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Andrew loves making things. After 10 years making websites and growing his business Brown Box, he now manages some of Australia's biggest corporations as they communicate with their customers through email through Oracle Marketing Cloud. Twitter | LinkedIn | Google +

April Fools Content Marketing

As someone once said, April 1st is the one day of the year that people actually check to see if what they’re being told on the Internet is true.

It’s a great day for companies wanting to engage their customers and have a little bit of fun – and while it has in latter years become a little predictable, there’s still something about it that is enjoyable.

The thing is though, the content being produced really only has a lifespan of a couple of days. Many companies go to great effort to produce believable material for people to consume only to be told it’s a joke.

But what if it wasn’t just a one off? What if brands had such a focus on their real products and services that they were able to produce content as good as the content on April fools day? To me it seems we’d live in a much more interesting world.

Take the following email from Contiki – it’s a great example of a fun company making their content fun. Almost believable, and worth pursuing to engage with them.

Contiki Introduces A.T.I.T.A: World First Artificial Intelligence Trip Managers

Travel & Tourism : How To Make An Email Welcome Series

I’ve been researching the tourism and travel industry’s use of email marketing for the 2 years, and have observed that apart from a few stand outs, the bulk of the industry isn’t doing email marketing well.

A statistic that stands out to me when I look at my research is that the average delay between signup and first contact is 9 days – and that’s if there’s even an email sent. Of those brands who I have monitored 38% haven’t even sent me an initial email after subscription.

That’s why I provide advice and assistance for marketers who might be looking to improve their email efforts, and get a smooth and effective marketing rhythm.

With limited resources and people stretched thin trying to do everything demanded, many CMOs feel like they are hard pressed just to complete the basics, let alone get a head start on the work that requires some level of thinking! And with 38% of businesses not even sending a FIRST email – it’s clear that there’s a lot more to be done.

What follows is a simple and easy to follow outline on how to do a welcome series of emails. I’ve been working in email marketing for the last 12 years, and I have a particular focus on understanding and thinking about what subscribers want to hear about. I believe subscribers want to hear from you quickly, often, and with a load of value attached.

Why you should make contact quickly

When it comes to our attention span online, we are notoriously impatient. We’re so impatient in fact that the measure of a website’s loading speed is directly related to revenue generated.

When Shopzilla dropped latency from seven seconds to two, revenue went up seven-12 percent and page views jumped 25 percent (source).

Don’t load your website fast enough? Potential revenue will be lost.

Get out of the bin

The same is true for the speed at which you speak a subscriber after they have given you their details. Attention is so precious that if they have bothered to provide you their email address – then you have something of great value. Make sure you get the most out of it.

The speed at which you respond, and reinforce your brand matters. The risk is that people will move on. And they will.

Not only will people forget about your brand, but if you take too long to send an email to them you’re going to get binned or reported for spam, as the link between subscription and first email is easily forgotten if it’s not within the realm of a single day.

Make useful contact immediately

Making the most of a new subscriber is more than just saying ‘thank you’ and then leaving them hang while you get a few ideas together for the next newsletter.

The person subscribing clearly sees value in your business – and they’re interested in what you have to offer. So the next steps you need to make are steps that reinforce that value.

Here’s where an automated welcome series is going to be so super useful.

By reinforcing value through communication of further value you’ll be building a case for this person to book with you instead of your competition. You’ll deepen both the knowledge and tie to your business that your subscriber has – and place you front of mind.

A basic but effective method for marketing automation

I want to outlay a really simple way of getting started with marketing automation. It’s not tricky, and people have been doing it for a lot longer than the phrase ‘marketing automation’ has been around. We used to call them autoresponders.

The three step ‘welcome and delight’ series

It’s a very simple method, and it gives you a really great basis for sending further content to your new subscriber.

Here’s what you’re going to send:

  1. Something quickly.
  2. Something of value.
  3. Something to do.

1. Something quickly

The first welcome email is an opportunity to quickly and easily make first contact and set expectations. Sending your email quickly is the best way to reinforce sign up recognition – so that the subscriber even remembers giving you their details.

Send this email within 24hrs of a subscriber joining your program.

In your content, include a welcome (not a thank you) and remind them where they signed up. You’ll also want to set the expectation of what type of content you’ll be sending to subscribers (discounts, tips, news), and if you’re going to be making the emails personal then introduce the person who is sending your emails.

It’s very simple.

2. Something of value

This is where a lot of businesses get tripped up. What’s next? How do I communicate anything other than just “Here’s a discount?”

There is so much more to offer than discounts or prices. Use this second welcome email to reinforce the value of your brand, and what your business has to offer.

Brands often use this email to share with subscribers a tip, or something useful that they may not easily know about.
It could be a ‘getting started’ email where you lay out useful or valuable information on how to do business with your brand.

Some other ideas include:

  • How to contact a person the business
  • Services that you have to offer other than your core product
  • A preference center for how to control your emails
  • What other customers find helpful or useful from the business
  • Hotels you could even offer ways for subscribers to customise their experience when staying

There are so many ways you can help a customer do business with you, and give them true value. Make this the focus of your second email.

