Display ads are the visual component to Search’s text-only format. With a Display campaign, your brand can share key visuals on websites across the internet, with targeting that includes both keyword-based (what users had previously searched for) or contextual (what kinds of sites they’re searching on).

There are other variations within Google Ads, but Search and Display are the best starting points for anyone looking to begin using the platform. And much like Facebook ad campaigns, Google Ads are generally very user-friendly. Setting up a campaign requires attention to detail and some patience, but it doesn’t require a ton of technical know-how to execute.

Finally, a major advantage to Google Ads is that there is no minimum required spend for any campaign. Whether you want to run a $100 campaign for a week or a $2,000 campaign for a month, you have equal access to all of Google Ad’s tools. The overall strength and spend of your campaign will depend on a few factors (to be discussed later), but there is virtually no barrier to entry—making it a great place to explore adding more digital elements to your marketing mix.

Choosing a Campaign

When you begin to create a new Google Ads campaign, you’re presented with a few different choices. Here, it’s important to make your decision based on what stage of the Buyer’s Journey you’re trying to target. Whether you’re going for Awareness-, Consideration- or Decision-level users, you’ve got a campaign type that will help you meet your goals.

Various Google Ads campaign types

Now, it might be tempting to start with enticing options like campaigns for “Sales” or “Leads.” But depending on the size or nature of your brand or the audience you’re targeting, it might be best to start at the top of the funnel and work your way down. ​“Brand Awareness and Reach” campaigns will deliver the most amount of impressions and viewers, whereas a “Website Traffic” campaign will help you generate more website visits—which you can later retarget in a Sales or Leads campaign.

So regardless of what kind of campaign you choose, just make sure it lines up with your overall goals. You can’t expect to start by generating valuable sales leads if you’re a new player in the digital space, and you might be wasting ad dollars by simply generating impressions if you’re an established presence.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

We’ve written about the importance of defining what campaign “success” looks like before you launch—Google Ads is no different. Again, your KPIs should always match up with the kind of campaign you’re running. Starting with impressions and ending with conversions, there is a wide range of data your Google Ads will generate to help you measure your KPIs. The reporting dashboard within Google Ads is easily customizable to show the key metrics that are important to you, but it may take some poking and prodding to get the configuration that’s best for you.

Building the Campaign Framework

There are a few items you’ll want to have in place before you begin building out your individual ads. Without them, you’ll likely find yourself scrambling once the campaign gets underway:

  • Research and Build Your Keyword List: Using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner (located inside Google Ads) will allow you to find out where your opportunities lie. This is where you’ll want to distinguish between your short- and long-tail keywords—e.g. bidding on “B2B marketing” versus “B2B marketing automation manufacturing.” Google Ads provides a lot of detailed information about search trends and activity, giving you some idea of how obtainable or expensive specific keywords may be.
  • Plan Out Your Budget: As previously mentioned, you can spend as little or as much as you want on Google Ads. Once you’ve got a keyword list and objective in mind, you can zero-in on a budget. You’ll also want to consider geography in your budgeting, as the broader your geographic targeting, the more expensive your campaign will be. We always recommend starting in a small, targeted location and expanding as your influence or presence grows.
  • Set Up Back-End Tracking: Though you might not yet be ready to track conversions or sales quite yet, it’s always a good idea to get your website back-end tracking in place. Using the Google Ads “pixel,” you can begin collecting audience info that will later allow you to retarget previous website visitors. This can be accomplished directly through your website or another Google tool called Tag Manager.
  • Build a Landing Page: Though not explicitly required, a landing page tailored to your Google Ads objective can make a huge difference in campaign performance. In the Awareness stage, more generic landing pages may suffice for simply generating impressions and clicks. However, once you’ve moved into the Consideration and Decision stages, you’ll need to have a best practices-informed landing page unique to that campaign in place.

Building Your Ads

For ads running on the Google Search network, you’ll need to do a little bit of copywriting. Much like you would for a Facebook ad, you’ll want a few catchy, relevant headlines and a bit of descriptive copy. Also like Facebook, you’ll want to run a few different ad variations, and Google Ads will automatically show the best performing version the most often.

Google Display ads and Search ad (middle right)

It’s important to remember that whatever copy you end up using should relate back to your landing page copy—otherwise you’ll get dinged for a bad user experience, which will affect your Google Ads performance. Here, you can also create mobile-only “call ads” designed to generate calls when seen on a mobile device, or a new tool called “Responsive Search Ads.” With these, you can enter 10 or more headlines and Google will automatically serve the most relevant headline according to each search.

For Display ads, this is where your visual branding can come into play. Google has a wide array of sizes and display types for this kind of campaign, so again you’ll want to provide a multitude of options and let Google automatically rotate through the best performing placements. Much like a billboard, Display ads will often only be seen for a brief time, so you to need to communicate your message clearly and succinctly. Make sure you’ve got a clear CTA (call to action) and don’t try to cram too much text into any ad.

