You Might Be A Marketing Blogger If…

June 3, 2008 at 5:42 am | Posted in Blogging, General, Marketing, Meta, Online marketing | 3 Comments
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I find that marketers and bloggers are usually funny people and I was thinking about all of the ways we’re just a tad different than other folks.

So, without any delay, and in a Jeff Foxworthy-esque voice, I present: “You might be a marketing blogger if…”

  • You go through life wishing you could A/B test your own conversation. At the singles bar: “If I would have said ‘Hey babe’ instead of ‘Hello,’ could I have improved the response…”
  • You can decipher this sentence: FYI – I’ll get the ROI on the KOLs before COB.
  • You save all of the direct mail that comes to the house “just to see what the old guys are up to.”
  • Your wife asks if this dress makes her look fat and your first thought is “I’m gonna need some market research before I say anything.”
  • Continue Reading You Might Be A Marketing Blogger If……


How To Be an A-List Blogger – Commenting (Part 1 In a Series)

February 28, 2008 at 6:08 am | Posted in Communication, General, Marketing, Online marketing, Search, SEO, Social Media, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments
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“How to become an A-list blogger,” indeed. I may be going out on a limb with this series because I am not, in fact, an A-list blogger. However, I do contend that you don’t need a Ferrari to know how to get to the grocery store. I’m perfectly happy being the Honda Accord of your marketing strategy.

I got this idea from mega-blogger/Web 2.0 pioneer Jason Calacanis. If you’ve never heard of him, you may have heard of his companies. He started Silicon Alley Reporter, co-founded Weblogs.Inc, then became general manager at Netscape (when they were good), joined up with Sequoia Investments, and founded Needless to say, I can’t hold a candle to this man.

However, while I was at the gym, I was listening to a months-old edition of the CalacanisCast, in which Jason off-handedly offered two simple ways to become an A-list blogger: show up (fairly obvious) and comment on other (respected) blogs. Here’s the quote:

Continue Reading How To Be an A-List Blogger – Commenting (Part 1 In a Series)…

Do The Right Thing

December 5, 2007 at 5:32 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, General, Meta, Online marketing | Leave a comment
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I have a request for you all: Please vote for me at the Bloggers Choice Awards!

I am already on page 3 out of over 102 pages and it would mean a lot of exposure if I could be on pages 1 or 2. Voting takes about 20 seconds and is free. All you need to do is care about the future of this blog. And if you ask your friends to vote too, I would really, really appreciate it. (Heck, while you’re at it, get them to subscribe as well.)

If we bumrush the charts right now, I am hoping that early push will provide the momentum for later down the line. You are the key to that! If you find anything on this blog useful or insightful, please show your love by voting today.


Holiday Solicitation Emails, Part 3

November 30, 2007 at 5:37 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, Email, eNewsletters, General, Marketing, Online marketing | Leave a comment
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I have covered the look/feel and the content of holiday solicitation emails in my last two posts. I would like to use this third and final post to discuss frequency, directness, testing, and metrics.


Holiday emails should (obviously) go out prior to the holiday in questions. For most examples this means November/December. You can start even earlier if you are collecting funds that will need to be spent prior to a holiday project. Heck, even the occasional “Christmas in July” usually doesn’t hurt. Just do not only ask for money and do it all the time.

One oft-overlooked feature of this is cultivating a list in the first place. You should be building trust, providing value/a service to your readers throughout the rest of the year. If you do, and can prove that your holiday campaign is worthwhile, you will succeed. If you ignore your list until December, forget it.

When you are cultivating your list throughout the rest of the year; how often should you send emails? It depends on your mission, your audiences involvement, and the resources you have to devote to it.

  • Mission: What is your purpose and how does your communications plan fit in? Daily Candy and Very Short List deliver terse, daily emails. But if the Red Cross started doing that, I would definitely unsubscribe. Most importantly, send emails when you have something to say and keep it in line with your overall mission.
  • Audience: How often does your audience want to hear from you? How does your email fit into their lives? Devote a couple of months to testing this. Consider this example: Split your list in two, and then start the first group with frequent emails (say, four times/week) and gradually decrease over two months to just one email every two weeks. Compare this with the other group which you start sending emails to slowly and build up to four times/week over the same amount of time. Because this is over the same time period, seasonal reading habits won’t effect you. Plus, by splitting the group you negate the variable of how the frequency was changed (build up or slow down) and can focus on your audience’s interaction with your content. How did they respond when they got more frequent emails vs. less frequent ones? A short testing period usually produces clear trends.
  • Resources: Writing, editing, proofing, coding, and testing emails takes time. Plus, your writer needs to read enough or be in enough meetings to know what s/he is talking about. Are you willing to devote the time and staff costs to that? Do not budget in 2 hours/week and expect e-communications gold. You get out of it what you put into it.


