Email Communications Marketing

You were right!

Email subject lines are an important part of determining whether your email will be opened. First, people look at the From Address. Then they look at the subject line. Get either of these wrong and there is a 99% chance your email will not be read!

“You were right!” remains the best-performing subject line that I’ve ever crafted. I’ve used it twice, for two different employers. In each case, the open rate exceeded 30% for the in-house lists to which it was delivered.

Why did it work so well? First, it is important to know that each time the email had been preceded by another campaign that wasn’t opened in such large percentages.  It was an emailed customer survey. So, recipients could possibly have anticipated that the “You were right!” campaign could be a confirmation of their survey answers. That could be part of it.

But I think the subject line worked because it appeals to our vanity. We all want to be right. We love saying, “I told you so.” So regardless of whether a customer remembered taking a short survey or not, most people are curious to know what makes them so smart.

But, be careful. Customers don’t like to be tricked into opening an email. The email content must have a legitimate payoff. It must reiterate the subject line and have relevant content that leads to a clearly visible call to action.

In the “You were right!” message, the email explained that a customer survey had been conducted and that X% wanted this feature and X% said they wanted this functionality. In truth, both the survey and the “You were right!” emails were methods to promote some exciting new features, functionality and services. The calls to action were “Tell us what you think” and “Get a FREE quote”; each going to a unique landing page with a simple form.

The point of this post is really to highlight the importance of brevity and catering to human behavior. “You were right!” stands out as an email campaign success because it is three simple words that worked like a curiosity light switch.

For help with your email marketing campaigns, even if it is only writing subject lines, I am here for you.


Marketing Momentum – Keep the ball rolling!

During good times and bad, it is important to keep the marketing ball rolling.

Why? Simple. Starting the ball from a dead stop requires MUCH more energy than the energy (money) required to keep the ball in constant forward motion. Also, when the ball is already in motion, any more money that you put toward it (seasonal campaigns, for example) will have greater effectiveness.

Ever notice that the companies that consistently advertise….continue to consistently advertise? Advertising is quite expensive. It simply must be working! But the sad truth is, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.  Like timing the market, it is futile to think you can advertise or do any other marketing effort in sporadic spurts and expect it to be effective. Marketing is about consistent effort and long-term visioning that is based upon experience, trends, and creativity.

Let’s get the ball rolling and keep it rolling! First, let’s define what keeping the ball rolling means.

  • Keep your name in front of existing clients – via email, direct mail, broadcast, face-t0-face, tradeshows and phone contact.
  • Get referrals from existing clients.
  • Get existing clients to provide testimonials.
  • Get your name in front of prospective clients.
  • Network with strategic partners.
  • Get media publicity.
  • Generate fresh content for your Web site.
  • Regularly optimize your site for search engines.
  • Regularly monitor Adwords to increase numbers of sales while lowering cost per sale.
  • Take advantage of all the FREE marketing firepower that social media can provide.
  • Analyze your Web site to improve the user experience.

Have you done this? Did you do it last month? Will you do it next month? Will you do it EVERY month?

For most small and mid-sized companies, these things only get addressed sporadically. The CEO, sales manager, or marketing director may have every intention of doing these things.  Unfortunately, they are too easily put off to deal with meetings, reports, client meetings, vendor meetings and necessary other matters that eat time, but, more often than not, don’t generate revenue .

Look again at each of the bullet points above. Each one has a “nice to have,” but “non-critical” feel to it. Put any three of them together and you’d probably be thinking, “If we did that consistently, I bet we’d have more business.” You know what? You’d be right!

You can, once again, tell yourself that you or one of your staff will do these things. Or, you can enlist some outside support (me), to ensure that these things get done. The choice is yours.

Let’s keep the ball rolling.

Eric Strautman – Ball Roller, 816.797.9946                                  


Journalism skills come in handy

I recently observed how valuable my journalism skills are to what I do. Whether I am writing text ads to run on Google’s network, identifying partnership opportunities, or trying to win a new account, I always seem to call upon some time-tested journalism skills.

Listening is a key skill that was taught in J-school at KU and in Mass Comm at ACU. But words and sounds are only a small percentage of what listening requires. Observation is part of listening. Body language, tone and what is not said, are often much more important than what is actually said.

In journalism courses, I was drilled in identifying the “Why” of the story. Other facts that imbue from who, what, where, when and how are required also, of course. However, the answers to”Why” almost always reveal the most interesting nuggets that make a news story or feature so compelling. We seem to naturally want to understand the “why” of things.

