Forfront Fun at Christmas

Christmas!

It’s the time of year that brings people together, for fun, gifts and stories.

On the 20th December 2013, the Forfront family came together to celebrate the end of a fantastic year. Posting our best December figures to date. But it didn’t start off ‘all lovey dovey’!

The Forfront treasure hunt…

To kick-off the day’s celebrations, we started with a team building Treasure Hunt. Divided into teams our mission was to head out into Epsom and complete a series of challenges by obtaining certain objects, taking a photo by the Racecourse and best of all, getting a member of the public into the office to sing a Christmas carol. A great time was had by all, we saw some true competitive spirit and inter-team rivalry.

After the winners were announced and the dust had settled we made our way to our 3-course Christmas Meal on the Epsom Downs. A much friendlier affair, where gifts were exchanged and faces stuffed with food.

What a perfect way to finish an excellent year, filled with growth and exciting changes, and to welcome the new team members into our great company.

We wish you all, a very Merry Christmas.

Forfront

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Campaign of the Month: Sussex life – January 2014

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Sussex Life (by Archant)

Steady yourself. Try to relax. It’s finally here. e-shot’s Campaign of the Month winner has been handpicked.

And the award goes to…

Sussex Life!

As usual our winner hasn’t tasted victory for one attribute, instead ticking a long list of email marketing advantages – and avoiding the pitfalls.

It’s a winning mixture of design, content, layout and best practice that makes the Sussex Life newsletter a worthy winner.

To heed the example set by their very effective campaign, here’s our breakdown of their email’s best features:

  • Clear social media buttons at the top of the email – but not overcrowded with every social network under the sun, just Twitter and Facebook.
  • Excellent image/text ratio and great photography.
  • Great range of items relevant to their audience, from 10 facts about Burgess Hill to Worthing’s first Christmas Pudding Race.
  • The email has been nicely touched up with festive dashes without going overboard, such as in the Christmassy colour scheme plus the tree branch and Yuletide decoration at the top.
  • Sections where something is for sale are clearly marked but a high priority is also placed on elements that will engage subscribers and keep them interested.
  • Each item is nicely spaced and has an enticing and clear Call to Action.
  • The special offers at the end of the email are a great way to increase click-through rates and reward subscribers.
  • The Call to Action links are “read more”, “subscribe today” and “download now” – nothing as forceful as “BUY NOW!” etc.
  • Going for the subtle sell, concentrating on brand identity and driving traffic to all strands of their online media presence means that subscribers view their emails more favourably.
  • Also all of the text below each photo is a hyperlink for each item – but done covertly so the email doesn’t appear to be overcrowded with links.

Once again, massive congratulations and well done to Sussex Life for this sterling example of email marketing excellence – I spent a lot of time telling the rest of the office to buy me their Sussex Life 2014 Calendar for Christmas on the strength of the newsletter (and I don’t even live in the county!)

 

 

Tip of the Month for January

Top Five Tips of 2013: Vital for Getting the Best Start to Email Marketing in the New Year

I know, I know, the end-of-year practice of list-making is excruciatingly annoying and Buzzfeed-eque. But we’ve put together our top five guidelines from 2013 for more than mere retrospection; they’re all incredibly pertinent steps for ensuring your marketing is firing on all cylinders during the year ahead.

1. Welcome Emails

With all those new addresses you’ve added to your little black book during the Christmas online shopping boom, this tip deals with the ideal way to begin your email correspondence with new subscribers. Ensure a profitable and worthwhile relationship from this point onwards by following our detailed advice.

2. Maintaining Click-Through Rates

With your list healthily grown and things off to a good start with a lovely welcome email, tip number two tackles how to maintain healthy click-through rates throughout a subscriber’s lifecycle.

3. Testing

Testing is a hugely important aspect of email marketing, to guarantee you’re sending out optimum emails that get results (and don’t make anybody angry because of an accidental Americanism, typo or ill-considered subject line etc.) Tip three walks you through the different testing methods, their benefits and effects.

