There are Act Certified Consultants all over the world. Based in the UK, Will Ingleby has written an interesting article about email marketing. Enjoy.
Solutions for Accounting and CRM are leading Swiftpage Act! specialists. With over 40 dedicated consultants, developers and technicians, the company delivers complete CRM and Accounting Solutions to UK SMEs. Solutions have been specialists in their field for 20 years and are proud to be an Act! CRM Diamond accredited partner.
1. Develop a digital strategy:
Crystallize a simple ‘strategy’ in order to understand how Act! emarketing will contribute to your business. Be clear in your own mind about how it will work, what outcomes you expect and how you will measure its effectiveness. Be realistic about how much time you will dedicate to developing your email marketing capability. Why? If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there.
2. Get permission:
Work hard to build ‘opt-in’ lists (of people who have expressed an interest in dialogue with you) and don’t base your campaigns around bought-in, aged or low quality lists, or those that contain targets who have simply not opted out. Why? Permission is the key to all deliverability. If you send unsolicited email, you can damage your brand, invalidate your campaign and hurt your sender reputation.
3. Understand the law:
Research the laws that govern email marketing in the territory where you plan to broadcast. Why? The intent of law is common across the globe, but the method of its application varies. In the US, ‘Can Spam’ prevents the delivery of any unsolicited email, and in Canada you could face a $10m fine. In the UK, the legal requirement is that you get the subscriber’s permission by them taking a positive action, which is fully informed and freely given before sending a commercial email.
4. Deliver value:
Once people have subscribed to your newsletters, your work begins! It’s imperative to continue to deliver value in every subsequent communication that you send. Why? The first email that you send which includes repeated or irrelevant content will possibly be the last email of yours that they open.
5. Make quality a priority:
Provide clear visibility of who you are. Act! emarketing includes an informative footer to let the recipient know who you are and enables them to opt-out easily. Don’t send too many emails or poor quality emails which will generate spam complaints. Manage unsubscribe requests effectively, monitor and resolve spam complaints. Act! emarketing working with Act! Lead Capture forms uses a double opt-in process to validate subscriptions; showing subscribers that you take their rights seriously is an important aspect of ‘quality’. Why? Because taking a smarter, quality oriented approach costs little but can differentiate you from your competitors and transform your business.
6. Manage frequency:
Don’t confuse the ability to send mass emails at the press of a button with hounding. Figure out a level of frequency that you can commit to work with and guarantee to come up with fresh, engaging or inspiring content. Why? If you abuse the power of Act! emarketing, your clients/subscribers may demonstrate their annoyance by deleting your mails on sight, moving them to the junk mail bin or reporting as spam. The greatest challenge that you face is indifference. You’re battling with the subconscious mind of the reader to ensure that they perceive you to be a purveyor of high quality information. Otherwise, they just stop reading your stuff without even thinking about it.
7. Consider timing:
Try to ensure your email hits the recipient’s inbox at a time when they are able to engage with your message. If you can do this, you have a greater chance that the email will be opened and read as it is not competing with other emails in the inbox for the recipient’s attention. Act! emarketing shows you when recipients open your messages and helps you discover the best time-to-broadcast for your audience. Why? If you can get the delivery time right, you’ll earn a far greater response and also your ‘trust relationship’ with the recipient will have a better chance of developing.
8. Cleanse your data:
Try to implement some means by which you can check or cleanse your data. Why? Address churn on a typical email list is 20% to 30% a year on average. So, if a list is two years old, more than half of the addresses could have gone bad. You might waste half (or more) of your Act! emarketing email send allowance by targeting addresses that don’t exist anymore.
9. Master the ‘From’ line:
Act! emarketing enables you to customize the ‘from’ line for maximum positive impact. Put your company name (or description of your service) in the ‘from’ line for fast recognition. Why? Your email has to stand out in a crowded inbox. In a Forrester study, the two main reasons participants said they opened commercial emails were because they recognized the sender as a company they signed up with (40%) and because they recognized the sender’s name (52%). People look at ‘From’ before they look at ‘Subject’.