Leading a story with the most important facts was always a good challenge. But it is a good exercise to go through in business communications as well. What are the most important things to communicate to your audience. Why should it be important to them?

Headlines must capture attention.Writing headlines was always my favorite journalistic task. Using as few words as possible, I’d create headlines that compelled most people to read at least the first few lines of a story. Headlines are even more important today since there are so many things competing for our attention. Email subject lines, Web page subheads, White Paper names, even Tweets – these all require great headline writing skills.

I’m showing my age here, but deadlines used to be the driving force in publishing. You had to have your stories completed at a certain time to allow for editing, rewriting and layout, so that a publication could be printed, packaged and distributed on time. Some of that sense of urgency remains in the publishing industry, but it is different now, with 24-hour news cycles and wide-spread consumer access to the Web, email and smart phones. It is different in business now too. Competition is now 24/7. Companies must move faster and continually release new content, new products, new strategies, and news to placate customers and investors.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes the simple task of putting the right words in bold, italics, quotes, or underlined is more important than you first realize. More than ever, people skim content to look for the most important ideas and news.


The Multiple Values of Google Adwords

Results matter.

Google Adwords, when done correctly, brings you additional online sales that are still profitable after deducting the expenses associated with Google Adwords and the usual expenses of conducting business.

But there are other values that need to be recognized and valued. However these can be highly subjective, so they will never be the same for any two businesses.

Non-Purchasing Visits. These people visited your site but did not make a purchase. Is that worth anything? Maybe they’ll remember your site when they finally get the itch to make a purchase? Maybe they’ll bookmark your site or send a your link to a friend.

Opt-in Prospects. If people complete a form to get onto your email list, they have indicated an interest in buying your products or services in the future. But because only a small percentage of people actually open emails, you have to be very conservative about the value of additional prospects on your mailing list.

Branding. Let’s assume that NO ONE clicked your ads. Yikes! That would be really bad, right?  Yes and no. Yes it is bad, in that you are not going to experience any online sales from your advertising. But No, in that you haven’t spent a dime, but still got your name and URL out there. Some people don’t click ads and, instead, just visit the site directly. Others simply see your ad, remember your business name and then get distracted or enticed by some other ad. This branding effect has a value, but it is very small.

Post-Purchase Activity. If someone did buy your products or services online as a result of your Google Adwords ads, they might, depending on your business and their satisfaction, make additional purchases with you in the future.

Taking Sales From Competitors. Taking revenue and profit away from competitors is often just as important as making the profit on a sale for yourself.

Your Google Adwords budget should be dictated by the actual sales that you can make at a profit. But don’t lose sight of the extra values that you earn. They help justify the expense, effort, and time that it requires to make Google Adwords work for your business.

If you’d like some professional help in managing Google Adwords, I am here to help.

Eric Strautman 816.797.9946


PR is FREE (sort of) publicity!

Yes, I provide PR services. I’ve done business PR throughout my 25+ year career.
I start by understanding what the true goals are:
  • Do they want to see their name in print?
  • Do they want notoriety?
  • Do they want more links back to their Web site?
  • Is it about branding or to drive sales?
  • Is it to enhance credibility?
  • Is it to encourage venture capital investment?
Once the goal is defined, I can custom-tailor a PR program.
  • I can write news releases.
  • I can submit them to free online distribution services (They produce inbound links for the clients Web site but may or may not be read by humans).
  • I can submit news releases to paid distribution services.These can be expensive, but the news releases are more likely to be published and read. There are ways to reduce the monthly investment while still getting 90% of the value.
  • I can submit news releases to industry publications (printed and online).
  • I can submit news releases to specific editors and reporters, to encourage their coverage.
  • Once the news releases are published on a reputable site, I can re-promote the news release via email, social media, and other channels.
PR (Public Relations) remains one of the best bang-for-your-buck marketing investments that you can make. But just because a great deal of it is free, you shouldn’t ignore it or not make an effort to do it well. It is an essential part of the marketing mix. And because of Web sites and social media, you will want to invest some funds to control the message and measure the results. Doing so will enable you to have higher and higher performance over time.
Take shortcuts and you’ll end up with mediocre results that won’t accomplish your goals.
Your PR should be a planned part of your overall marketing strategy. Plan, prepare, execute, measure, improve. If you need my help, you know where to find me. 816.797.9946 Eric Strautman

Keep the revenue you earn, while making more.

Call 816.797.9946 for payment processing for start-ups, mobile payments, stores, kiosks, and virtual terminals.