4. Segmentation

The fourth e-shot tip from 2013 concerns making the most from your email marketing by targeting specific groups of subscribers so that the emails they receive are the as relevant as possible.

5. Building Brand Identity

Last but not least, our final tip demonstrates the best ways to maintain a clear and likeable brand identity. It’s a really crucial facet of long-term email marketing, and done properly it can be exceptionally helpful to your business.

January Sales: e-shot’s Email Marketing Guide

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In the months before Christmas every shop and street is decked in decorations, TV adverts are quickly held hostage by Michael Bublé and all digital media channels become as festivity-obsessed as a seven year old rifling through an Argos catalogue.

This escalating hype is only natural. After all, the Yuletide period is the busiest time of the year for retailers – and every business fights hard to be heard above their competitors.

Immediately after December 25th you might just want to wallow with your hangover, indigestion and unwanted toiletry gift-sets. But fail to prepare properly for the festive aftermath at your peril.

In 2012 a fifth of consumers were expected to finish their shopping spree before January ’13 even began! Plus the Daily Mail reported last year that one in ten Brits were preparing to queue for up to two hours on Boxing Day to bag the best of the seasonal bargains.

Evidently it’s essential to prepare your email marketing campaigns for the post-Christmas period in the same way as you’d prepare for Christmas in the first place; nice and early, to take advantage of the selling potential.

Here are e-shot’s email marketing top tips for carrying your advent momentum past the big day and building on it throughout the year ahead:

 

Act As Soon As Possible

It’s no good going for the slow and steady, patient approach during the post-Christmas period. Amazon’s UK website said it had seen sales on Christmas Day itself increase by 263% over the last five years. While they’re a retail behemoth, it is a lesson to all retailers to quickly get into gear, on or just after December 25th.

While some of the largest online retailers are inundated on Christmas Day, the day after is when high streets and shopping centres are first packed with prospective customers. Why not take advantage of the hectic footfall by using email marketing – for instance send out a voucher code that’s redeemable in store to really pull those shoppers in.

Another reason to get going promptly with your post-Christmas deals is because the January sales period tends to end a lot earlier than in the past. Some stores in 2013 ended their sales within two weeks despite keeping them going until the end of the month in 2012. Marketing experts believe this trend is somewhat to do with fearing that consumers become disenchanted with lengthy promotions and stop paying attention – especially as stock levels of the better quality and most desirable products dwindle.

 

Segment

Segmentation is always one of the best features of email marketing, but in the post-Christmas sales period it is quite probably one of the best times of the year to use it.

If things have gone well then some of your email subscribers might have already bought from you in the festive build-up, and if you have already sold to subscribers, it’s incredibly effective to use this data to make clever estimates about what deals are likely to tempt them to buy from you again. Concepts such as “if there’s something Santa forgot to bring you” followed by a list of items similar to that user’s recent purchases are a great combination to entice return buys. For instance, if somebody recently bought a PS4 then target them with your PS4 games and accessory offers.

This means a far more intelligent, thoughtful and personal email to your subscribers than hitting them with the same big, homogenous email to your entire list. When data is analysed properly and you segment cleverly you stand a much better chance in the busy sales marketplace.

 

Value, value, value

When you think of shopping after Christmas you think of massive discounts. Retailers wanting to rapidly clear their leftover stock traditionally caused the glut of bargains on offer in January. Of course, nowadays shops ignore those old unwritten January rules and begin their sales on Boxing Day, or even before December 25th to encourage better pre-Christmas spending. Whenever retailers start their sales, consumers are always on the hunt for great value at the start of the year more so than any other time.

So your first step must be to ensure that email subject lines, headings and titles focus on your biggest and best bargains up for grabs to subscribers that react quickly.

 

Be mobile-friendly

As previously stated, Amazon UK have seen absolutely incredible growth of sales on Christmas Day. One of the reasons for this is undoubtedly that more and more users are happily tapping away on tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices while those around them are watching the Queen’s speech or Doctor Who.

From an email marketing standpoint, this makes it increasingly vital to ensure your emails render properly on all devices.

