Best practices checklist: Strong call to action, illustrative graphics, easy-to-find sign-up form, benefit-oriented copy, keyword-relevant copy, testimonials, engaging corporate video with strong value proposition.
One of my proudest demand generation accomplishments is drafting, creating and deploying this nurturing email series via the Marketo marketing automation system to highlight the entire HumanConcepts product line—helping move, i.e., nurture, a prospect from one solution to the next.
The campaign flow is triggered by a prospect entering our sales funnel from an online form, webinar or other lead capture activity. Thought leadership whitepapers and colorful product tours are the key assets in play.
Knowing my love of subway maps and transport architecture, my mom painted a glorious triptych—is there a more appropriate word in this instance?—for my San Francisco apartment on Lower Nob Hill, where I lived from 1992 to 1993.
She took inspiration from my trip photographs of stations in New York City, London and Paris, plus printed subway, Tube and Metro maps from each destination. The work, oil on collaged canvas, is a connected, abstract series, each unit featuring a dominant iconic motif—e.g.,The "51" on the NYC canvas recalls the ceramic tiling inside the 51st Street station near the Pickwick Arms Hotel, where I usually stayed on Manhattan visits.
I treasure it. It's hung in three separate San Francisco addresses, Los Angeles (1993-1994) and Santa Barbara (1994-1998).
Here's a video I took this morning, the second anniversary of my mom's passing.
Notes on the Paintings: At 1:20 of the video, you'll notice a neat set of dotted lines, painted at 45 degrees, joining the edges of the London and Paris canvases. After all, in 1992, the Chunnel was still under construction, so my mom wanted to reflect that. Cheeky, right? On the London Tube map, the Sudbury Town station along the Piccadilly line always tickled her because it reminded her of her maiden name. So it made the cut of "special stations" (e.g., West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village, Saint-Michel on the Left Bank) actually referenced on the maps, all near and dear to my traveling heart. Sadly, over time, the station names have faded on the Tube canvas. But not the connection.
This Irish Spring-like billboard at Fourth Avenue and Geary Boulevard in San Francisco's Inner Richmond district touts the opening of a new Fresh & Easy grocery store at (presumably nearby) "3rd & Carroll".
Hmmm... where's Carroll? I wondered when I passed by recently.
A quick map check answered my native confusion. The agency behind the ad has its Thirds misplaced. A new F&E is opening on Third. Third Street—way, way across town in The City's Bayview district (B Pin on map below), almost 10 miles as the Google street mapping car zig zags.
Fresh idea! Keep the billboard, just sticker it with new directions. For less than two miles west, near 32nd Avenue and Clement Street, another Fresh & Easy opens for business soon (A Pin on map), unpublicized but convenient walking distance from my house.
The Scoop: My sweetie Andrea does exceedingly good work at the LightHouse for the Blind, which, for more than 100 years, has helped the visually impaired live independently thanks to rehabilitation programs and direct access to employment, recreation and education services in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Destination: One of the LightHouse's most cherished resources is Enchanted Hills Camp, atop a Napa mountain north of San Francisco, where visually impaired children, teens and adults spend idyllic time outdoors, build life-long bonds and learn the latest technologies that help at home and work. Says Andrea: "EHC is awesome—campers and their families get so much out of their time there. They just love it. I'm proud to support it with my work." Watch a camp video here.
The Good Cause: On Feb. 6, 2011, I'm running the Kaiser Permanente Half-Marathon, 13.1 miles thru San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and down the Great Highway, next to the Pacific. UPDATE 01.05.11: As part of Team LightHouse, I was originally hoping to raise $1,300—the cost to send one child to Enchanted Hills for a 10-day retreat. So far, I've blown past that number. Now I'm on my way to $2,000.
Running Times: Over the past 18 months, with encouragement and advice from savvy friends and colleagues, I've remade myself into a (not-so-lonely) long distance runner. Going farther than I ever thought possible is immensely gratifying. Race medals are cool, too, but I want to leverage and channel my passion into helping others. I call it my Race for Enchanted Hills Camp.
