How to get customers to not opt out of your e-mails.

Today, I made an important decision for the benefit of my sanity and mental wellbeing.

I decided, after receiving my third marketing e-mail from a random company instead of the important e-mails I’ve been waiting for, that it was finally time to opt out.

That’s right. Today, I’m opting out of every single marketing e-mail that I receive. And I think that you should, too.

There’s a good chance that I’ll catch a bit of hell for this. After all, I have been a member of the sustainable design and “green” marketing community for a while, and the green marketing community loves to recommend the e-mail newsletter. As does the SEO community, and the folks who tell you that social media is all about providing “useful content” to your audience.

I’m not saying those folks are wrong. I’m saying that it’s really easy to step over the line from “wow, this is useful!” to “damn, this is annoying.” And many marketers, especially from bigger brands, cross over that line repeatedly. For example, during the unsubscribe process, I discovered that AAA had me signed up for no less than seven e-mail lists. Citrix (who makes GoToWebinar and other products) had me signed up for eight. I have no recollection of signing up for any of these lists, and the couple of lists I did sign myself up for (DailyOm, Self Magazine), send me 2-3 e-mails daily that end up in my trash bin.

So, let’s say you are a marketer, and you do want to send an e-mail newsletter? How do you make sure that you don’t end up with a bunch of fed up customers unsubscribing from your list? Here’s a couple of things I noticed about the e-mails that I actually read:

1. They’re personal. Not necessarily personal as in directed towards me, but personal as in they share something of the person I’m getting it from.

2. They’re occasional. My friend Colleen, the Communicatrix, sends her newsletter maybe once a month. It’s a long one, but always entertaining, and always has some interesting perspective on life, business, and Everything. If I got this every week, I’d probably get overwhelmed (as would she!), but once a month or so it’s nice and digestible.

3. If they come more than once a month, they’re mercifully short. Let’s face it. We’re all busy folks. Who has the time to read a weekly, or even daily, e-mail? As a small business, who has time to write that? If you do want to send something more than once a month, try doing 2-3 times a month at most, and keep it short. Marketing Mentor’s newsletter has been a staple in my inbox for years now, and it’s because she keeps it short, focused and useful.

4. They involve things I actually want to read about or see. This is where subjective preference comes in. As much of a yogi as I am, I find Gaiam’s products expensive and rarely worth the price (and the constant spam, both digital and paper, has been a hot button for me for a while now). But Modcloth can send me as many e-mails about clothing specials as it wants to. I may not buy anything, but I always have a moment to ogle retro-inspired dresses.

While you can’t control all of the responses that your users have to a campaign, there are some things you can control. Keep it short, relevant and occasional. Most of all, show respect for people’s time and energy. There’s a lot of information out there, and the last thing you want to do is contribute to the overload.

Article first published as How to Prevent Customers from Opting Out of Your E-Mails on Technorati.

An Entrepreneur’s Approach to the Job Search

Over the last couple of months, I made a tough decision. After six years of successfully running my own design studio, the zen kitchen, I decided that the time had come to pursue full-time opportunities elsewhere.

My primary reason for this was simple: I had realized, in the course of running my studio and working with clients, that the work I really wanted to do wasn’t going to happen through the studio. I wanted to focus my energy on more high-level, strategic work, and work with a team that was doing great things in the area of social and business innovation – without spending as much of my time mired in the day-to-day realities of running a business.

So, I’m looking for jobs. And realizing along the way, that the old approach to job hunting – scouring for open positions that seem like a good fit, sending off gajillions of resumés and carefully crafted cover letters – isn’t the most effective way to get the kind of job that I’m really looking for. The kind of job I’d actually leave my business for. What’s an entrepreneur to do?