With so many consumers quite likely to receive brand-spanking new tablets or smartphones from Mr. Claus in 2013, when you’re sending out campaigns on Boxing Day or shortly afterwards it’d be foolish not to make certain that those newly-mobile openers are seeing your email in all its glory.

 

Customer relationships are for life, not just for…

Our marketing advice, and all other gurus and tipsters out there, agree to send send send before Christmas. It really is a great way to encourage business. However, an unfortunate downside is that some consumers eventually become resistant to all the wonderful deals being displayed to them.

The ultimate technique to bypass this offer-resistance is to inspire customer loyalty and engagement all year round. Easier said than done, right? True, but if you’re the company that gives customers fantastic deals all year round then customers might come directly to you before, during and after the festive period.

Email marketing is the best channel for encouraging this loyalty because you’re going directly into your subscribers’ inboxes and can target people with relevant content. Offering users the chance to select email-frequency preferences will keep them happy to hear from you, and so will consistently worthwhile and appealing content.

Eulogising or Exploiting? Reactive Marketing Needs to be Careful

With the growth of digital media, brands can now permeate all strands of modern life and communication. This multi-channel infiltration means that the relationship individuals have with advertising and marketing can be even trickier to negotiate than ever before.

Social media marketing is particularly on a knife-edge – because it is the arena in which brands are most desperate to penetrate.

The main tactics brands use? Trying to react as quickly as possible to any sort of news story or event. To try and carve out some attention on overcrowded news feeds and timelines filled with voices screaming to be heard.

A big problem with this is that people don’t always like to have marketing rammed down their throats. Especially with embarrassingly tenuous pretences trying to disguise the opportunism.

Evidently, it’s a difficult approach to master.

Read More: When Advert Placement Goes Horribly Wrong

A company might simply be trying to engage with the public by attempting to be relatable, human and caring. But if things are misjudged then the power of the internet to punish those brands is quite incredible.

When AT&T tweeted in honour of September 11th they were met with a huge barrage of criticism. I’m not a New Yorker and I’m not an American, but I’m not a heartless monster either. Yet I can’t see that the vicious online backlash was warranted. Their tweet (pictured) didn’t include a hard sell – or even a specific brand of phone or link to their site – instead it seems like an innocent tribute that unfortunately rubbed people the wrong way.

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However you view that 9/11 twitterstorm, it underlines how you have to be extremely careful with your reactive marketing, and never more so than when a tragedy or death is involved.

Naturally, Nelson Mandela’s recent passing was seen as a marketing opportunity for some. Companies once again bravely (or naively) straddled the line between reverence and abuse, homage and exploitation.

At one end of the spectrum, Apple were met by near-universal admiration and praise for their effort, chiefly because they didn’t use Mandela. They tastefully replaced their usual homepage with a large photograph of the great man. By using the South African’s image in their normal slot reserved for highlighting Apple products they made the gesture feel respectful, and not using it on social media to drive up site traffic helped their reputation further.

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On the other hand, the biggest Mandela-marketing cockup occurred when Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke (formerly of Deadline.com) took to Twitter to remember Mandela’s life and legacy. Only she went for an excruciatingly misplaced angle – combining her RIP message with the shameful promotion of an upcoming biopic about the political leader.

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It may be difficult for brands and industry professionals to negotiate moments of global mourning, but even a child could see Finke’s tweet was awful. In a very trendy and heartening way of retaliation for her insensitivity, Finke’s blunder was immortalised with the #FinkObits hashtag, mimicking her words with similarly stupid eulogies:

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(Tweets courtesy of Mediaite)

Whatever the subject matter – even when firms don’t make a monumental gaff – the likelihood of being considered insensitive is high. Engaging with the public by sharing in newsworthy moments, either commiserating or celebrating, is a dangerous line to tread. When it’s done right your brand could see an unbeatable boost in its image. Conversely, when it’s done badly… the repercussions can be monumentally damaging.

