Why and How You Should Set Up Personalized Emails for Your Forms

With more people doing online activities these days, there’s a big chance they’ve probably come across online forms when making online purchases, signing up for email lists, or even just giving feedback about a product or their most recent customer service experience.

Online forms are commonplace on websites, landing pages, blogs, and it’s fun to think that 74% of companies use web forms for lead generation, with 49.7% stating online forms are their highest converting lead generation tool.

Sadly, some folks feel that some online forms aren’t really useful for them. To them, forms might just be there to get information and they’re not going to get much from that interaction. Some forms might even be a pain to fill out especially if there’s way too many fields or that they can’t access it through their smartphones. There’s a lot of reasons why not everyone likes forms, and we shouldn’t add more by coming off as impersonal. 

This is why in the digital space we have today, personalization is now more important than ever. People are looking to connect with their companies and be able to reach out and not just be another number on a statistic. Forms that take the extra step to engage with their subscribers benefits not only from a customer experience, but allow to develop a relationship for the long term.

Personalized emails are important, here’s why

There’s a huge win here. Did you know that people often return to a website if the company reaches out to them through email to re-engage with them after submitting to a form? Surprisingly enough, while some form builders do send automated emails after form signups, there isn’t really much to make a more personalized approach.

87% of consumers admit that having more personalized experiences, both online and in-store, would increase brand loyalty and help with them sticking around. While automation is important, you need to make sure it doesn’t come off as just another email. Emails are one of the best ways to reach out to interested parties, keeping them up-to-date on new content, special promotions and offers you’re running, as well as new products or features launched. 

Which type of emails deliver better email engagement rates?  In a world where everyone opts to send HTML emails, a plain text message does stand out. Plain text existed before HTML, which explains its simplicity and a more direct, personalized approach to messages.  Did you know that plain text emails has improved click-open-rates of 11% over HTML? Also, with a statistical significance of 86%, plain text surpassed HTML in click-through rates at a higher 8%.

This is why FormKeep makes it a point to collect the necessary data for your email marketing efforts simple and easy. From creating a simple contact form (or any other type of form for that matter) you can send campaigns to submission to help drive traffic to your website and make an opportunity to re-engage with people after they’ve left.

How to personalize your forms using emails

Let’s go with an example. 

Say you made a simple contact form for your fresh apples delivery business. 

You have the standard fields: email, message, a few drop down menus to categorize the reason they’re reaching out, order numbers, name and contact information. 

When the emails come, you’d want to confirm to your customers that you’re on the job. Unfortunately, a simple “Thanks for your email. We’ll get back to you soon” won’t do any good. This is a sure fire way to get bad customer feedback, or them not going back to your site ever again. 

So, we need to automate and personalize, but how can we do that when we haven’t even read the emails? Using FormKeep, we offer liquid tags. This is a way to call information found in the forms your customers send emails with. 

Let’s start with a proper greeting. How about adding the customer’s name? We can do that by adding a {{submission.name}} tag. Other bits of information like their {{submission.order_number}} can be called in a similar way, and be just added to your email. Let’s say Rodger has sent in this message to you and filled out the Name field like so:

But wait, what if they put in their full name? Luckily, liquid tags let you manipulate how to read them, and some simple tricks can be used to solve problems. If the given name is more than 1 word, a code like Hey {{submission.name | truncatewords: 1, ""}}! lets you find the first word in the name, and use it like a first name. 

Now, while “getting back to them” is what we mean, customers want to know if you really understood their problem. Well, if they used the Reason drop down menu in your form, we can add a {% case submission.reason %} condition in our reply to give different sets of advice. Tada! Your emails can now provide apologies for Technical Support, or thanks for a Sales Inquiry. 

Now some customers don’t have time to waste, and rush their emails to us. Information is key when finding out what the customer wants, so if they haven’t given you important information, you best let them know. You can check {%- if submission.order_number == "" -%} (if their submission’s order number is blank), so that they can get back to you even before you read their incomplete email.

Finally, formatting your emails show your customer that you wanted to be sure they can properly read the email. While fancy pictures and HTML can be added using FormKeep, you can also use markdowns to style up your plain text. Not everyone appreciates a cluttered, overly dressed up email, so simple symbols and font styles are encouraged.

As a bonus, Formkeep also allows for some simple math and scripting, so there’s enough functionality here to make billing calculations, randomized quotes, and holiday greetings.

Here’s the final personalized email that we’ll send back to Rodger:

The biggest takeaway here is that you can help form connections with your subscribers with just one simple tactic: personalization. And this goes way beyond just addressing your customers or prospects by their first name – there’s so much more you can do when you take that extra step to re-engage with people who took time to fill out your forms. 

Oh, and here’s the complete Formkeep code that you can copy paste into the Emails tab for your own forms!

Hey {{submission.name | truncatewords: 1, "" | capitalize }}!	

We've got mail! Thanks for sending in your question
{%- if submission.order_number != "" -%}
  {{submission.order_number | prepend: " for your order #"}}
{%- endif -%}
.

The entire team has gotten a copy of this and it's been printed out and put on the CEO's desk for his nightly customer review in between reading the Wall Street Journal.