Assessing Your Campaign

When it comes to any new Google Ads campaign, there is one simple mantra we love to preach: “Patience.” While, yes, Google Ads does often produce more immediate and short-term results than a long-term strategy like SEO, it’s important to give your campaign enough time to generate actionable data.

To that end, we often recommend allowing a campaign to run for two to four weeks (closer to four if you can stand it!) before you make any big changes or draw any conclusions. Google Ads often builds on itself, “learning” as the campaign progresses, so not allowing the algorithm’s black magic to do its thing can really inhibit campaign optimization.

(This is not to say don’t check the campaign in that period: simply resist the urge to tweak and adjust).

When you have hit that four-week mark, you’ll want to do a deep dive on the analytics Google Ads provides. That includes:

  • Checking your campaign KPIs and comparing to your own internal and external benchmarks
  • Analyzing the “Search Terms” that are triggering ads to show (and removing irrelevant queries as “negative keywords” or adding relevant ones as new keywords)
  • See which ads are performing the best
  • Reassess your bidding strategy: would you benefit from an automated strategy or do you have target cost-per-clicks or cost-per-acquisitions you’re looking to hit?

And with that, you’re ready to start poking around the wide world that is Google Ads. Take your time, pay close attention and don’t get frustrated too quickly. We’re just scratching the surface of this powerful tool here, but this post should give you enough to know if Google Ads is right for your digital marketing strategy.

Defining Your Campaign Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Defining Your Campaign Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

At the start of any campaign, it’s critical to outline what kinds of metrics are most important to establish your definition of “success.” That definition will vary quite a bit, depending on the size, scope and goals of your campaign. But by making a clear distinction as to what your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are, you will have a better ability to judge your campaign’s progress as it is underway and once it’s completed. KPIs tend to differ based on what phase of the “buyer’s journey” your campaign is targeting, so let’s take a look at a few key examples for each of those three phases.

Phase One: Awareness

The base unit for any campaign, Impressions measure how many times your campaign creative was seen. Whether that is a Facebook ad or a banner ad, Impressions give you a sense of the overall exposure of your campaign. Higher Impressions are particularly important in an Awareness-phase campaign, where your primary goal is generating interest and knowledge of your brand. The Cost Per 1,000 Impressions (CPM) metric gives you a sense of how expensive or inexpensive those eyeballs were. 

Related to Impressions is the measurement of Reach, which counts the unique total number of people who saw your creative. Reach will always be a lower number than Impressions, as campaigns often serve your ads to the same people between 2-4 times. An important way of looking at Reach is thinking of how many people were potentially in your audience, and what percentage of them did you actually reach?

If your campaign creative features video of any kind, total Video Views is another important metric for the Awareness phase. Much like Impressions, they are a measure of how many times your videos were seen. In addition to Video Views, statistics like Average Percentage Watched or Total 100% Completions (the names for these metrics might vary from platform-to-platform) are good ones to consider, too.

If you’re running any kind of campaign with a social media component, Engagement is a great KPI to measure. That can be broken out any number of ways, including post Likes, Shares and Comments, as well as the overall sentiment of the interactions (positive, negative, indifferent). These will give you a sense of what the overall interest-level of your campaign was, with higher engagement metrics usually indicating relevant, enticing ad content and messaging. 

Phase Two: Consideration

Here, you’re looking at how many people actually clicked your ad once it appeared in their social media timeline or wherever your ads are being served. This gives you an idea of how compelling your creative messaging and visuals are, and which versions of your creative perhaps resonated best with your audience. (Side note: It’s always a good idea to run a few variations of creative in any digital campaign to test your messaging).

The Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is a ratio of total Impressions to total Clicks. This is good to keep an eye on when comparing creatives across different campaigns, as a campaign that has lower Impressions, but a better Click-Through-Rate might actually have more valuable messaging and visuals than a campaign with more impressions and more clicks but a lower CTR. There are also often many benchmarks for various industries with which you can measure your CTR to see how you stack up against other advertisers in your space.

One step beyond Clicks is Landing Page Views, which is somewhat of a Facebook-specific metric, but it can usually be calculated from other platforms, too. This looks at people who clicked your ads and then waited until the full landing page loaded after the fact. It’s a better measure than Clicks if you can get it, because it addresses more the strength of your landing page, as well as removing those accidental clicks that may have occurred during the campaign (especially if your campaign features a lot of mobile placements).

This measures the percentage of people who visited a specific landing page and left without interacting with the page. Essentially, it means they came, they saw, they left. Much like Landing Page Views, it can indicate how well-designed your Landing Page is. Average bounce rate benchmarks are between 40%-60%, so if you’re seeing results higher than that, it may be worth evaluating your Landing Page for potential drop-off points like load-time, irrelevant content, etc.

Phase Three: Decision

This is where some of the most relevant, impactful KPIs come into play. Whether you’re looking at website purchases, webinar sign-ups, mailing list subscribers or any other “conversion” event, those should be the focus of your Decision-phase campaign. Now, many times you might track Conversions within an Awareness or Consideration campaign, but those should not necessarily be your primary focus if you are targeting an audience that is not yet in the decision-making phase of their buyer’s journey.

Download our KPIs infographic below:

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