It speaks volumes that there’s a Top 5 Worst Brand Twitter Screwups of 2013 list. The mistakes come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s a valuable lesson to be learnt that social media should be handled with care. Even if you think you’re in a rush to beat your rivals to an RIP post, consider your tone first. You certainly want to be more B&Q after the St. Jude Storm than these nine brands after Hurricane Sandy.

The Showdown: Email VS. Direct Mail Marketing

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As a kid I never really got sent any post which was always upsetting. I didn’t know full well that when you get older you actually DREAD some letters coming through the front door. Back then, I was also far too young to have an email address. But naturally, as an adult I’m now bombarded with emails and letters, with every piece trying desperately to grab my attention!

It’s overwhelming.

Yet while many people assume the emergence of digital marketing will gradually kill off direct mail marketing, the two forms are both very much alive and kicking – and still very much bombarding us. If you don’t believe me, just have a look down at your Home Sweet Home doormat after you’ve been away for a week, or open your email inbox after you’ve been off the Wi-Fi grid for a couple of days.

So it’s important to take a step back and examine the pros and cons of both of these marketing channels, in a stern e-shot head-to-head!

 

Targeting

Email marketing is renowned for its clever ability to target subscribers based on a variety of specifications. Once you have gathered certain information from subscribers – ideally via a form they complete when signing up for your emails – it couldn’t be easier to segment contacts and target certain people with relevant messages to increase the chance that they’ll be interested in your products.

Having said that, just because direct mail marketing is considered more archaic than digital marketing, that doesn’t mean you can’t target your customers. To begin with, you can obviously target people easily and accurately by geographical location, as well as the same criteria as a targeted email marketing campaign – gender, age etc.

The one drawback to the direct mail method is that segmenting your contacts by set variables is always going to be slightly more painstaking than using email marketing software’s specially designed tools. Also, gathering extra information on your subscribers’ preferences and habits is a far more complicated process than emailing out a brief survey or asking users to update their details.

Email: 8/10

Direct Mail: 7/10

 

Statistics and Reports

With direct mail your company’s return on investment will be £4.60 for every £1 spent, on average. This is a gigantic £17.40 difference from the average email marketing return, which is an amazing £22 for every pound you invest. What’s more, with email marketing your ROI is far more easily measured – whereas with direct mail it borders on impossible to accurately gauge the numbers.

This is because when it comes to statistics and reports, email marketing undoubtedly triumphs direct mail by a mile. Immediately after sending a campaign you can plainly see percentages and digestible figures documenting its performance, from open rates to undelivered messages to the rate of subscribers who have clicked links through to your site. Even browse details as minute as which links were specifically clicked and by how many people, made especially easy by tools that many email services provide; such as e-shot’s intelligent heatmaps.

With direct mail marketing you’re essentially posting out a campaign and then left in the dark as to its reception and performance. In a way, this means direct mail marketing is similar to content marketing; it’s about playing the long-game, building brand recognition and laying foundations rather than hoping for instant results or being able to judge how things have gone.

Having said that, one possible way of making the response to direct mail marketing measureable is by including a voucher code that’s redeemable online. When the code is used returns can gradually be calculated. Similarly, if direct mail marketing is being carried out using catalogues then the campaign may be assessed from purchases made that way. Although
physical catalogues are costly to produce and send out, which isn’t a factor that email marketers have to worry about when they simply provide links to an online shop or buyable product range.

Email: 10/10

Direct Mail: 3/10

 

Time and Effort

The process of creating and email campaign can take time as it is designed in a way to increase the amount of engagement it will have on the subscriber. Tests after tests will be done; trialling certain things like subject lines, the positions of call to action links and the content itself, before finally the best performing version of the email will be sent en mass. Although this process may be laborious and protracted, sending the message directly to thousands of subscribers takes no time at all.

Creating a direct mail campaign may take the same time – if not a little more – than an email campaign. However, what differs the most is that the direct mail campaign may have to wait for several days before the letter or package has even dropped on a single person’s doorstep. Yet when a lot more time and energy has gone into the process of creating the letter, it should hopefully produce a more inventive direct mail campaign – one that easily dwarfs even the most original email marketing design.