{% case submission.reason %}
  {%- when "Billing Support" -%}
     The billing team has been put on notice that you need some help, they're on their way!
  {%- when "Technical Support" -%}
     We're sorry about that, we're so busy growing sometimes our code gets ahead of our heads, we'll look into this immediately.
  {%- when "Sales Contact" -%}
     We're so excited that you're looking to do more with our product, we'll be in touch today!
  {%- when "Refund" -%}
    Oh noes! Please let us know if there's anything we can do to make this right, we're looking into your account now and will
    reply with the details soon.
  {%- else -%}
    We'll get back to you soon with a thoughtful response and possibly a crayon drawing from our kids (who are stuck at home here anyway with us!)
{% endcase %}

## Thought of the day
{% capture secondsOfNow %}{{ 'now' | date: "%s" }}{% endcapture %}
{%- assign random = secondsOfNow | modulo: 5 -%}
{%- if random == 0-%}
An apple a day keeps anyone away, if you throw it hard enough.
{%- elsif random == 1 -%}
If you never tasted a bad apple, you would not appreciate a good apple. You have to experience life to understand life.
{%- elsif random == 2 -%}
Millions saw the apple fall but Newton was the one who asked why.
{%- elsif random == 3 -%}
Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.
{%- elsif random == 4 -%}
For an apple you can't reach up and pick, you have to climb that tree; the tree won't bend down for you!
{% endif %}

## Your Message Summary
_(we'll ignore any typos of course!)_

- Message: {{submission.message}}
- Reason: {{submission.reason}}
- Order Number: {{submission.order_number}}
- Name: {{submission.name}}
- Phone: {{submission.phone}}


You can add images <img src='https://formkeep.com/images/formkeep_logo_email.png' width='128px'>

FormKeep 2019 in Review

Thank you for making 2019 a great year for us! We’ve been listening hard to all the great feedback from our customers and we have been regularly releasing new features and improvements.

Below we’ve highlighted the more interesting changes this year driven by your needs. Thanks for all the feedback and keep it coming! Please send anything you’re looking forward to seeing in 2020 to support@formkeep.com.

File Upload Support

Your forms can now upload images and documents directly to FormKeep and we’ll take care of them. The email notifications will include a link to the uploaded file, or you can send them directly to third parties for additional processing.

Form Designer

This year a lot of effort was spent on delivering a simple and easy to use Form Designer, allowing you to quickly create forms and start collecting submissions from your customers immediately.

Collaborators

Many of our larger customers who have many people working together wanted a simple way to share Forms between their team members. Under the Collaborator tab on a Form you can now control who has access to edit the form, or just have access to the Form submissions.

Slack and Google Sheet Integrations

These were two of the most popular requests from our customers, so we’ve integrated directly with them, making it super simple to send your submissions to these providers. We continue to support thousands of other integrations as well.

Server Side Validations

There’s a lot of ways to protect against spam and we’ve added a commonly requested way to specify which fields need to be filled out. Combined with our industry leading spam solutions, validating this on the server-side allows you to protect better against spam bots and scripts.

Email Response Tags and Attachments

We’ve expanded your ability to format automatic response emails by supporting replacement tags in the body and subject fields. This allows you to include information from the Submission into the response. You can now also attach a file to be sent directly to your customer.

New Pricing Plans

Last year we introduced some entry-level price offerings. Some customers asked for a simple HTML form to email support without all the integrations and other bells and whistles. On the flip side, we’ve also added pricing support for large scale customers who need thousands of forms under a single account. We’re happy to talk about any custom needs you may have, just reach out to support.

Everything Else

We make constant improvements to the site every month, these are just the top feature requests that were driven by our customers. Thanks to everyone for their feedback and continued support.

Please let us know what you want to see in 2020 at support@formkeep.com

Podcast: Go Deep on FormKeep and Furious Collective’s Venture Production Model

This week thoughtbot featured Furious Collective in their weekly podcast called Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots.

In this podcast, David Kloba & Rob Meinhardt, Co-Founders of Furious Collective, discuss the mindset and methodology of their venture production studio, recount their adventures over the past year of growing FormKeep after having acquired it from thoughtbot, and offer advice to founders preparing to sell their product or company.

Announcing Shubox.io and File Upload Support

 

We’re excited to share our new partnership with Shubox.io!

Many of our customers ask us how to upload images or pdfs from their html forms. They’re looking to capture resumes or pictures of problems with their products. Uploading samples of their portfolio or even small videos for contests.

Managing file uploads across different browsers and user bandwidths limits while adhering to your site’s brand and styling is a challenging task and sometimes causes these projects to be put off until there’s more ‘free time’ from the developer team.

Fortunately there’s a great solution out there that you can have up and running in fifteen minutes!

We’ve looked closely at the many options available and we’ve partnered with Shubox.io. They’ve got a great experience right out of the box, but allows for full control over the behavior if you need it. They upload the files directly to your own Amazon S3 storage so you have direct control over the files.

Shubox.io does a lot more than just provide an amazing user experience for your customers to upload files, it also allows you to transform the images. Resizing, rotating and cleaning up the meta-data are all possible through the service. Great stuff if you need extra processing or need to connect these files to additional workflows in your business.

Check out this recent blog post with all the setup and information about how to get things setup and working with FormKeep.

If you sign up through FormKeep you’ll get a special deal as well, so make sure you sign up through the Shubox.io page under Data Integrations inside FormKeep.

Keep on uploading!

ps – Image and PDF files will now also display directly in the submission pages of FormKeep, in addition to showing a link to the original file.

How to Sell Your Client On a Better Converting Type of Form

You’ve heard the old adage: The client is always right.

But every so often there comes a time when you – the designer or developer – know that there’s a better way. After all, you work with websites on a daily basis, and you see how well things convert or don’t convert. You have years of experience under your belt to know that sometimes certain methods work better than others.