Ultimately, I’ve decided to craft my approach based on my business development experience running the studio. In a nutshell:

1. Identify the key things that I want to be doing with my time. I know that I want to focus on strategy and brainstorming, and that I really want to be working towards social innovation. That said, I don’t believe that it has to exist exclusively in the non-profit realm, and I don’t want to focus myself there. I also have a lot of strength in the digital realm, particularly with social media and Drupal; ideally, I’d love to work on finding ways to use technology to create social innovation.
2. Identify the key players in the area that are working on that thing, along with a few other folks who might also be a good fit. Through my research over the years, IDEO and Continuum are an obvious fit. I’ve also identified a number of ad agencies and PR firms in the area that have a practice devoted to cause marketing and design for social change.
3. Tap my network to see if any of my connections have contacts in my target agencies. One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that you’re forced to network, as part of normal business development. As such, I’ve kept in touch with a bunch of great people over the years. Using LinkedIn, I can see if any of them are connected to people within the companies I’m looking at (search for a company, and LinkedIn will show you all the people that you’re connected to via one of your connections), and I can request an introduction. I also set up coffee dates with a few folks that I really respected, who I knew to have connections in this space.
4. Find out where these folks are hanging out, and get myself there. This one’s proven to be a bit more difficult, as most of the firms that I’m looking at don’t seem to network anywhere but conferences. But, AIGA has an after-hours event that runs once or twice a month in the Boston area, and Continuum hangs out there. So, I headed out to the last one – and met three folks from Continuum, who I got to connect with!
5. Follow my target companies on Twitter, and converse with them occasionally. I’ve already started connecting with a few key agencies on twitter, just by responding to questions that they post. In addition, I’ve been participating in openIDEO, which is IDEO’s new social innovation site. As I suspected, I’m finding it really fun to come up with ideas to solve social issues – many of which I’ve been thinking about for over a decade – and I’ve even been able to help them discover a few technical bugs they were having.

So far, it’s too soon to tell how effective this will be. And for the record, I have also submitted resumés and introduction letters to many of my target agencies, for specific positions I discovered that would be a good fit for me. But I will say that this approach has helped me get in front of the organizations that I’ve sent my resumé to more effectively, which gets me closer to figuring out who the right person to connect with is. And, over coffee with one of my favorite colleagues (who I know mostly through social media), I discovered that his place is looking to create an entirely new position in the next few months that I’d be a terrific fit for. So we’ll see how things go!

Behaviorgraphics Humanize the Social Web

Social Technographics were designed to help businesses engage in social media with a more human approach, catering to individuals where, when, and how they are participating and contributing to the social Web. According to Forrester research…

Many companies approach social computing as a list of technologies to be deployed as needed – a blog here, a podcast there – to achieve a marketing goal.  But a more coherent approach is to start with your target audience and determine what kind of relationship you want to build with them, based on what they are ready for. Forrester categorizes social computing behaviors into a ladder with six levels of participation; we use the term “Social Technographics” to describe analyzing a population according to its participation in these levels. Brands, Web sites, and any other company pursuing social technologies should analyze their customers’ Social Technographics first, and then create a social strategy based on that profile.

The hierarchy was presented as follows:

Creators, those who publish web pages, blogs and other social objects – 13%

Critics, individuals who comment on blogs or post ratings and reviews – 19%

Collectors, those who use RSS and/or tag Web pages – 15%

Joiners, people who are active in social networks – 19%

Spectators, content consumers who read blogs, watch user-generated videos, and listen to podcasts – 33%

Inactives – 52%

Today I was pointed to a great post by Brian Solis about Behaviorgraphics – a way of visually representing the behaviors of people who use social media. The data is pretty interesting – whereas some “experts” would have you believe that everyone and their brother is creating online content, the actual numbers suggest quite differently. While most people are participating in social activity online, it’s often at much more of a spectator level – they’re reading content and listening to podcasts, or they’re joining into conversations already in process.

How does this affect your social media strategy?

Perspective: why no business should be involved in social networking

The problem is that for the last couple of years, experts have continuously preached that the success of a business is dependant on participating in online social networking.  They will try to convince you that you need a Facebook page, that you need to regularly update your Linked In profile, that you should post articles to a myriad of resource sites, and of course let the world know you are doing all this by Twittering at least 5 times a week.