Email: 7/10

Direct Mail: 6/10

 

Design

Design is a big part for both email marketing and direct marketing as it has a big effect on user engagement. How will the subscriber react and what is the next action the subscriber will take? Both marketing forms do it in fairly similar ways, but as we’re firmly in the digital age it’s important to ask; does email marketing have the edge over direct mail?

Direct mail can use any medium to display its content, being completely open to any design ideas brought to the table. Its limitations are only that it has to be able to go through a letter box. Graphic Designers can let loose and let their creativity run wild. This makes direct mail so much more exciting to wait for, and, if you’re anything like me, something that you receive in the post that looks amazing is going to be kept for its shear ‘awesomeness’!

Grabbing someone’s attention is the first and sometimes hardest marketing battle to win, especially while other loud and eye-popping direct mail campaigns are all fighting to do the same. But once you have their undivided attention, it’s time to let your content speak.

Many car companies benefit from direct marketing with 46% of adults looking to buy a new car respond to a direct marketing campaign with 70% of adults more likely to make a purchase.

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The compelling BMW mail pictured allows the reader to engage and interact with the letter and it’s designed in a way that it’s fun and enjoyable – tearing to open does more than simply shred the envelope. Interaction with direct mail is a powerful tool to get your recipient to read the content. Inside, the text itself is kept short and sweet and for more detail you can dive into the booklet provided. Check out some more cool and interesteing mail here. [http://designshack.net/articles/business-articles/12-brilliant-direct-marketing-pieces-you-have-to-see/]

With email marketing, the process of creating the email seems to be “old fashioned”! Creating an email design is still basic HTML coding, where everything is static and stuck in tables. Then, while designing an email there are certain guidelines that have to be followed to make sure it’s been received by your subscribers’ inbox rather than their junk folder, not to mention that you will have to design and cater to all email clients as they render your email differently, which sometimes makes your email look like a Picasso painting.

It is also hard to get your subscribers’ attention with an email because it’s not the design that will entice them to click open, but instead it will be the subject line. It seems that email marketing has quite a few limitations. However, once you get past these barriers then email marketing can be a thing of beauty.

Read More - Email Design: Capturing My Undivided Attention

Email design is a challenge for all designers, as it has strict guidelines that need to be followed to get the best engagement and to ensure the messages appear properly on all browsers and devices. But designers are not disheartened by this fact, instead striding to create a thing of beauty within these limitations. There are so many things that digital design allows designers to do. With all of the digital platforms at your fingertips, email design has be powerful tools to increase its engagement.

Images and words can be used as a link allowing you to divert subscribers to a particular website or landing page, using the email as a portal to other digital content.

 

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The first call to action that can be seen is the video link to an interview. In email marketing a link to a video will increase an email click through rate by 15%! The design is well laid out with not too much going on, allowing you to wander the page without being distracted. There are many ways to engage with the email as there are links to particular pages and also links to their social media pages which is a great way to convert them to a follower – if they’re not so already.

Engaging with the email is easy and simple, not needing to move from your spot, all you need is to click the call to action – unlike a letter where you may have to find your phone to ring up or turn your computer on to visit a website and follow instructions.

The Future Email Design.

More and more people are reading emails on the move with their smart phones or tablets. With Wi-Fi in most stores and a lot of public spaces, email is becoming easier to check almost anywhere. We are already seeing responsive templates being used to create better engagement with emails on smart devices. But in the future we could see more and more things added that will make marketers excited. In the short term we could well see videos in emails very soon.

Email: 6/10

Direct Mail: 8/10

 

Conclusion

It’s safe to say that both marketing channels still packs a punch. But one clearly stands out the most.

Targeting subscribers and the time and effort to create a campaign are near enough tied between the two.

However, with the design direct marketing wins, blow by blow. As it has less limitations than email marketing the possibilities are endless. Even though it dominates over email in this respect, it’s hard to predict how much impact direct mail has, whereas with email can show you which part of the design was successful with full statistics like who has viewed and even clicked within the email.