So when a client says, “We want it this way,” there may come a time when you have to respond, “Well actually, here’s another suggestion…”

When it comes to creating forms in particular, some form types just work better than others for certain audiences. And if your gut is telling you that a full-page form would work better, then that’s what you should go with.

But how do you tell that to your client?

Here’s how to sell them on a better way, even if they’re picky.

clients

Certain Forms Work Better Than Others

According to the B2B Technology Marketing Community, “61 percent of B2B marketers struggle to generate high quality leads.” Forms play a big role in that struggle, and in some ways, designers and developers have an inside scoop on which forms work better than others.

Generally that’s because you’re the one stuck doing a redesign when conversions are low. And it’s true that some forms convert better than others.

For instance, forms shown above the fold can improve conversion rates, but sometimes only for audiences that are already familiar with the client’s brand.

According to Smashing Magazine, short forms or progressive forms work much better for mobile users, while Convert With Content suggests using multi-step forms instead of long forms because they work better for those needing more information without sacrificing conversions.

multistepform

While you may not have it all memorized off the top of your head, chances are that you know from experience which forms will work in context and which ones don’t. (It’s okay to trust your gut, too).

Of course, once you realize that the form types your client wants may not be the best solution for their audience (or even for their site’s design), it comes time to suggest something different. So how do you do that, exactly?

How to Convince Them You’re Right

Your primary job is really to keep the client happy, but as much as possible you should try to make sure that your client’s endeavors are successful.

While that can be hard to do with a client that is picky or demanding (they simply must have their way), it is possible to suggest an idea that (you feel) will help them achieve their results faster. But you don’t want to come across as a know-it-all, or you’ll risk bruising their ego.

Here are a few ways to try to get your point across without sounding like a demanding diva.

Speak from Experience

While your client has expertise in their respective field, and they probably know their audience better than you, that doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about. After all, you work with forms and websites, and you’ve had clients come back and say “Hey, this isn’t working, can we change this?”

You’re an expert, and you need to own it. More importantly, you need to show that your opinions have merits. If you want to suggest a new idea, you’ll have to show them that you have their best interests at heart. Which leads to…

Show, Don’t Tell

If you can show how a different form type improved another client’s conversions – whether from your own experience or from an article or post you read about – and you know that your current client has a similar audience, it’s a good idea to grab that data and have it handy.

It can also be helpful for a client to see exactly what you’re suggesting to avoid any confusion. Create a mockup of how the new form would work, and show them step-by-step why it will work better for their audience so they have actual social proof to consider while making decisions.

social-proof

Keep It Consistent

If you’re suggesting something that may be totally out of left field, you still want to reassure them that you understand their audience and brand. Again, this is where a mockup can help, showing the form in action while using their images and site design as a backdrop.

But even if your form idea is way out there, do as much as you can to stick to their audience. If they use business-formal language, don’t start their forms with “Howdy, y’all!” If their colors are blue and gold, don’t design a form that’s purple and grey. It should be a no brainer, but as much consistency as you can keep, the better your “crazy” idea will go over, especially with picky clients.

Offer It Like an “Upgrade”

Sociologist Alvin Gouldner says that no society on earth can escape from reciprocity, or the idea that if someone’s giving you something of value, you should return the favor. Consider suggesting the changes as if you’re providing an exclusive service above and beyond the norm, and they may feel obligated to say yes just because you’re offering.

“We’ve offered this to a few of our other clients and they’ve seen much higher conversions than the standard form. We notice you have a similar audience, would you like to try this new form type? We can create a mockup if you’d like to see it.” More often than not, your client will at least consider your idea rather than rejecting it outright.

Don’t Be Rude

Finally, presentation is everything. This should go without saying, but if you’re rude to the client, they will be primed to reject anything you say on the sheer principle of you being unlikable. While business professionalism can go a long way, it’s about balancing the authoritative tone of an expert with the courtesy of a customer service representative.

According to Call Proof, it’s about listening, empathizing, and under-selling. You have to see your client as more than just a dollar sign, and treat them as you would your family or friends.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you have a feeling that a different type of form will work better than others with the client’s design or will generate more leads. Since you have some experience to back up your ideas, you want to suggest those changes to your client.

If you’re looking to convince a client that your idea has merit, be sure to present yourself like an expert. Use data and as much information as you can, and create a mockup so they can see exactly what you’re talking about.

Make sure it stays consistent with their branding and actually helps them. You can do this by offering it up as something that will genuinely add value to their business.

And, above all, communicate like a customer service rep – listen, engage, and don’t forget to play nice. Soon your clients will be falling over themselves to implement your awesome new ideas.

3 Things to Fix On Your Forms If You Want Conversions

Forms are all about action.

More specifically, they’re all about getting your users to take action. Whether it’s signing up for your newsletter or downloading your latest white paper, you want to get your users to do something – that’s called a conversion.

But conversions don’t happen by accident. The way you design and program your form plays a major role in how many people follow through with filling it out.

Unfortunately, there are a few areas that most designers or developers overlook when creating their forms, and it’s costing conversions.

Here are three key areas you need to fix on your forms if you want to keep your conversion rates high.

Error Messages

Error handling is typically one of the last things a developer will do when putting together a form, which often means that it’s the one process that gets the least amount of attention.

But a form that doesn’t tell you exactly what went wrong when an error occurs or leads you to a 404 page – or, heaven forbid, somewhere else entirely – is not just annoying, it’s a signal to your users to never come back and finish that form.

Suddenly your conversions drop and you’re not sure why.