10. Craft a compelling subject line:
Try to avoid long words or being cryptic; don’t make the reader work too hard to understand what the email is about. Include a clear and unambiguous description at the beginning of the subject line and get the key value in the first 30-35 characters to avoid truncation in the Inbox. Why? People make rapid judgements in terms of whether an email might be important to them. The subject line has to grab the reader’s attention in a fraction of a second, and they have to ‘get it’ immediately.
11. Design for the inbox:
Design the top of your email to be ‘preview pane’ and ‘disabled images’ friendly. Use teaser text and HTML colours and layout rather than an image so readers can get an immediate ‘preview’ of your email even if images are disabled. Finally, put the important content – the offer, the call to action, newsletter contents – up at the top for immediate viewing. Why? Many email clients don’t show images automatically (including all locally installed versions of MS Outlook), and research proves that many readers don’t bother to download images, or change the default settings. Don’t expect the recipient to work too hard to understand your message.
12. Alt Text your images:
Act! emarketing enables you to ‘describe’ your images with ‘alternative text’. This isn’t seen by the recipient unless they’re using an email client that doesn’t automatically download and present images without User intervention, such as Outlook (so if you’re a business-to-business seller targeting office based recipients, that’ll be 90%+ of your audience). Why? Alt Text is presented in the box where your image would appear, and could be used to create an incentive to download the image (also, spam filters tend to mistrust emails with no Alt Text on images).
13. Map your colours:
Act! emarketing makes it easy to build professional and attractive templates that can drive a response. Yes, you can drop in your logo, but you can also colour code the entire template to match your own website colours. Act! emarketing allows you to type in Hexadecimal references (like #3AAA35, for example). Open the chrome browser and install the free ‘Color Picker’ from Chrome. Open your website and let the Color Picker tell you what the hexadecimal references are for your own page colours so you can match them exactly in your email templates. Why? You don’t need a marketing professional to tell you how important brand awareness is, and to build recognition of your brand in the client’s sub-conscience.
14. Personalize your message:
Personalization uses recipients’ own information to create highly relevant messages, which boosts your value. Act! emarketing enables you to personalize at the individual recipient level, with email that recognizes each one by name, company, city, etc. Why? Research proves that personalized components trigger an inquisitive reaction in recipients; recognition of a familiar word or phrase causes them to want to discover whether there might be value in the content for them. Don’t think of personalisation as just the name (“Hi Bob”); use other related words that may earn a reaction as well.
15. Segment your data:
Use Act! Groups to gather together Contacts with common characteristics. Structure email campaigns (or template variants) to appeal specifically to each Group of Contacts, reflecting their expressed needs, desires, challenges etc. Why? The power of Act! emarketing and Act! means that you can deliver a finely tuned message that is of specific interest to each individual reader, rather than merely showering all your Contacts in collective random evangelism. Segmentation is the key to delivering reader value, to ensuring longevity of the relationship (and their status as your ‘subscriber’).
16. Use a strong ‘Call To Action’ (CTA):
The first time a recipient opens your email is the single best chance you have to invoke a response. Make it very easy for them engage with you, perhaps in a number of ways so that they can choose the one they feel most comfortable with. Recipients usually make a decision whether to engage within a fraction of a second. Tip the decision balance in your favour. Why? If the email doesn’t induce the recipient to call up and surrender, at least an inviting CTA that makes it easy for them to express some level of interest means that you can choose an appropriate follow-up mechanism and begin a process of nurture.
17. Use HTML but keep it simple:
You can format messages in HTML (‘hyper text markup language’ – the stuff web pages are made from) or plain text. By creating HTML-formatted email messages, you can create visually appealing campaigns that look similar to web pages. Act! emarketing‘s HTML template editor provides you with the tools to present your content in a professional and attractive format without overcomplicating the look and feel of your message. Why? Inboxes are crowded places. Recipients are judgemental and expect high quality.