Including all of the other doggedly fought rounds, email marketing has emerged as the winner by a unanimous decision!

Final Scores:

Email: 30/40

Direct Mail: 25/40

The Breakdown:

From a marketing perspective, after all of this choosing email should be a no brainer. With reports and statistics you are able see the performance of all of your email marketing efforts with every campaign sent. You will also see what worked well and what didn’t, allowing you to alter your strategy to and improve your campaign for the next time round. Direct mail’s advantages with design landed some good hits in this bout, but email marketing rolled with the punches and came out on top in all other respects.

Festive Frontline Marked Out in the Christmas Children’s Tech War

Brace yourself. A few familiar fads-of-Christmas-past could be appearing on your children’s lists this year.

A latest incarnation of Sesame Street’s Elmo Hugs has arrived, and Argos have placed it on their “must-have” countdown of 2013 gifts. However, it’s unlikely to cause the stir that erupted when the first edition of the toy was released in 1996.

There were stampedes at shops, an innocent Wal-Mart employee was brutally hospitalised in Canada and it was even spotted being re-sold for as much as $1500 in New York – despite originally retailing at $28.99.

Then came Furby, the owl/hamster/demon-like interactive creature which caused similar public hysteria and has been terrorising peaceful family time since 1998. Now “a new generation is hatching”, as the manufacturer puts it.

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While it makes me shudder just to think of its irrepressible electronic gibberish, the 2013 edition – the Furby Boom – is a very modern twist on the late 90’s fur ball.

Children will be able to interact with the toy digitally using an iPad or smartphone, enabling them to feed the Furby, help it go to the toilet or even help it to lay an egg by playing with and caring for it.

It shows just how technologically advanced the children’s Christmas market is expected to be in this day and age. What’s more, going further than glorified toys, several companies are entering a tablet arms-race of sorts in time for December 25th.

In a recent report, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has found that tablet usage is rising rapidly among 5-7 year olds (now at 39%, up from 11% last year) and 8-11 year olds (at 44%, up from 13%).

But rather than parents clambering for the latest generations of Apple’s iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy tablet, devices specifically aimed at young kids are emerging as real forces to be reckoned with.

For one thing, parents don’t want their state-of-the-art, expensive tablets jeopardised by the sticky hands of their little ones. They also want dedicated devices that guarantee their offspring don’t browse anything they shouldn’t.

 

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The high end of the market is cornered by LeapFrog’s LeapPad Ultra, which is the third version of the device. Aimed at kids between four and nine years old, the tablet works with LeapFrog’s wide array of games and apps. Less of a toy and more of a junior version of an adult device, the LeapPad boasts a seven-inch screen, Wi-Fi, both stylus and touch response, front and back cameras, an 8GB hard drive and a clever child-safe web browser.

Operating along the same lines are the VTech Innotab 3S, the nabi 2, the Kurio 7 and the Oregon Scientific Meep. And not to be overlooked, Samsung have recently launched their challenger, the Galaxy Tab 3 Kids.

 

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By calming parents’ browsing fears, all of these manufacturers are vying for a niche section of the booming youngsters’ tablet market that was first created two years ago with the first incarnations of LeapFrog’s LeapPad and VTech’s InnoTab.

While they might not lead to parental punch-ups in the aisles or extortionate black-market bartering like Furby, Elmo and the Teletubbies did pre-Millennium, if children’s tablets continue to capture the imagination of their target audience then demand could quickly snowball.

As the toys have changed, marketing has had to adapt in a similar way. Word of mouth and contagious excitement play as big a part as ever, but digital marketing can now also be utilised skilfully to encourage hype.

Nudge parents to order early to avoid disappointment – remind them how gruelling the typical last-minute dash around high street shops can be. Warn when stock levels are low, final delivery dates are approaching or entice subscribers with tempting discounts and vouchers to attractively kick start their Christmas spending.

Nevertheless, some people won’t listen. So just to be on the safe side, don’t get in the way of a desperate, empty-handed Dad racing into Toys R Us this Christmas Eve.