While the first and most obvious step is to prevent errors wherever possible – and ideally they don’t happen because of a design flaw – it’s still important to have a great error handling system in place should errors occur.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when working on your error handling:

Avoid negative words. While errors are bad, you don’t want the wording to elicit feelings of fear or make them feel that the situation is worse than it is. UX Movement has a great article on making your form error message more reassuring here.

error-messages-negative-words

Avoid using the color red. Instead, highlight error fields in orange or yellow. Similar to the above, the color red – while prominent – can make the user feel like they’ve made a grave mistake. Red tends to be associated with danger, so while you still want your error to stand out, it’s important to signal to users that the error is fixable and that they have nothing to worry about.

error-messages-orange

Specify why the field information wasn’t accepted. Just having a note at the top of your form that says “there was an error” isn’t enough to keep people from panicking. Your error message should tell users exactly which information was rejected and why. For example, an email field should tell users to include the ‘@’ symbol or remind them to double check the spelling of their domain. The more specific you can be, the better.

error-messages-explain

Visual Cues

The next big area you may be overlooking is the use of visual cues.

Many forms come on solitary landing pages, which makes the forms themselves easy enough to find and is one way of getting people to fill out your forms, but that doesn’t always mean conversions will automatically happen.

In fact, whether or not your form is easy to spot on your page, you should include visual cues to direct users there anyway.

Directional cues are signals that tell someone to complete an action, and remember, forms are all about taking action. Cues can include photos, shapes, videos or text, but how and where you use them can significantly impact conversions.

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to drawing your visitors to your form:

 

Use an image of a person looking at your form. Humans are social creatures by nature, and so they tend to be drawn to what others are looking at. You can use this human trait to your advantage by having your images direct people to fill out your forms.

 

Have a person or group of people looking at your forms with their eyes, pointing to your form with their hands, or even holding your form.

visualcues-people

Use arrows. Symbols and shapes drive much of our visuals in modern advertising, and the arrow is the king of the symbols when it comes to directing users to take action. Nothing says “look here” quite like it.

Reboot Authentic, for example, uses three arrows to direct visitors to their lead-capture form:

visualcues-arrows

Limit objects in the same visual view as your form. Minimizing the noise around your form will certainly draw the most attention to it, but that doesn’t mean you need to create a whole separate landing page for each form. You can also use colors to visually direct users to your forms, or make use of blank space to create a contrast that stands out.

Twitter does a fantastic job of this on their signup page:

visualcues-simplicity

Button Language

Of course, it could be argued that you should never rely on design alone to communicate.

After all, 8% of men and 0.5% of women have a colour vision deficiency. Another 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision. Communicating with visual-only cues just won’t catch everyone.

While pictures and arrows may help people find your form, the “Submit” button does most of the heavy lifting. That’s where your button copy comes into play.

Buttons will tell users to “Get a quote,” “Download,” “Open an account,” or even “Go to checkout.” But whether someone submits your button depends on the quality of the text itself.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the right copy for your buttons:

The copy should begin with a verb. Otherwise it’s not really a call-to-action, just a button with some text on it. “More information” for example, is not a call-to-action.

better-submit-button

The language should fit the context. If you’re signing up for banking online, for example, you’re going to expect words like “Register” or “Apply”. If you’re signing up for an e-commerce site, you look for “Sign up” or “Go to Cart”.

It’s also important for the language to be personal wherever possible. If the overall context of your site is friendly, using text like “Sign me up” instead of “sign up” can also improve your conversions.

Think about what your user would say. Imagine that you asked your user what he or she was trying to do. If they would say, “I want to sign up,” then you would use text like, “Sign up.” If you were asking the user “Would you like to…?” then the text would sound more like, “Sign me up.” These are what Jared Spool calls “trigger” words.

For any button text, ask yourself if it fits with the statement “Would you like to?” or “I would like to”. The question: “Would you like to sign me up?” doesn’t match with: “I would like to sign me up”.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to improving conversions on your forms, there are really three key areas you need to watch out for: error messages, visual cues, and button copy.

If your users aren’t taking any action, then you want to use visual cues to direct them.

If they’re not sure if they want to submit the form they’ve just filled out, then use your copy to elicit an action.

And if they have taken the wrong action, gently nudge them in the right direction.

Here’s Why Your Opt-Ins are Unsubscribing (And How to Fix It)

Email marketing is a hugely valuable tool.

In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing brings in around $40 for every $1 you spend, making it one of the highest ROIs for any time of marketing out there.

It can be reasonably assumed that the whole point in capturing emails and having subscribers is to convert those emails into loyal customers who either buy your product or service or tell their friends to buy your product or service (or both).

list-segmentation-results

Even if you’re just running a blog or a content site, those emails are everything. So what happens if all of a sudden you’re not getting as many subscribers as you once did?

Or worse yet, what happens when people that have already subscribed start to opt-out of receiving your emails?

Here are a few of the most common reasons people are opting-out of your email lists, plus what you can do to stop that from happening.

They’re Not In a List

The biggest problem when it comes to opt-ins is not having opt-ins (or opt-outs) because all of your emails go to all of your subscribers.

Not having any form of segmentation is a one-way ticket to unsubscribers, but if you’re running your email campaigns yourself, it can be tricky to manage all of those lists. That’s where third-party email marketing services can help.

Where to Send Your Form Submissions

If you’re using WordPress, you can use plugins like MailPoet or Newsletter to create real email system that allow you to create newsletters, automated emails, post notifications and more directly from WordPress while allowing you to segment your lists (to some degree, anyway).