If you are in business, you take payments from clients or customers.

There is an expense associated with taking those payments. Your bank wants a cut, Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express want a cut, and your payment processor (the one who sells and services what the banks and credit cards offer) wants a cut.

Do you have unnecessary multiple payment processors? You might have started with a brick and mortar store added a location, then started selling online and then started selling via mobile devices. As a result, you might have two or more payment processors, multiple statements to decipher and, as a result, are paying too much.

I work with Kansas City-based MerchantGuy, to provide payment processing services at reduced rates. We often find that businesses are able to save between 15% and 70% on the fees. I educate customers on what the charges are and which ones they can control.

I also help uncover new revenue streams and implement recurring billing.

For a free quote on payment processing that has no leased equipment, no contracts and no nonsense, call me at 816.797.9946. Eric


15 Google Adwords Tips

ImageAfter managing $200,000 worth of spending on Google Adwords for an employer, I learned a few things that I would like to share with you. 

1)      Buying clicks, just to get clicks, is a strategy for building brand-recognition, but won’t convert to sales in most situations. did this to establish a foothold in the online gift buying space and to see what keywords would work. They used 20,000+ keywords.

2)      You can really only make judgments about what is working based on numerous clicks. If you don’t have an adequate number of clicks for a keyword, ad, or campaign, expand the date range, but be careful not to include holidays or other extremes, because that would most likely skew the data.

3)      On holidays, keywords that previously were underperforming might perform quite well. Understand that buyers will search and convert differently on such holidays.

4)      Older, seemingly outdated terms like “Gift Certificates” might perform as well as or better than more modern terms like “gift cards”.

5)      If older terms like “gift certificates” are working, what can that tell you about the searcher? Most likely they are an older generation buyer. Or, they might be highly educated and use that term instead of “gift cards” because gift cards is often confused with “greeting cards.”

6)      Carefully evaluate Google’s recommendations that you raise your bid level for increased exposure on various keywords. Look at the keyword performance over time and its cost per conversion. If the cost per conversion is $4 and your acceptable level is $8, you may be able to nearly double your bid to acquire a higher volume of sales.

7)      Don’t forget misspelled keywords. “Gif cards” and other typos produce a respectable amount of volume. But, only do this for misspelled versions of your higher performing keywords.

8)      Your landing page is super-important. Test several. Some will work better at different times.

9)      On holidays, people like to see the holiday theme on the landing page.

10)   If your product or service requires some level of explanation, try landing them right on the “How it works” page, if you have one.

11)   Make ads descriptive enough to dissuade curious clicks. If non-buyers don’t click, that’s great!

12)   Test multiple ads. In low click volume campaigns, you’ll need to pause ads so that two ads get an adequate number of clicks so that you can make judgments about what is working.

13)   Timing is important. “gift card ideas” might not perform well until the day before a holiday because the user’s gift-buying options at that point are limited. So just pause it and only turn it on right before the holiday.

14)   High volume holidays are your opportunity to offset those days when the cost-per-conversion was higher than you’d like. Don’t forget to raise your daily budget level. You don’t want to miss the volume, as long as your cost-per-conversion is acceptable.

15)   Don’t freak out the cost-per-conversion seems really high at the beginning of a day. Often, just one or two more conversions will make all the difference. Be patient and trust the historic performance. Some days will be higher and some will be lower. You can’t make judgments on a day’s performance except during high volume periods like Christmas.

If you liked these tips and found them valuable, I have tons more. But you don’t get them unless you engage me to handle your Adwords account. Call me at 816.797.9946 to discuss your needs. Thanks. Eric


New Web Content – Keep It Real

Don’t take shortcuts when creating new content. It will do more harm than good. Shortcuts include:

  1. Hiring offshore writers to create keyword rich content. (Site users don’t want to suffer through a manufactured-feeling, keyword impregnated page. They want natural text that communicates clearly and succinctly.)
  2. Posting content with little thought to how powerful keywords are for ensuring that your content is found, read, and compels action. (Getting found is one thing. Getting read is another. Compelling users to act – fill out a form, buy something, download something – that is yet another. Writing to accomplish all of that requires practice and skill).
  3. Duplicating content from other sites you own or those you don’t (In the latter case, that’s plagiarizm. But even if it is borrowing from another site you own, it is a bad idea. Google sees duplicated content as an effort to game their system. As a result, they dock Page Rank points for both sites).