Help Now! Please support my effort, donate what you can! I can't think of a better 2011 Resolution. Go here.
Last Sunday morning's traffic report was ugly: Steady downpour over San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge congestion, rain-slicked sidewalks, taxi AWOL.
With 20 minutes to the 2010 US Half Marathon 7 a.m. gun, I forfeited hope my reserved Luxor cab, already 55 minutes late, would show, despite five "Where are you?" calls. Sans formal Emergency Plan B, I jumped in my Camry, false started (I forgot insurance and registration), then sped across sleepy, wet San Francisco toward Aquatic Park near Fisherman's Wharf, hoping the parking gods might smile on me.
Sigh, the first garage I tried to enter saw the car in front of me grab the last admittance. I waved the cars waiting behind me to move, backed out, then frantically criss-crossed Bay, Franklin and Van Ness streets once more—for a gray moment, I considered surrendering, blowing off the race and returning to bed. At last, I spotted an open curb, half a mile from the race start.
The Race to the Race
Grabbing a cap and silver mylar race blanket, leftover from this summer's San Francisco Half Marathon, I sprinted down Van Ness toward the water, probably faster than my eventual 7:51 race pace, the blanket flying behind me like a cape.
"You're running the wrong way!" someone helpfully yelled, just as I reached the start area, hordes of runners departing. I had no time to stretch, drink or get my head straight, just cut in line at a Porta Potty ("Sorry!"), then dash back the way I'd come.
Elements en Route
Starting so late, in the rain, at the tail with casual runners and bib-less bandits, didn't help my pace. I had to weave through traffic while dodging puddles, grimace when I found all the water cups empty at the first aid station, then fight human gridlock on the Golden Gate Bridge pedestrian sidewalks, which allow no more than two or three runners abreast. Worse, at Mile 5, mid-span, my left calf, already wrapped by an Ace bandage, seized up with stabbing pain. I softened my step and carried on.
By the turnaround at the North Tower, my waterlogged tank top weighed on my chest like a flak jacket—I kept tugging at it, only to have it snap back quick to my skin.
On the sunny side of things, moisture aside, I didn't slip 'n' slide on the bridge, suffer fogged glasses or slosh in my shoes. And the weather kept me cool the whole way.
I finished in 1:42:50, 202nd out of 2,978; no PR, but almost three minutes better than my 2009 US Half finish, run in ideal conditions. In rain, I'd never done more than a 20-minute, easy jog.
"Take it... be satisfied!" I keep telling myself. Because my running log now includes the requisite almost-everything-went-wrong-but-I-still-finished-and-lived-to-tell tale worth drawing inspirational kicks from.
Despite scoring a new half-marathon PR by exactly 6:00, I ran the SF Marathon 2nd Half three Sundays ago feeling like shit 12.1 out of 13.1 miles.
Only on Haight Street, right after emerging from Golden Gate Park, near Amoeba Music, did I catch my breath and a sense of contentment, even a runner's mini-high.
Maybe it was a whiff from the nearby McDonalds, or the thought of perusing CD box sets; more likely, credit the GU gel I ingested five minutes earlier, or that weird crossover period, about 40 minutes into continuous hard exercise, when the body simultaneously burns glycogen and fat for energy.
Whatever, happy lasted about a mile.
Ready, Set, Worry!
Back at the 8:15 a.m. start next to chilly Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park, I was psyched out. "Will I be able to run even one mile?" I worried. "What if I can't keep up the 7:38 per-mile pace I've trained for? My hip is a little sore, ditto my Achilles and calves. Maybe I didn't taper my training right. My warmup didn't help."
Adding to mind and body fog, at Mile 8, extra-tightly tied shoelaces—Wince!—began sawing through my left foot. I didn't stop to relieve the pressure, for I was in the chase.