18. Test for Mobile:
Use ‘responsive’ templates that optimize the presentation of content to suit the device that is being used to read them (there are many responsive templates in Act! emarketing that you can easily adopt and adapt to serve your needs). Your emails need to effectively communicate your value proposition and earn a response wherever they are read, so don’t overlook the importance of multi-platform testing. Why? More than 55% of email messages will be read (at least initially) on a mobile device, and this percentage is growing continuously.
19. Use the Preview Snippet:
All Act! emarketing templates include a ‘placeholder’ at the top into which you can enter ‘preview’ text. Don’t underestimate the power of this. Although text appears small here, it is presented to most Smartphone users as standard and in a front size dictated by the device. Why? Smartphone users don’t get to see a ‘preview pane’, but they do see your ‘From line, ‘Subject’ line and Preview text’ before opening your email, and you can use this to sell the value of your communication. It should not repeat your subject line, but complement it to enforce your message.
20. Embrace the Emoji:
You can now copy and paste Emojis (small icons or ‘emoticons’) into Act! emarketing subject lines. Emojis can make your email stand out from the crowd. Use them carefully and sparingly though (don’t go mad and create a multiple emjoi mess, less is more!). Why? Because mobile users don’t get a reading pane and visually, there isn’t much to differentiate one email from another in a crowded Smartphone inbox.
21. Experiment with Video:
You can’t embed video in an email template, but you can embed an image which shows the first frame of a video with a YouTube style ‘Play’ button overlaid. Although it’s a simple picture, you can create the illusion that it’s a video, and users who click on Play button are taken directly to your YouTube video in a new browser window that opens automatically. Why? There is much evidence to suggest that users are engaging with video increasingly. YouTube is the second most powerful search engine and video is now a fundamental part of our digital lives. Improve your engagement with recipients by experimenting with this ever-powerful medium.
22. Explore Animated GIFs:
Many email clients are intolerant of moving images; however, you can easily create an animated ‘GIF’ file that cycles through a range of images at a speed you dictate. This will present itself as a single image to MS Outlook Users, but it will rotate through a carousel of images automatically to smartphone and webmail users. Why? It allows you to expose multiple views of your product (likely to grab the attention of your target) within the same frame – emarketing superpower!
23. Don’t assume delivery:
Use spam checking software that enables you to test your email templates before distribution. The test applications use the same SpamAssassin-type checks to discover whether your email is likely to get through to the inbox, scoring the mail and providing suggestions in terms of how you might improve your chances of success. A great example of a free spam-checking tool is mail-tester. Why? One of the key issues around email marketing is deliverability. As hard as the Act! emarketing development team are working to achieve greater ‘penetration’, the developers of spam filters are striving equally hard to protect the recipient and prevent spam from getting through.
24. Use the proper tools:
Many people send bulk mailings from their own standard email client – such as Microsoft Outlook – via their own ISP (Internet Service Provider). Whilst this is very low cost and easy to do, there are some potential pitfalls that might make a dedicated email marketing system like Act! emarketing worthy of consideration. For example, managing Opt-outs, avoiding email server overload, ISP blocking and response tracking. Why? Using standard email tools relies heavily upon the broadcaster consistently implementing manual checks and adhering to policies and processes that ensure the campaigns are successful, and that legal compliance is maintained. Act! emarketing helps you manage these aspects automatically.
25. Create good landing pages:
Think of a landing page (the place that readers of your email go when they click a link) as a part of your campaign content. Where possible, the landing page should be customized very closely to reflect the email advertisement (or ‘Call To Action’) which triggered it. Why? While enticing email creative is very important in order to attract click-throughs and website visits, effective landing pages are vital in order to engage the visitor and lead towards a mutually satisfactory conclusion to the process.
26. Integrate with Google Analytics:
So, they clicked… but then what? By adding a parameter to the landing page “URL” in the Act! emarketing template, advertisers can measure the return on investment of their email marketing campaigns by tracking what email recipients do when they reach the website. What pages did they explore? How long did they spend on the site? Why? It helps you to understand how satisfying the experience has been for the recipient and (in more realistic terms) how successful the campaign actually was in driving engagement.