I was at a birthday party many years ago and someone said, “I want a corner piece of cake with the giant frosting rose on it.” That stuck with me. What gumption! What nerve! I’d never have the temerity to utter those words. Ha, that’s what I thought.

Solicitation emails are not rude. It is not impolite to ask for money. The faster you get over that, the more successful you will be. You are giving donors the opportunity to invest in your mission. This is probably the most important thing I have learned about development over the years. I hate to bury this key message in a long blog post, but I delight knowing only the most committed reader will find it. So, congrats!

Ask for the piece of cake you want. As long as you can justify that you will use their money wisely, most donors appreciate pluck. Besides, they are used to people kissing their asses all day long. It is a nice break for them to meet with a confident, knowledgeable person such as yourself. And I guarantee that you will take home more money than the ass-kisser. Repeat this mantra: Ask for the piece of cake that you want!

How are you going to pass if you don’t practice?

I mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again: Test, test, test. Test anything, even crazy ideas. You never know how people engage your emails and the information you garner could be invaluable.

Some ideas: test tiny changes to your subject line, left and right alignment for an image or informational box, whether a table of contents helps open rates (because it pops up for users with Outlook), the effect of the email coming from a man vs. a woman, etc. This is a good article with three great ideas. (I especially love the third one, coming from politics and all…)

One thing to mention: do not include so many variables that one might effect another. If you test six different things all at once, you cannot reliably say which variable had a given effect. Be patient and test little by little. At one company, we tested whether including our company name in the header effected open rates. The difference is a matter of 20 characters or so, but we wanted to see the difference. (I’m sorry, I don’t remember the outcome of that test. Anyway, it depends a lot on your audience – “industry standard” is a misnomer.)

How reliable are metrics?

As a co-worker is apt to say, “Metrics only matter when you have something to compare them to,” and it’s true. Did you know that when individuals view an email in their Outlook preview pane that it does not count as an open? All HTML emails (emails with images or hyperlinks) contain a 1×1 pixel image that is the equivalent of an invisible picture. Images in your email are actually located on the sender’s server. When you open an HTML email, images are pulled from the sender’s server, trigger that 1×1 picture, and that is how they know the email has been opened – because that tiny image has called out to serve up the “picture.” (If you have ever opened an email with red “X”s all over it, those boxes are images that have not yet been downloaded, so you know it has not counted as an “open.”)

This is just one example of a misleading so-called fact. Sure, most folks properly open emails, but it is not as solid a figure as most people think. There are many, many examples just like this one. I deal in metrics in my day job and there is a lot you can discern from them. But you should also have a healthy distrust of assumptions based upon them.

Thanks for reading

As an overall supplement to this three part series, please see this article. It sums up what we need to do to create trust in a relationship marketing environment.

I hope this series has been helpful. This is in no way a definitive list of everything you need to know about online solicitation emails. It would be foolhardy even to attempt since this game (the strategy, mediums, abilities) changes so quickly. However, I hope these tips sound reasonable because they will increase your bottom line. This may be a new venue or method for this transaction, but the philosophy behind it goes back much, much further. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

(If you liked this series and do not want to miss out on future posts, subscribe to the blog. Thanks!)

Holiday Solicitation Emails, Part 2

November 29, 2007 at 6:05 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, Email, eNewsletters, General, Marketing, Online marketing | 1 Comment
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This is part two of a series where I write about those emails that come into your inbox each holiday season asking for money. I’d like to see your organization get its share of cash. Here are some tips to do so. Today, I’m focusing on content. Be sure to stop back tomorrow for part three (or have it sent to you by subscribing via Feedburner).

What should I say?

I know, I know, you have so much important stuff to say because your work is SO important. Put on the brakes. Approach this content as you would a date. Don’t try to get in a proposal on the first pass. Go slow and build up the reader’s engagement (i.e. read the content, then research the website, then check the citations/facts, then they will open the checkbook). This isn’t to say you should be un-emotional. Emotive triggers are meant for solicitations. Just be wise about how much and how soon. Marketing is about relationships.

A word about priorities: If you have 15 priorities, they’re no longer priorities; it’s a laundry list. Be prepared to rein in upper management if necessary. Sometimes they approach a donor list like it’s an ATM. Convince them with the relationship argument: Do you want to risk list burnout or cultivate a long-term affiliation? (I will write more about the appropriate email frequency in tomorrow’s post, so don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.) This summary sums it up:

[B]adly targeted, irrelevant business emails irk customers, don’t generate sales or satisfaction, and can tarnish customers’ perception of a once-trusted brand…Because of [Hewlett Packard’s email newsletter’s] emphasis on deep customer research, relentless testing, and continual improvement, “Technology At Work” influences over $100 million in revenue and saves millions more in defrayed customer service costs.