From park to Panhandle, SOMA to Potrero, Dogpatch to Embarcadero, I never lost sight of my "Yellow Rabbit", the nimble race pacer named Patrick I wisely chose to draft behind from start to (nearly) finish.
He plotted the time, dug the groove. I followed.
No need to check my watch, check the mile splits on my race pace band, or translate the course's mile markers, which listed distances for both my race (maddeningly, in decimals) and a full marathon, whose back half shared the same path. "Um, another few seconds and... that... will... be... 8 miles!"
My twin focus was Patrick's bright yellow jersey—weaving, climbing, descending, dodging, curving, tracking steady—and bobbing 1:40:00 sign held aloft like a beacon to the Promised Land beside the San Francisco Bay. And never mind the pain.
Just north of AT&T Park, I left Patrick's wake and tried to sprint the final quarter mile. I wanted a cushion, "insurance seconds", if you will, in my push to break 100 minutes. Right then Earth's gravity suddenly magnified, dragging on my 5th Gear muscles. No wonder: "A half-marathon uses up your fast-twitchers," a fellow runner told me.
I crossed the line in 1:39:33. And felt awful. But a satisfied, proud, It's Done! awful.
With two whole halves to my credit (at top, that's my November 2009 US Half finishing medal behind its new SF 2nd Half brother), I can safely brag a bit: "Yes, I run half-marathons, thank you."
Or as a friend at the gym put it the other night, "You do half-marathons."
Managing direct eMarketing at two Bay Area companies with different businesses and audiences—McAfee (consumer security) and Mindjet (information visualization), I've seen my subject lines serve and tempt tens of millions on opt-in lists of customers, subscribers, prospects and newsletter readers across the Americas and Asia-Pacific.
My preferred calls to action were eCommerce-focused: Act Now! upgrades, Buy More at the Store! cross-sells, Last Chance! renewals. But I also wrote more tempered SLs for apologies, newsletters, auto-reminders ("drip, nurturing campaigns" in marketing automation parlance), surveys, virus alerts, order confirmations and product announcements. Fortunately, I generally had free reign to craft the messaging—ideal as I'd usually written (and led the design of) the email creative—concept to ready-for-sending.
Intimacy rules, folks!
A/B testing, trial and error, spam scoring engines, open rate and delivery monitoring, and in-the-trenches-gotta-make-the-quarter-numbers urgency ("Greg, send something now!" a pacing McAfee executive often cried...) taught me what works (direct, wit, offer, benefit, expiry, common sense), what doesn't (bland, dull) and what might (long and short).
The Basics. Choose active, direct verbs ("Order new McAfee VirusScan, save 20%!"), single benefits ("Share maps with friends in seconds with new MindManager 8!"), and consistent naming for recurring content, e.g., subscriptions ("Mindjet Newsletter: Introducing Mindjet Connect", "McAfee Newsletter: Why You Need a Firewall"). Adhering to these principles netted me regular 20-25% open rates from customers and subscribers.
Expiry date with countdown. These build momentum, for example, to offer end: "14 days left to save $20 on Mindjet Project Bundle," "7 days left to save...", "3 days left...", "Last day...". Even with this mini-carpet bombing frequency, I've seen open rates hold and not degrade.
Witty-not-cute topicality. "Here's your Mindjet economic stimulus package!" consistently beat all contenders for open rate king during the several months the Federal Government kept that phrase hot.
Hyping $10 or even $5 savings on multi-year SaaS subscription renewals: "Get $10 early bird savings on anti-virus, firewall protection!" Engaged, locked-in customers already see their investment's value; greater savings is a no-brainer in their minds. Lead with that.
Business-like, Just-the-facts-ma'am! transactional information. Especially issues related to orders, billing and future activity. For example, "Service Notification: Your McAfee subscription expires in 7 days!" can't help but raise attention. Privacy note: Labeled as such, service notifications generally get green lighted from legal to be sent to customers who have opted out of other marketing communications.