27. Know your Open rates from your elbow:
Many email marketers don’t and to be fair, things are not what they seem! Why? All Email marketing tools measure ‘Open’ rates in pretty much the same way. An ‘Open’ is only recorded when a recipient has exposed your email (either by opening it, or previewing in a reading pane) in circumstances where the images in your email have been downloaded. Artificially high Open rates can be recorded where recipients ride up and down the Inbox with arrow keys exposing your content in the reading pane as they go). Similarly, you may see an unrealistically low percentage of Opens reported if your target audience are chiefly Outlook users (where images are not automatically downloaded).
28. Viral email marketing:
Viral emarketing uses pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes. The goal of viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create Viral Messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along. Why? If successful, you can extend your reach beyond your own Act! database exponentially.
29. Integrate with other channels:
The digital environment has exploded into a vast global communications phenomenon through the collaboration of users. This culture enables email marketers to complement and extend their campaigns through the use of multiple marketing communication channels. These might include blogs, feeds and Social Media platforms as well as traditional and hard copy alternatives. Explore this modern landscape and determine how it can interact with your email campaigns to derive maximum return on investment from your marketing effort. Why? Email is just one element of a diverse range of tools which can combine to draw the recipient into a rich and interactive environment, most likely to provide mutual value.
30. Follow up:
It sounds like a statement of the obvious, but so many marketers focus heavily on driving ‘click throughs’ and then don’t make the time to follow up on those who have demonstrated some interest. An email marketing campaign isn’t just about Opens and Clicks. It’s an end-to-end process that begins with an idea and ends (in an ideal world) with mutual satisfaction for marketer and recipient alike, where ultimate value is delivered to both. Why? If you can figure out what happened after they clicked, you can determine how best to capitalize on their interest with a follow up (by email, phone, direct mail, social media etc.).
What are custom tables, and why should you care?
As a technology, custom tables have been supported in Act! since version 2008, Service Pack #3, however, despite their relative longevity, only a minority of Act! users are aware of them – and fewer still using them. So what are custom tables, and why should we care about them? To appreciate custom tables properly, we need to understand what Act! is without them.
Out of the box, Act! is comprised of tables for Contacts, Companies, Groups, and Opportunities, and for the most part that is where Act! users store their field data. For the majority, this type of data structure is sufficient, with people storing information like dates of birth, anniversaries, and general contact information quite adequately within these tables.
For others, however, this type of rigid structure is quite limiting, as Contacts, Groups, and Companies do not support what I call “transactional data”. To illustrate the importance of this distinction, imagine having a contact field in your database for “Last Sale”. The data in this field would continuously be overwritten by the “latest” sales data for this contact, making any sort of history recording for this field difficult, if not impossible.
To illustrate a more complex example of the contrast between rigid and transactional data, I’m going to use the scenario of two mortgage brokers – one using Contact fields to store mortgage details in their database, and the other using custom tables. We could just as easily have used insurance brokers managing policies, or a car dealer tracking inventory, but the mortgage broker scenario is easy for most to relate to. Both brokers will have a Tab in their Act! database dedicated to mortgages, and both setups will support multiple mortgages per customer.
Scenario #1 – Mortgage Data in Contact Fields
The first broker organizes his data similar to the first illustration below, with contact fields for each mortgage’s “lender”, “Funding Date”, “Interest Rate”, “Loan Amount”, “Maturity Date”, and what not, organized in visually appealing rows and columns. At first glance, this setup seems both intuitive and organized, with support for up to four mortgage records per contact. It isn’t.
1. Illustration of storing mortgage data in the Contact Table:
The problem with this setup is Act! is a “contact centric” CRM, and as such it forces you to work with mortgage data like this on a contact by contact basis, and despite appearances, does not actually support more than one mortgage per contact and certainly not a fifth mortgage for this same contact.