If you really want to segment your lists, you can use a email service like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber (etc.) and integrate them with your CMS of choice using Zapier to create targeted emails to certain lists.

Whichever method you choose isn’t really as important as having some plan in place for your emails once they’ve been submitted on your site.
They’re In the Wrong List

Once you’ve warmed up to the idea of segmenting your lists, then comes the hard part. You have to figure out exactly which emails belong in which list.

The whole point of segmentation is to provide relevant content to the recipients, so if someone opted in to get your monthly newsletter but you send them promotional emails about events instead, your likelihood of unsubscribing is high.

So how do you segment your lists for better results?

How to Segment Your List

Welcome emails should, for example, go to your new subscribers or users. But you can also send a version of a welcome email – either a “we miss you” or “are you still there?” email – to those who haven’t been actively opening your emails.

Keeping track of those lists may be a little trickier, but if you’re using a third-party email marketing service like MailChimp (or similar), they often keep track of those lists for you.

But there are other ways to segment your lists that you may not have considered, including:

  • Demographics – Age, gender, company, position, etc.
  • Sending frequency – Some people want emails more frequently than others
  • Location – Knowing something as simple as a location can help you gauge send times and even personalize subject lines for better open-rates
  • Weather Patterns – Skymosity is a company that can track weather patterns and create automated email campaigns that are deployed by weather-based email triggers, which can be helpful for certain industries (fitness gear, outdoor living, etc.)
  • Email activity – Some people stop opening emails after a certain point, which can be helpful to know in order to send a “we miss you” email to reactivate their interest

brooks_weather_segmentation

Source: Skymosity

There are many different ways to segment a list, but the most important part of that segmentation is not just getting them into a list, but also getting them the right content for that list to keep them engaged.
They’re Getting the Wrong Content

The average email user sends and receives around 105 emails per day, with 81% of those emails containing valid content (as in, not spam). This means that while sending out emails is a great way to capture your audience’s attention, it’s also ground zero for competition.

One of the biggest factors when it comes to people unsubscribing from your lists is that they’re simply being overwhelmed with content that doesn’t relate to them. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to fix that by targeting your content more dynamically.

Types of Content to Send to Each List

Newsletters often go out to anyone in your email list, but some do a good job of separating their newsletter lists from their general email lists, so only the people who want the newsletter actually get it. But you can take this a step further by actually creating targeted newsletters based on niche topics and segmenting your list further.

One way to implement this strategy is to include separate opt-in messages in your welcome email, also known as an opt-in bribe.

WelcomeEmailOptIns

Each link in your welcome email could lead to a different list so your subscribers are essentially telling you exactly what they want from your emails. Here are a few different types of content you can send to varying lists:

  • Welcome Email
  • Expectation Email
  • Tools and Resources Email
  • How-To Email
  • Getting to Know You Email
  • Unexpected Freebie Email
  • Exclusive Content Email
  • Basic Content Email
  • Archive Email
  • Curated Email
  • Newsletter
  • Buzz-Building Email
  • Testimonial Emails
  • Favorite Things Email

The truly important thing to remember is that the type of content you send out should reflect the list it’s being sent to. You wouldn’t send a welcome email to someone who’s been a subscriber for years.

Likewise, you shouldn’t send a newsletter to someone who just wants to know about events (unless your newsletter is all about your events).

Sometimes targeting certain content to different groups is a matter of trial and error, so it’s important to keep track of open-rates and watch your demographics (and other factors) closely to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to improving your conversion rates, there’s really no better tool than email marketing. But what you do with your content and your segmented lists makes all the difference between effective and ineffective marketing.

First, if you’re not segmenting your lists, get on it ASAP.

Second, once your lists are segmented, make sure that every email is where it’s suppose to be and every one who has opted in to your lists wants to be there.

Finally, make sure that the content you send to each list is relevant to the interests of those lists. If you’re not sure if it’s engaging enough, try targeting your email opt-in links in your welcome emails (or any email) to narrow down the field.

Which CRM Works Best for Generating Leads?

CRM software is a marketer’s best friend.

Sure, email marketing is a great tool to generate new leads to bring in potential customers, but a CRM goes above and beyond, thanks in part to the R in its acronym – Relationships.

CRMs are designed to help you build relationships with potential (and current) customers, and do so by connecting someone from your team to each customer. When someone receives an email from your company, they’re slowly building rapport.

But not every piece of CRM software works the same way, and while they’re all designed to help you in your ultimate goal to understand and relate to your customers, each one will approach that goal differently. Some use certain methods for lead generation, which may be more effective for your company, while others may not actually help you all that much.

So how do you know which CRM is right for you? Well, first you have to identify the lead generation methods that will be the most effective for your company and your consumer base.

Best Methods for Lead Generation

business-relationship

When you boil it down, lead generation is all about relationships, but relationships between customers and businesses don’t always happen naturally. Visitors need to be pointed to information (or team members) that can help turn them into customers.

But what exactly is the best way to do that? There are a few different approaches that may work, depending on your industry and customer base.

  1. Relationship building through regular emails. Email marketing is no doubt a highly effective tool, and many customers love (or at least tolerate) receiving emails from companies on a daily or weekly basis, whether it be links to articles and blogs or specific promotions or discounts.
  1. A hard sell via a member from a sales team. This can happen through emails, phone calls, chats, or really any method of communication, but the purpose is to connect each customer with a real live member of the team to answer their questions and help them move from visitor to customer.
  1. A tailored marketing experience through varied channels. This includes tracking the visitor or customer’s interactions while they’re on your site, gathering personal information about their interests and disinterests, and implementing marketing strategies to target their “wish list.” For example, Google Ads reads your browsers cookies, so they know what you’ve been searching for on sites like Amazon and Facebook and can target ads specifically to your searches.