Send this email the day after the first email. Two days, two emails.

3. Something to do

Really what you’re looking at here is the call to act and get a subscriber over the line. The first two emails bring additional value to the subscriber by way of introduction and additional useful information.

The third is going to ask the subscriber to take action.

Put a great value offer to the subscriber, give them additional reasons to purchase and make sure there’s a clear way of taking that action.

This is another simple email.

  • Make a clear and concise subject & headline with what you’re offering
  • Show the offer & lay out the benefits of purchase
  • Make sure there’s a visible, clickable button with active wording – ‘buy now’, ‘book now’, ‘get tickets’.
  • Reinforce social proof with a testimony, or increase urgency with a time limit

Send this email on day three after your subscriber has joined your list.

Three emails – three days.

Just do something

The key with this approach is to start something, keep it simple and finish it quickly.

Once it’s set up, you can let it ride for a while, measure the results and then tweak and measure changes.

It can be easy to get caught up in the day to day – grinding out print ads, Facebook posts, Instagram pics, and just get caught in the ‘instant’ world. Getting an email marketing welcome series up like this will provide value, and greater engagement with subscribers who are far more likely to purchase with you.

So give it a go!

Who Owns Your Audience?

The Disney-owned Maker Studios and YouTube have pulled away from PewDiePie, one of the video platform’s most popular stars, after a report that he had posted several videos featuring anti-Semitic imagery. SMH


PewDiePie’s revenue has just taken a big hit. It’s reported that last year he earned US$15 million, and now that YouTube and Maker Studios have distanced themselves from his content he’s got to be hurting.

Which raises the question for me. With 53 million subscribers on his Youtube channel, and billions of video views – what has he done to secure the future of his audience?

While the good times roll this probably isn’t much of an issue. The people stay, the money rolls in.

But what happens if you get dropped? What happens if your audience goes somewhere else?

Use your popularity to own your audience.

Horrible Email Preference Centers

Email marketing data can be useful to help target people well, and storing this information in your ESP is easy. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, then you’re really going to be opening yourself up to problems.

Marketers use pages called ‘preference centers’ as a way of including the subscriber in the collecting of data, and allowing subscribers to see and edit the information about themselves.

Good preference centers can help with:

  • Subscribers nominating different types of newsletters they’d like to receive
  • Allowing subscribers to determine when they would like to hear from you
  • If subscribers like to pause receiving emails instead of unsubscribing
  • Collecting information after the subscription process in an easily done way

But marketers don’t always want to show subscribers everything they know about a subscriber, and they definitely don’t want subscribers to be able to edit every piece of information about themselves.

How Preference Centers Can Go Bad

On this particular website where signup happens, you can see above that the only field available to the subscriber is for their email address. This is a great, low friction way of getting a subscription.

Easy done.

But that’s about as good as it gets. From the first email received it all starts to go wrong.

Wordlwide, many marketers use Mailchimp – and with Mailchimp having a preference center is pretty much automatic. If you’re using a Mailchimp template then the link to the customer preference center is automatically inserted into the footer of your email. Have a squiz below.

It’s small but it’s there every time an email goes out unless you do something about it.

The following example is real, and is not uncommon.

Yeah it’s not great. It is possible that those fields are used by someone manually importing data in through a CRM tool or other system, but to have a birthday field, and last name field in there twice plus ‘untitled’ just speaks of disorganised, haphazard approach to managing data. It’s really not great.

It’s likely the person managing the email account isn’t aware that these fields are exposed, nor that the option to hide them exists.

But there’s easy ways to avoid this kind of experience:

  • Make sure that all public facing data options are clearly marked in your ESP, and thoroughly checked.
  • Keep your data clean – make sure you only have one field of any type. Multiple birthdays for a single person? It’s not a thing.
  • Don’t allow me to add myself to mailings you wouldn’t want me receiving (I just joined HR and racks – let’s see what happens).
  • Test, test, test. For each email you send out make sure you click everything and see what a customer will see.

Is this Deceptive or Legitimate Email Marketing Tactic?

The ‘form’ shown in the email below contains data that encourages a subscriber to update their details. Upon clicking on the form entry, or item it takes the subscriber to a landing page where a subscriber can input/update their details.

For some this is deceptive behaviour

Some people think that forms in email are not real, they don’t represent a true user experience so when you click on them and they take you to another place, they’re being deceptive. As a result brand equity is diminished, and trust with the brand is eroded.

Others are okay with it

Maybe it’s simply a way for you to get the recipient to take an action, and we often step people through multiple step processes. When you go to shopping carts, or go through multiple step signup forms that reduce big tasks into smaller steps.

What do you think?

Gold Coast Email Marketing Example

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Andrew Beeston

Stuff I make up as I go.

Hi, I'm Andrew Beeston - apart from my day job I'm currently thinking about email marketing in the travel and tourism industry.

To help me create new ideas and engage in the practice of my profession, I write something fresh every day about email marketing, and observations of emails in my inbox.

It's an iterative process and I often revise posts after they've been posted. I'd love to hear from you if you have any reaction to anything I post here.


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