Little Known Ways to Remain Relevant in Their Inbox

I thought this was a great and rather unique example of an email that aims to re-calibrate the level of engagement. Essentially proactively saying, we noticed you may need less communication: “We haven’t heard from you in a while, how can we adjust the frequency of our communication so you don’t unsubscribe completely.”

Ok, I’ll bite and open your email. I admit, I’ve been away from my personal inbox a bit more lately actively engaging in the physical world (#girlswhotrain). And also trying to be diligent about saving a bit of cash not buying every new Reebok shoe that comes on the market.

This email has a great approach because it taps into why I connect with the Spartan brand, reminding me of the mindset of never giving up. And the fact that they noticed I haven’t been clicking through to the website (clearly a diligent marketer leveraging their email service provider). We, the brand, respect your training time and mental capacity so let’s actively provide you with a way to adjust the frequency of emails accordingly. I love how they use the illustration of buckets as a CTA to continue to engage with the brand at my own pace.

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How can you show your non-engaged consumers that you notice them? What can you do to ask them how they want to be communicated to or how often they want to hear from you?

4 Lessons In Online Marketing I Learned From Mom

In recent weeks, Google has officially begun phasing out the existence of its right-rail ads. As you can imagine, removing ads from one position means they’ll show up in another. Presently, this means up to four PPC ads can appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) thereby pushing the organic listings completely below the fold. The example below illustrates this point and shows how product listing ads (PLAs) occupy the right rail for transaction based queries.

Google removes right rail ads

While it’s not the case with this particular search above, the increase in page one real estate is very real!  In some cases, the number of organic listings on page one has decreased from ten listings to seven. That’s if users even scroll below the fold. As an SEO savvy to the consumer journey, I can’t stress how important it is to provide a seamless user experience that captures the transaction after the user moves from the SERP onto your site. Let me illustrate using my favorite, observable test subject; my mom.

It’s funny, marketers sometimes go to a lot of trouble organizing focus groups and selecting just the right individuals to represent their “target market.” But if you really want to know when and where customers are abandoning your site, watch your parents navigate the domain.

During a recent holiday with my parents, I watched my mom book tours and excursions online. The website (which will remain anonymous for this post) that my mom was attempting to book our tickets on using her tablet, provided such a poor user experience. She was unable to properly confirm the reservation had even been made (seriously, you don’t at least provide copy that says “Thank you for your reservation…”) that she proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes on the phone trying to reach a real person in the customer service department to confirm the reservation.

The frustration and confusion caused by this website’s booking design is completely unnecessary and very fixable. Here are the four highly frictional elements which nearly caused my mom not to compete the transaction:

  1. Required a login & password.
  2. Not providing the option to at least check out as a guest.
  3. Multiple information-requesting steps asking for the airline name, arrival and departure dates, even date of birth (seriously!?) prior to purchase.
  4. The website design was not formatted for a tablet device.

Don’t try be original, just be better.

As a consultant, I am constantly observing how elements on a page can help or hinder whether or not the consumer takes action. Simply doing the opposite of the four obstacles listed above will improve your user experience.  One-time visits to book tickets online or make a reservation should not require  a username/ password; it is literally too much for the customer to think about creating yet another username and password for your site that they’ll actually remember.  Which is why providing the option to check out as a “guest” is much more seamless and hassle free to the customer.

If the information requested during the time of checkout is not relevant to the actual tour, it should not be required. Ultimately, the number of steps towards completing a purchase should be as few as possible. If your business requires certain forms of information, indicate to the consumer what information is required versus what is optional. This at least ensures you get the necessary customer information all the while continuing to move them on their way towards their booking goal.

Lastly, website design should be formatted to the device (mobile, desktop or tablet). Otherwise, customers can quickly became frustrated at not being able to see how to successfully complete their transaction and may abandon the process without completing the sale.  Customer, gone.

With the increased competition for page one real estate in the Google SERP, it is imperative for e-commerce and service-oriented websites to provide an efficient online experience that quickly and securely ensures the transaction is complete and assures the customer of their purchase.

Anything less means your competitors will pick up the sale where your website left off.

News Flash: 15 Year-olds Aren’t Tweeting

While having dinner a few nights ago with family friends, I took the golden opportunity to chat up their 15 year old son on his preference for social networking sites.  Sure, he has a MySpace and Facebook page. “Do you tweet?” I asked.  He stopped a moment, “do I what?”  I was puzzled and tried to explain the recent phenomenon. “Do you, you know, ‘tweet’? It’s a micro blog on this site called Twitter…” I could see he had no clue as to what I was talking about.  His preference was, in fact, Facebook.

Moving up into the next target market, personal friends of mine roughly ages 24-29 who have otherwise abandoned their MySpace sites in favor of communicating on Facebook.  Is it for the cleaner interface?  Or the ability to network amongst a foundation of college-based individuals?  Whatever the reason, it seems the grass is looking greener on the other side.

As for me, I maintain a presence amongst these popular sites, but have recently tailored my postings.  For example, I wiped out all profile information on my MySpace page in favor of creating a profile full of photos highlighting the places I’ve traveled and exciting things I’ve done.   I communicate with many of my real friends through Facebook where my profile page reflects a slightly more intimate “me” yet still simplified with pictures, info and posts on my wall. As for LinkedIn, I’m all about it.  I recently added my blog to my page and included a handful of great books I’ve read.

For anyone reading this from a branding perspective and wondering, “where should I be?” or “what social networking site is best for my brand?”  Think about your target market first.  Think about why they would be on a particular social networking site (consider the values, activities and benefits offered) and then find a creative, constructive and intuitive way for consumers to interact with your brand.  But don’t think you have to “tweet” just because everyone else is doing it.  Because news flash: your target market may not even be participating in that space.

Toll Road Tweet

So, I received a violation notice from the Toll Road Department the other day for apparently not having paid a $0.75 fee.  I responded online with the following dispute:

To Whom It May Concern:

Upon exiting the north bound toll road, I paid $O.75 at the off-ramp booth. I proceeded to turn around  and re-enter the toll road heading south, my original intent, and was required to pay an additional $0.75 to enter the toll road. In both cases I provided three (3) quarters, exact change, the requested toll amount. I did not proceed until the green light indicated acceptance of the paid fees.

Having paid in both instances, I would appreciate a review of the footage of the day/time in which my vehicle passed through the booths whereupon I paid both tolls.

I will happily provide a $0.75 check to the Department since, for whatever reason, one of the toll payments was not recorded. However, I did not intentionally refute payment upon neither exiting nor entering the toll road. Moreover, I happened to be traveling on another part of the toll road later that morning and dutifully paid $4.00 for traveling on that road. Accordingly, when I travel on the toll roads, I am aware and prepared to fulfill such fees at that time.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to the Department’s response to my dispute.
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But, as this was too loquacious, a note in red appeared on the screen: “Explanation is too long.”  I had to laugh at myself and my lengthy explanation–amazing though it was.  Of course I cut it down, all the while thinking I’d just condensed it down to a Tweet.