So how do CRMs fit into this? Again, while each CRM will help you generate leads, each has a different function best designed for one or more of these approaches.

What to Look for in a CRM

Generally speaking, there are three types of CRMs: ones that work conversationally, ones that focus on leads and deals, and those that utilize contacts.

  1. A conversational CRM is centered on interactions between your customers and your business, and will group different interactions by categories so you can see exactly what your customers are doing, or where you need to follow up. It essentially helps you keep in contact with the customers that matter most to you.
  2. A leads and deals CRM – often the most common form – tracks potential customer leads and adds information as you work to convince those leads to become “deals.” These CRMS help you trace visitors from their first interactions until they become full-fledged customers. These CRMs are most utilized by sales teams.
  3. A contacts-based CRM is similar to a conversational CRM in that it helps you interact with customers, but this type focuses more on remembering important information about a customer – like birthdays, current company position, etc. – in order to help you send promotions that might relate to them. In some ways, it’s the best of the other types and can be used for both sales generation and building relationships. That is, as long as you have a process in place for targeted promotions.

The key to using a CRM is to make sure it’s genuinely productive for your team, and not a burden to those using it. When you’re looking to select a CRM, it’s best to know the method most likely to help visitors turn into customers, and also which CRM type fits best with that method.

CRM Top Picks for Leads

Once you’ve matched the method with the type, you’ll then need to choose a specific CRM software, which will be dependent on factors like overall cost and ease of use for your team. Let’s take a look at a couple of the top CRMs in each category. Keep in mind that some of these may cross categories, and that’s okay!

Conversational
salesforceiqcrm

SalesforceIQ – Salesforce has a unique user interface, making it stand out a little from the crowd. Rather than including customized database fields, it focuses almost entirely on conversations. Your team adds your email accounts, selects the conversations you’d like to hear about, and then works on them collaboratively to help accomplish tasks. It will also pull conversations from all of your contacts, so you’ll have an overview of the whole company’s relationships. It’s priced at $69 per user per month.

Streak – This CRM uses your email along with a few powerful Gmail features to help share conversations with your colleagues. It organizes your messages into a pipeline, adds notes to conversations, and is fully customizable. There’s also a notification tool to remind you to send emails to customers, too. It’s free for up to five users, with each additional user priced at $19 per user per month.

Lead Generation

hubspotcrm

HubSpot CRM – HubSpot CRM is known for being an automation tool, and you can either use it alongside other marketing tools or on its own. It allows you to add contact’s names and emails, and it will search out any relevant information to include based on those data fields. One of the biggest benefits is its flexibility, as it allows you to drag and drop fields and rearrange lists as needed. The best news? It’s free (though Premium features through HubSpot marketing suite may cost a little extra).

Zoho CRM – This CRM is fairly robust. You can capture leads from Facebook pages, automate workflows into a sales funnel, and integrate it with other marketing tools. It also allows you to merge mail documents from your contacts, start a video conference, and more. It’s free for up to three users, with each additional user priced at $12 per user per month.

Contacts

highrisecrm

Highrise – Similar to the project management app Basecamp, Highrise helps you gather as much information about your contacts as possible, allowing you to track deals in progress as well. The best part is that it’s relatively inexpensive, and dare we say free. You can include up to two users at no charge, and it only costs $4 for each additional user (after two) per month.

Insightly – This software uses a similar interface to Gmail, and also features excellent integration with Google apps. One of its primary features is to find your contact’s social network profiles and show it alongside additional information gathered from your team. There are also interfaces for task management and advanced reporting. It’s free for up to three users, with each additional user coming in at $9 per user per month.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a CRM is about helping you build the right type of relationships with your customers. If they’re the sort who love social media interaction and want to connect with real people on your team if they have questions, a conversational or lead generating CRM like SalesforceIQ or Zoho will do the trick.

If they really just want to be able to contact you and have you contact them (with important birthday discounts, of course) then a contact CRM like Highrise will work well enough.

Just be sure that the CRM fits your team’s working style, as some have different layouts and workflows. You may want to try out a few of the free ones before committing to get a better idea of which one works best for you.

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Autoresponders

Businesses send emails to their users on a daily basis. It’s simply the way of life in the digital age. But most email marketers aren’t taking full advantage when it comes to using emails to generate leads.

Marketing expert Chris Hexton of Vero says, “About 75% of businesses are missing out on the email marketing sweet spot.” He notes that while newsletters have an open rate around 20%, transactional emails – or trigger-based welcome emails – have an open rate of around 50% and are over 100% more effective when it comes to open rates, click-through rates, and conversions.

So how do you take advantage of this sweet spot, exactly? You use autoresponders, of course.

What Are They and What Can They Do?

An autoresponder is a sequence of trigger-based emails sent to subscribers at different predetermined intervals. There are typically a few different creative ways to use an autoresponder to generate leads or promote your products or services. These can include (but are not limited to):

  1. Mini-Course or Welcome Course – This is a series of emails that teach your subscribers about a certain aspect of your industry or more about your specific product or service.
  2. Paid Course – Similar to the mini-course, this is a more in-depth series that informs subscribers about a technical aspect of your industry, product or service.
  3. Content Promotion – This is a series of emails that introduce subscribers to important content you’ve already produced or are currently producing on your blog or media channels.
  4. Affiliate Promotions – This is a way to promote affiliate products and promotions, and can be helpful for cross-promoting and upselling your own content, product, or services as well.
  5. Demos and Social Proof – This is a series of emails that help your current subscribers see the benefits of your product or service on an ongoing basis.
  6. Newsletters – This is another source of automated content that can inform or educate your subscribers in addition to a blog or mini-course.