Well done, Forrester.

How should I say it?

Ensure the tone fits with your group. Peta and Greenpeace can be a little more cavalier than the Center for Responsive Politics. If your group rabble-rouses, the email should incite. If you are engaged in serious debate or advocacy, your reserved tone will come across as staid in a smart way.

One action to rule them all

If you are composing a holiday solicitation email, you are asking for money. However, keep in mind for this email (and the many others throughout the year) that you should only have one main action or “ask” per email. Even for holiday solicitation emails, various staff member may approach you. “Can’t we ask them to send the email to their friends?” “Can we encourage them to join our MySpace/Facebook/Flickr/ groups?” “Can you include a mention of this article?” Enough.

I’m not saying that your audience is dumb, but they don’t have a lot of patience. They are rushed. They would appreciate being led. So lead them. Leave all the periphery actions people want to include in other emails or at least buried at the bottom.

I also recommend using a friendly URL ( rather than a bunch of junkCommon Cause email with arrow small (…well, you get the point). Also, give your donation link its own paragraph and make it bold. This will draw the readers’ eye. Check out how Common Cause got it right. Notice the two stand-alone links to the donation page, plus two links in the upper-right box and another at the end of the email. Sprinkle links generously – you never want your reader to need to search for them.

Gauging success

Set a fundraising goal and keep your audience informed of the progress. (This harks back to Howard Dean’s bat as I mentioned in yesterday’s post.) This will not only help you measure success, but it will galvanize your audience into completing a task. Many of us must finish a task and many of us like to know that others are contributing as well. Be honest about your progress and you are more likely to succeed.

Be polite

Just because we are in the crazed internet age does not mean you can neglect a proper salutation and a “thank you” or “sincerely” at the end. It sounds so basic but I have seen prominent organizations send out emails as though they were talking to a friend rather than asking for money. We do not trust rude people as much as polite people and they will only donate if they trust your stewardship.


Here are 10 more tips that I found useful. Feel free to send me solicitation emails you think are wonderful successes or horrible failures. And tune in tomorrow when I finish off this series with suggestions regarding sending frequency, list management, and a quote about cake. Yummy.

Holiday Solicitation Emails, Part 1

November 28, 2007 at 6:02 am | Posted in Boomers, Communication, Email, eNewsletters, General, Generations, Marketing, Online marketing, Usability | 5 Comments
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A friend suggested that I post about holiday solicitation campaigns. Not to sound prideful, but I have done a lot of these campaigns – both online and offline – and seem to be pretty good at it (the checks have come in, at least). I will outline what I think are good things to keep in mind; less of a definitive checklist and more a list of handy tips/opinions. Five important notes:

  • Most of my experience is in the non-profit/advocacy/political realms, so give proper weight to a particular tip depending on your industry.
  • This game is always changing. What works online (or offline for that matter) is not static.
  • I will meld as much as possible the online and offline strategies. They are similar, obviously, because the goal is to persuade someone to give. Some of this will be evident (i.e. message length will effect your number of pages in direct mail – not the case with email). I will attempt to point out if a tip is applicable solely on the online channel or in direct mail (DM).
  • If you find these tips useful, subscribe to this blog (see the gray box on the right side) so you don’t miss part two and three.
  • Forward this to your development department. It can’t hurt.


Ideally, you would have started this process at least a month ago (sorry, I had just started the blog then). Give yourself a month to plot out the strategy, meet with the decision-makers to get their support, do several drafts, etc.

One email does not a campaign make. Since email doesn’t cost anything, send out several (as long as you have new content and something to say). However, do not send out the exact same email twice unless you segment your list to suppress any people who opened it the first time around.

I like a strategy of one email per week for four weeks. It gives four touch-points – enough to highlight several aspects of the work you do, yet the campaign is short enough not to drag on.


Let’s get granular! Your choice of font should be decided by 1) your conventions – keep things consistent, and 2) how your organization should be viewed. I recommend serif fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond) for a professional portrayal and sans-serif font (Ariel, Verdana) to seem down-to-earth. (Sans-serif is easier to read online, but decide for yourself depending on your org.)

Shoot for 12 point font. While your eyes may be spry, more mature adults have worse eyes and more in the bank. You do the math.

Some folks prefer the antiquated look of Courier – reminiscent of typewriter days of yore. These are usually people who also enjoy multiple font colors and garish backgrounds. We’re not selling used cars folks, we’re selling ideas and those are worth money. Like your Momma said, don’t go out looking cheap. (And if you even think of using Comic Sans, heaven help you.)