"Apology", "Come Back" or "Last Chance" for unhappy or former customers. They pay attention, especially immediately after the incident, issue or even cancellation. In fact, the highest open rate I ever saw for an offer hit 40%, from former customers who cancelled their security service less than seven days prior.
I'm Not Sure
Subject Line length. I've seen long and short win out. Personally, I prefer a 54- to 56-character length, so the entire subject line fits in most inboxes for easy reader skimming. Tip: Front load the most valuable text: "Our firewall protects your digital information from hackers".
Red flags for spam blockers. "Free!" (I used it once in six years), multiple exclamation marks, misspellings, bad grammar, misused apostrophes, obscure references, all CAPS, bad punctuation—especially in combination. I recently squirmed at this doozy: "Hear several CEO's talk about CLOUD COMPUTING!"
Dull, tired, limp. Off my watch, I've also winced at vanilla SLs like "Mindjet Product Announcement", which silently scream "Ignore me!" Better: "It's Here: New MindManager 8 for Mac!"
Testing, testing and more testing to prospects. Marketing counterintuitive, but metrics bore this out year after year: the needle rarely budges once a baseline open rate (e.g., 10-15%) establishes. Less engaged trial downloaders (or older, expired trial users) simply aren't tickled by price, savings, relevancy, topicality or urgency.
Subject Line by Committee.
And in the End
Best subject line I never sent: "Buy our anti-spam product. And we won't email you again about it!"
I drafted and edited a quarterly e-newsletter for McAfee consumers, mixing product news, timely security updates and current direct marketing promotions. Newsletter deployment was synced with global email calendar so it didn't disrupt ongoing eMarketing promotions landing in newsletter subscribers' inboxes.
Copy-dense but seriously benefit-rich, one of my favorite hard-sell eMarketing campaigns I crafted for McAfee consumers.
Love the jambalaya of corporate crimson 'n' black, product iconography, red-highlighted "what's new" features for skimming eyes, feel-good seals of approval and offer expiry date snipe. Note the "always-on service" sidebar, aimed at weaning customers at the time from a downloadable product model toward a service platform, a prelude to The Cloud.
I sweated a mere 10 rounds of offshore and in-house design comps ("Towel stack next to woman, not across the room! Less background blur! Zig-zag the main graphics!"), re-writing and final sparkle before blessing an absolute winning email cross-sell to McAfee consumers, who ordered the featured third party PC utility in bunches whenever we deployed it.
Happy to spotlight five-way product benefits (header, above-the-fold check-marks, sidebar bullets, narrative long copy, screen shot caption).
Silicon Alley, Manhattan, June 2000: Admiring (or trembling before) the outdoor advertising I arranged for our Web Attack! eMarketing conference—The Internet Goes to Broadway!—produced by Michael Tchong's ICONOCAST. In my bag are 24"x36" event posters, a mite smaller than the six-story version.
Air rights and other legal matters between adjacent building owners almost scuttled the wallscape implementation.
Maybe the best ad creative I ever conceptualized, wrote and placed sold the insanely cool 3D modeling capabilities of Bryce 3D software, developed and marketed by Carpinteria, California-based MetaTools (formerly HSC, later MetaCreations).
Love those adjective call-outs with late-'90s drop shadowing!
Small Print: Gorgeous Cambrian Pipeline main imagery courtesy ArtEffect Design Studio, Los Angeles.
Channeling my journalism chops, I wrote a product marketing customer profile series—Superior Solutions—to sell Computer Associates accounting and business software. CA's corporate tagline at the time: Software Superior by Design.
Sourcing a hockey puck proved the biggest challenge for the Knicks/Rangers piece; dining at Joyce Goldstein's fondly remembered Square One proved none at all. Spreadsheet-wise, SuperCalc once had a significant market share. Notice the classic Ogilvy on Advertising print ad layouts I asked designers to apply to Royal Court and Greenpeace pieces.