What’s nice about autoresponders is that you can take your audience through a sequence of emails without doing any work, since you’ve already written the emails beforehand. As you can tell, there are plenty of creative uses for autoresponders, depending on your audience and needs.

But which type (or types) of autoresponders will work best for your business? Well, that will depend on the benefits you want to get out of them.

How to Choose the Right Autoresponder Type

The main goal of an autoresponder is to move users deeper into your sales funnel. But before you create a single email, you have to understand your end goal.

If you simply want to sell products or services, you’ll probably have a different approach to autoresponders than someone who wants to create brand loyalty or be seen as experts.

Do you want to sell a product or a service? A welcome course, an affiliate course, or a series of demos and social proof may be your best option to help newcomers understand the benefits of using your business.

Do you want to establish a long-term relationship? Consider creating a content series for blog posts or establishing a great mini-course that helps subscribers stay connected to your business.

Do you want to be seen as an industry authority? Consider doing a paid course including valuable industry information to show off your expert status.

If you want to do all three, you certainly can. There’s really no limit to the ways you can use autoresponders. The only thing stopping you is, you know, actually creating them.

So how do you quickly and easily create your autoresponder series without spending too much time and energy? Well, here’s what you need to know.

Quickly Create Effective Autoresponders

There are plenty of email marketing companies out there that will more than happily help you create your autoresponders, such as MailChimp, AWeber, Active Campaign, and more. But even if you have a marketing company doing the actual sending, you’ll still need to actually create the autoresponder content and design.

Here are a few tips and tricks to creating effective autoresponders in no time.

Start With a Strong Editorial Calendar

Having an outline of your course and/or a well thought-out editorial calendar is the key to success. Start by planning how many autoresponder emails you want in your series (three to six emails is a good guideline) and then create an outline of each email including subject lines and descriptions.

editorial-calendar-template

AWeber provides several editorial calendar templates and outlines you can use to help you through the process, or if you really want most of the work done for you, check out Dusti Arab’s six-week autoresponder template.

Set a Balanced Schedule

You’ll want to set a schedule for your autoresponders that is both effective (as in, there’s enough emails being sent to actually get a high click-through rate) without being overwhelming for your subscribers.

Mini-courses and welcome courses are often sent on consecutive days over the course of a week, or sometimes once a week for a certain period of time (usually no more than six weeks).

Other types of autoresponders can be tailored to the needs of your audience, but generally speaking, once or twice per week or once per month is probably enough for most people. Just be sure to track your open rates and unsubscribe numbers to ensure that your audience isn’t overloaded.

Choose the Right Subject Lines

The subject lines of your emails are extremely important when it comes to open rates, so you’ll want to start by coming up with some good ones. The folks over at Creative Live have some tips, including:

  1. Make a Promise: “You’ll Double Your Blog Readership with These 10 Tips.”
  2. Highlight a Benefit: “Learn to Write a Headline Your Twitter Followers Actually Click.”
  3. Appeal to Your Reader’s Emotions: “Why I Gave Up Thousands of Blog Readers and Started Over.”
  4. Appeal to Your Reader’s Curiosity: “The Reason No One Comments on Your Blog Posts.”

Develop Great Content

If you already have blog content, half of your work is done for you. But if you’re starting from scratch – and you’re not a writer (or nobody in your business is a writer) – consider hiring a professional copywriter to produce materials for you. Nothing says, “We don’t know what we’re doing” like poorly written copy, so make sure the words you put out there reflect the high standards of your business.

But if you do plan on doing it yourself, Nathalie Lussier over at Ambitionally has a helpful content walkthrough for creating an effective series.

Include Social Proof and Credibility

Your audience wants to know that the information they receive from you is coming from experts and not amateurs. The key to an effective autoresponder is to include some type of social proof, like a testimony or personal story in every email to keep your audience connected to your business on a personal level.

socialproof

Optinmonster has some suggestions for choosing the most effective social proof.

Make Your Designs “Pop”

While your content is the star of the show, you don’t want to have people ignore your fabulous content because the email itself is ugly and hard to read. Jason Amunwa over at Digital Telepathy has some suggestions for developing beautifully designed HTML emails, including how to deal with certain types of images, text, and calls to action. Litmus also has some great tips, including utilizing a mobile-friendly layout and more.

Segment Your Email Lists

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re not sending your autoresponders to everyone on your subscribers list. Your goal should be to break up your email lists to target audiences that would most benefit from your content. Why? Well, according to Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.
list-segmentation-results-resized-600

Having segmented email lists also means you can send out as many types of autoresponders as you want, essentially ensuring that your whole audience is moving down your sales funnel with minimal effort on your part. And if you’re looking to save as much time and energy as possible, minimal effort is a beautiful thing.

How to Deal with Clients That Aren’t Designers (But Think They Are)

Look, you’ve spent years honing your craft, learning the tricks of the trade, and working hard to set yourself apart from the competition and make a name for yourself as a real expert in your field.

That’s why it can be particularly frustrating to encounter a client that doesn’t see you that way – or, at the very least, thinks they can do what you can do without half the training or talent.

Sure, they appreciate your portfolio and they know what you have to offer is probably better than what they can do. Yet whenever you send your designs for approval, they always have something to tweak. There are always one or two things they want done differently.