What every expert has forgotten to share with you (or just don’t know to) is that this is not social networking.  There is in fact nothing social about it.  You are not trying to make friends, get in touch with old school chums, or keep tabs on the ex.  You are trying to grow your business.

So maybe it’s time to stop referring to all this as social networking and start seeing it for what it really is: social marketing.

This morning I came across a fascinating perspective on social media in business from Marc Gordon, a marketing consultant from Toronto. His assertion, which I consider to be a correct one, is that many businesses who engage in social networking online make the mistake of thinking that they’re “networking” when what they’re really doing is marketing their business through social media channels.

In my experience, though, social media is really about blending the two worlds: both networking and marketing.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in a relationship-based business where clients are buying our personality as much as our talent and expertise, but I find that I get the most success out of online networking by carefully balancing personal and professional.

For example, in an average day I might tweet about a project that the studio just launched or share a blog post (such as this one, for example), but I’ll also make comments about the weather, or a new recipe I’m creating, or share a bit of snark about something that I find ridiculous. It’s all part of the relationship I’m building with the people who connect with me, and it all feeds into the overall strategy.

Does this approach work for every business? Not necessarily. Major brands, like Starbucks and Whole Foods, may find it easier to keep their social media activity related to specials and information about the industry, as well as responding to consumer comments. It makes sense, and it’s more than likely why people are following them in the first place. But for smaller firms, especially where part of what you’re selling is the experience of being in a room with you, this approach is not only extremely common, but it’s extremely effective in helping you do what you’re online for – build relationships with people who are interested in who you are and how you can help them.

The TUT Redesign: A great example of how technology and design can feed the brand.

I've been a fan of Mike Dooley's Notes from the Universe newsletter for a couple of years now. A couple of times a week, Mike (who refers to himself as TUT, or The Universal Truth) sends a quick, helpful affirmation that reminds you that the Universe has your back, and you know what you're doing. It's one of the few newsletters I look forward to and read every time it comes no matter what - in part because it's mercifully short, but also because it brings an enormous smile to my week every time I read it.
Recently, the Tut site (formerly very plain and just really a link to the newsletter, if I recall) was completely revamped and presented as Tut's Adventurer's Club, an intensive and FREE (if you're signed up for the newsletter) resource for subscribers which allows folks to keep track of long term goals, post bits of gratitude and affirmation in short Twitter-like bursts, and even create your own vision board!
Mind you, if you aren't familiar with or fond of The Secret, or the idea that Thoughts Become Things (which is the name of Dooley's movie, and a fairly commonly held belief among yogis), this will likely not be your thing. But as an exercise in creating technology to support a brand, the design of this new site is inspired. While there are certain things about the aesthetic that could be fine-tuned (the navigation is a bit blocky, and the cherry blossom in the header looks horribly out of place), the overall vibe works very well for the audience it's after: folks who are familiar with and attuned to the Law of Attraction, vision boards, holistic therapies, self-help and the like and want support for putting it to work in their lives.
Another great thing about the site is the copy - it's concise, friendly, pithy and most of all, welcoming. All of this supports the primary idea that the site represents - that the Universe is there with you, for you, supporting you. The site also integrates with Facebook, allowing you to post random nuggets of gratitude to your Facebook friends (obviously, you can choose not to do this if you prefer to keep your posts a bit more formalized), and the vision board feature is just fun to work with. You click on whatever photos you want to work with from the sidebar, and once they're added to the board, you can drag and drop them as you want to to create your vision board and save it to your profile. Creating goals is similarly easy; just add them to the cute little notepad, and then you can check them off once you've accomplished them. There's even a section that shows you all the things that you've accomplished!
Now, the question, of course, is does a site really need all these bells and whistles? Not often, no. But for the community that Dooley's looking to create, and the brand that he's established, the bells and whistles work together beautifully to create a user experience that's supportive, inspiring, and just plain fun.
Posted via email from Thinking Out Loud