For example, if the 1st broker looked up a particular contact and wanted to see their individual mortgage details, this setup would work fine, but if the same broker were to run a simple report on how many mortgages he had funded, or what their total value was, the results would be both incomplete and inaccurate. The problem is no matter which field he’s looking up or how complex his advanced query may be, the search results would invariably be limited to “contacts with mortgages”, as the total contacts and not the total mortgages would be responding to the query. In other words, his search results would never exceed the number of contacts in his database, even when the mortgages did.
So, after spending countless hours inputting all this mortgage data into his Act! database, this broker can’t perform an accurate lookup of any of the mortgage fields he’s using, because he was more concerned with how the data appealed to him visually, than how it worked functionally. The harsh truth is, to get accurate search results on mortgages with this setup, the 1st Broker would have to create a new contact for every new mortgage, even when this approach produced countless duplicate contacts in his database. Trading one mess with another is not a viable database solution.
Scenario #2 – Mortgage Data in Custom Tables
Now compare this fate to that of Broker #2, who recorded all his mortgage information within customs tables like the illustration below. In his database, each of the data lines represented different individual transactions, and each opened up to look like the following form (illustration #3) when drilled down into. All data points of each mortgage are contained within the form for each mortgage, and reporting is a snap.
2. Illustration of storing mortgage data in Custom Table:
3. Illustration of what each of the mortgages look like from the list above when drilled down into.
Custom tables would allow Broker #2 to click on the “mortgages” button on the left-side Navbar, to display all mortgage transactions from past or present, and allow him from the list view to easily filter this list based on whatever criterions he needed. As the illustration below indicates, he could also perform calculations, summaries, and export the results to Excel in a way contact fields couldn’t support.
Please click HERE for a 5-minute video demonstration of this exact scenario.
In fact, Contact fields were never meant to support transactional data, which is why custom tables are a much more efficient, flexible, and robust way to manage them.
So what exactly are custom tables?A custom table is a subentity within your database that nests under Contacts, Companies, Groups, and/or Opportunites. These subentities create a flexible one-to-many data relationship under one or more of these primary tables, creating a spreadsheet type functionality under each. Unlike spreadsheets, though, each row represents a self-contained collection of data that can be linked to one or more contacts, companies, groups, or opportunities, and can also be reassigned to others after creation as needed.
In list view, custom tables look like a spreadsheet within one tab of your database that you can store an infinite amount of transactional information. Each time you needed to add details for a new type of data (whether it be a mortgage, insurance policy, vehicle, or piece of equipment), click “Add” on that Tab’s toolbar, and up would pop a form where you could enter all the pertinent data for that custom entity. When you clicked save and close, it would neatly add another line to your Tab’s spreadsheet, and this process can be repeated as often as needed.
This custom entity can also simultaneously be linked to the contact’s Company, as well, allowing you to view them at the contact level, or roll up to see aggregate totals at the company level. For example, you could be tracking machines that you sold to different contacts within a company, but then pivot to the company level to see all the machines owned by the company as a whole. Powerful stuff.
More about custom tables:
- Custom tables work within all versions of Act! – Pro, Premium, and Web
- Create an unlimited number of functional, manageable “one-to-many” table-format tabs for Contacts, Companies and Groups in Act!
- Custom Tables are part of your database, and therefore fully synchronization enabled
- Convert a custom table look up to a Contact, Company or Group lookup
- Drill down on a custom table list view to access the detail view.
- Allows you to merge to Word or Email from a Custom Table lookup
- Search within tables and filter results for superior lookups
- Click to sort or filter in the list view.
- View related custom table fields side-by-side in the same view.
- Create robust queries and apply date ranges.
- Perform advanced calculations among fields and in the list view.
- Create activities or histories based on custom-table fields.
- Export list views to MS Excel.
- Merge any field, including custom table fields, into MS Word or Outlook
- Nest Tables within tables to further enhance & extend the capabilities of Act!
This has been part #1 on Custom Tables. Stay tuned for our next article and video on managing filters, calculations, and groups with custom tables.