That’s when you politely remind them that there’s a reason for everything you’ve done, and changing it would significantly impact the work as a whole.

But what happens if they insist that you make changes, even though you know those changes will ruin your work?

Well, there’s good news and bad news…

The Good News: You’re the Expert

There’s a reason they hired you, and it’s because you know what you’re doing. The trick is convincing them that you see a perspective they might have missed.

Be Prepared

BoredPanda-Designer

Source: BoredPanda

Make sure that every time you present your work, you’re fully prepared. Common issues that come up with design work in particular include logo sizes, choice of fonts (anything but Comic Sans, please), and content location.

The best thing you can do is to have a solid explanation for why you chose the size/font/placement that you did, and include those reasons when you submit your work. Sending a file without context is simply begging for unwanted commentary.

Don’t forget that designs get passed around too, and clients may not always include your explanation when they share your proposals with others. Be ready to rehash your reasoning as many times as possible, if necessary. Yes, it’s annoying, but it may save you from having a major headache later on in the process.

Choose Your Battles

bad-clients-cartoon

Source: Smashing Magazine

Remember, when it comes to their business, your clients are just as protective of their creative vision as you are of yours. Your clients are not the enemy. They’re coming to you because you know what you’re doing, so you want to make sure you present yourself as an expert without belittling their approach.

If changes they suggest aren’t absolutely vital to your design aesthetics or aren’t time consuming to make, you can let your clients win. If, however, you find yourself fighting the urge to vomit when you think about tweaking your design, stick to your guns.

Act Like An Expert (But Not A Jerk)

Sometimes “sticking to your guns” will mean telling the client that their ideas are terrible, which may or may not go over so well depending on the client. But there are a few ways you can frame the conversation so that you both walk away winners.

#1. Reframe their concerns to solve a problem. Every client has an underlying reason they want a project done a certain way; maybe they have a specific audience or goal in mind. Assure them you really are acting in the best interests. Let them know that you were really listening during their proposal, you’ve done some research of your own, and according to that research, your approach may actually improve their desired results. If you really want to go the extra mile, have some studies on hand that back it up.

#2. Make sure to include them in the process. You’re an expert in your field, but they’re also experts in their respective fields. If they have certain colors they want to use or content they want to include, do your best to incorporate what they want it in ways that work for you too. Again, if something they suggest is just too far out there and you simply can’t make it work with the current project, suggest another project or solution and help them understand why it won’t work with the current design.

#3. Use the right language for the right situation. Telling your clients that they’re terrible people is a lot different than suggesting that a design strategy may not work as well as they’d hoped. But it’s incredibly easy for frustration to turn an innocent suggestion into an actual insult. Remember that words can start wars as easily as they can solve problems, so choose your words carefully. (Mike Michalowicz over at Amex’s OPEN Forum wrote a great article about using the right language with difficult clients.)

The Bad News: The Client Is “Always Right”

Of course, at the end of the day, what really matters is what the client wants. As much as you’re an expert and a highly valuable member of the team, they’re the ones writing the checks, so what they say, goes.

But what happens if you just can’t come to a feasible solution that works for both you and the client? Well, you may either have to do a little conflict resolution, or you may have to straight up dump them as a client.

Handle Conflict Like a Pro

Comic45

Source: Millo

The absolute best thing you can do is to remain as professional as possible. No matter what, keep your cool.

Let’s say the worst has happened and you’ve done hours of work only to have the client reject everything and ask you to start over. Maybe you’re even willing to do so, but when you tell them how much a new design will cost, they freak out. The last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire by blaming others or being rude.

Listen to what they have to say, admit any faults from your end, offer any alternative solutions you see, use positive language, and if things get really heated, walk away.

Not only will keeping calm potentially save your relationship with the client (should you choose to continue working with them) but you’ll also save your reputation in the industry over the long haul.

Make Your “Dear John” Sweet But Swift

Of course, having a high level of professionalism on your end doesn’t mean that the client will respond with the same attitude.

Sometimes clients will come to you because you’re just another creative type who can get things done, and not because you specifically have skills they want. If you can’t do what they want, they might throw a fit or – worst case scenario, decide to withhold payment or otherwise make your working relationship a living nightmare.

If things just aren’t working out the way you’d like, you always have the option of walking away. Here’s what to keep in mind while doing so:

#1. Finish any work related to your written contract or verbal agreement. The last thing you want is to get sued by a vindictive client who paid you money to do a project you didn’t finish (at least finish from their perspective). Make sure that you’ve fulfilled any obligations that you signed up for, or that you have an escape clause in the contract that you signed before you start working with them (an ounce of prevention…).

#2. Set a firm “leave by” date and stick to it. Let your clients know that you’ll be moving on and that they can expect to receive any remaining files from you by a certain date.

#3. Try not to burn a bridge (if at all possible). If you can, include a few positive statements in your “Dear John” email about why you liked working with them and let them know that you’re available for other work in the future (if you’re open to that, obviously). Remember that referrals are a great source of business, so if you can salvage the relationship professionally, do so.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with clients can be tricky, especially when they feel like they can do your job as well as you can. But remember that you’re the expert and you know what you’re doing, and they’re coming to you for your design prowess.

If the time comes where you need to convince a client that your way is best, remember to backup any suggestions with resources, use positive language, offer alternative solutions, and try to incorporate their ideas as much as possible (without sacrificing your time and talent, of course).

If things just aren’t working out and you simply need to move on, be professional, be quick, and don’t burn a bridge unless absolutely necessary.