Overall Design:

  • Small paragraphs are easier to scan than long ones. If this isn’t the first blog you’ve ever read, you probably know what I’m talking about having seen what is out there.
  • Vary your sentence structure – no bunches of complex sentences or tons of semi-colons.
  • Short, emotive sentences are good. Remember that you have about 1.2 seconds to snag the reader or your email goes into the trash.
  • Bold and italics are OK, but only here. You need to communicate quickly and that means occasionally grabbing eyeballs. However, chose your emphasis sentences (or words) carefully and don’t go crazy.
  • Is your logo visible across the top or in the upper-right corner (save the left for your salutation)? The eye and brain of the reader are able to discern in a split second whether s/he is affiliated with your organization and trusted org emails get read. Everything else is trashed.
  • Check what your email would look like with images turned off. Is some text still above the fold (high enough to be read in a standard computer screen)? Needless to say, do not rely on HTML images to communicate your message. It may look pretty, but what’s the use if no one sees it?
  • White space is your friend. If you stuff in a ton of text, you end up looking like harried Ralph Nadar rather than classy Frank Sinatra. Go for classy.
  • Put your graphic designer on alert. You may want to show the incremental increase of funds from week to week in a visual form. See Howard Dean’s bat for an example. You could have them put together different images for each week of the campaign prior to its launch if you know they will be busy (i.e. closing a magazine issue) or they can gauge it from week to week in respect to the money coming in. Either way, give them some advance notice.

Tomorrow, I will cover content and then Friday I will wrap this up with tips on delivery. I hope this is helpful and I hope this post does not sound like I know all about raising money online. I just know I’m pretty good – not necessarily the best. Use the comments section to send me your own suggestions or links to helpful articles.

Thank You

November 21, 2007 at 7:16 am | Posted in Communication, General, Marketing, Meta, Online marketing | Leave a comment
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I have enlisted so much help over the past couple of weeks in an effort to get this blog up and running. And man, have you guys responded. So many people have pitched in and I am awed by your support. I’d like to take just a moment to thank you.

So many people – family, friends, former co-workers – have done something to get the word out. I have heard about you telling your friends, seen mention of the blog in your email signatures and gmail status bars, noticed the and Firefox bookmarks, and I have been amazed by your evangelism and support.

You might not realize this, but I wake up at 5am (or earlier) to write this blog. It’s a time when work and family do not yet need me and I can focus solely on this project. And in those cold, dark mornings, it means a lot to know you’re there. To know that you were that visit or that click, to know that you give a damn about something as nerdy as online marketing. Or maybe that you just give a damn for me. Whatever your reasons, it does not go unnoticed.

Thank you.

Review: First Impressions And Length Matters

November 20, 2007 at 5:56 am | Posted in Communication, General, Marketing, Meta, Online marketing, Usability | Leave a comment
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I am into the double digits in regards to number of posts (in one month no less!) and I have already realized I could be messing up two very important things: the headline and the length of content.

Here’s what I’ve done well re: headline:

  • Numbered/bulleted lists
  • Descriptive words good for headers (optimized search)

And here’s what I could improve re: headlines:

  • General/blasé headlines
  • Not enough hooks – numbers, question, etc
  • Most do not fulfill a promise
  • Do not think enough about the niche marketer reader AND the regular Joe
  • Focusing on my niche (regular people who have to be online marketers)

There are more for both categories, but these are the ones that seem most relevant to me this morning. I think I was in the middle in terms of having truly descriptive sentences. Check out Magnetic Headlines for great advice.

Secondly, how are the length of my posts? Throughout this process, I’ve been thinking that they were too long. This may or may not be the case. Jakob Neilsen has a great article on long vs. short articles as a content strategy.

Of my 13 posts, only 3 are longer than 600 words. Plus, my strategy is not necessarily to get the most traffic. I’m under no delusion that everyone in America will wake up interested in online marketing. Rather, I want a targeted audience and need to relax if my gross numbers are not through the roof. This strategy allows for longer articles since the audience is assumed to be more invested already in the content.

Plus, Neilsen mentions the benefit of having every third article longer than the others. This works out almost perfectly with the length of my articles. The basic truth is that I do not think in little blog posts – I think in fully formed articles. If I try to alter too much of what is my natural inclination, I think it will be detrimental to the blog.

What do you all think? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Are you getting what you want out of this blog? Would this blog help the every day guy who is trying to market his stuff online? What headlines drew you in and which didn’t? Are the articles too long or too short? In the end, this is all about what is good for the reader, so don’t be shy.

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