New content is vitally important. Google loves new content. It values recency in addition to relevance. Fresh content will help your search page rankings. More importantly, though, it will be appreciated by site users and will convert better.

Writing for a Web site page is different than writing for a printed brochure or a blog. People prefer shorter, crisper content. They also want content that is genuine and perfected. If your content has a strange “voice” like English text written in India, China or Australia, your users will detect it and wonder at least two things about your company. 1) Did this company hire offshore writers? 2) Is this company itself offshore?

Create new content, not new questions.

You want users to focus on the benefits of your products and services.

Milli Vanilli gained infamy for not keeping it real. Girl you know it’s true.Image



Slogans and taglines need to sell!

Recently I visited with Dennis Chapman, development director for City Union Mission. While I was there, Dennis showed me the organization’s old slogan, “Putting the pieces back together.”

He admitted that he’d grown fond of the slogan, because it summed up what the mission does. It gives homeless men, women and families a long-term (1-year) home to provide a foundation for them to improve the areas of their lives that have led to their homelessness. It could be addictions (gambling, alcohol, drugs), mental problems, socialization problems, or family dysfunction.

When Gragg Advertising visited with Dennis and boldly told him that the organization slogan wouldn’t sell, he initially resisted their advice and defended the honor of the slogan. But when Gragg Advertising came back with a suggestion for a new slogan, Dennis said he quickly saw the difference. He had been moved by the power of words.

The new slogan was short and simple. “Your city. Your mission.”

Kansas City’s City Union Mission now has a new tagline.

What’s so great about that? You might say.

Look closer. The “Y” in each declaration is screened back, so that the slogan does double-duty as “our city. our mission.” But the real power is in how it cleverly involves the reader, subtly suggesting “I can make a difference. I can get involved. This matters to me.” But I think it goes even further, it says “I am already a part of this, because it is my city.”

In retrospect, Dennis can now see that the old slogan, “Putting the pieces back together” didn’t have a sense of involvement. He says that the new slogan definitely helps sell the organization.

If your business, products or services need a new tagline that sells, NBI would love to partner with you to get that done. Call 816.797.9946 to get started.


Naming and branding doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.

Naming, branding and identity work doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.

And it doesn’t have to take months or even weeks.

In a matter of days and sometimes hours, you can have the naming, branding and identity work that can help propel your success; work that considers your corporate culture, goals, SEO, keyword competition, phonetics, foreign translations, and domain availability.

Below, I offer you a couple of cost-effective options. The first one is a Do-It-Yourself guide that I have written, that provides you some of the methods and tools that I use to create great names. I offer it up super cheap because there are a whole lot more people that think they can do it themselves than there are people willing to pay me to do it for them. My DIY Naming Guide gives you a fighting chance to actually do it yourself. And for $5, why not give yourself a headstart?

The second thing I offer, at a ridiculously low price and quick turn-around, is my time, effort and brainpower in coming up with naming and branding solutions for you.  Or you can choose to spend tens of thousands with another firm, like this Ohio municipality that spent over $40,000 to rename their recycling program.

Naming – Sometimes you just need a good name and don’t really need to develop a strong brand presence or identity – like names for internal company programs, newsletters, sales contests, and other things that customers won’t necessarily see. Or maybe you just need a good name for a new business concept, before you invest toward branding or identity; something that will inspire you to flesh it out.
DIY Naming Guide $5
One-day turnaround $500
One-week turnaround $300

Simply email me, and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice.

Branding – Sometimes you need a more thoughtful approach that considers your complete marketing environment: competition, target market, communication channels, SWOT analysis, and more. In most cases, branding is for products and services. Branding can include both words and a visual way of quickly communicating what it is and how it is different. It is important to recognize that branding says something about the buyer too; Buyers often buy brands that reinforce or elevate their sense of self.
DIY Branding Guide $5
One-day turnaround $1500
One-week turnaround $1000

Simply email me, and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice.

Identity – Branded corporations like Sprint, H&R Block, and Hallmark Cards (all located in Kansas City : )) are the result of highly sophisticated and expensive corporate identity efforts. Corporate and product identity is a structured recipe for communicating the brand across a plethora of internal and external channels. Be forewarned that identity development or enhancement is a serious undertaking and can be very expensive to execute. The consulting I offer is to help you get three bids from graphic design firms or ad agencies that are within your budget. I can also write a creative brief for the agency that outlines the project. I can also be engaged to manage the project with the selected agency, on your behalf.

Identity Consulting (Contact for Quote)

Call me at 816.797.9946 or email me at