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The One Email KPI To Watch in the Age of Mail Privacy Protection

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It’s been almost a year since Apple rolled out its Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) feature that effectively killed the open rate as an email marketing KPI.

While it wasn’t the “end of email,” some feared, it shook up how marketers test and optimize the success of their email campaigns. 

In his presentations at Content Marketing World 2021, marketing strategist Michael Barber explained what Apple’s privacy protection feature does and the potential impact. At ContentTECH 2022, Michael updated the discussion with new insights on email engagement and a better email goal for marketers to focus on – driving replies.

Open and click-through rates don’t cut it anymore. In a world of increasing #privacy features, pick a metric that can survive: replies, says @joderama via @michaeljbarber @CMIContent. #Email #CMWorld #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

Did Apple cancel email marketing?

When marketers send an email to an Apple user, Apple ingests all the email’s images, links, and tracking information, encrypts it, and loads it remotely onto their servers. When it serves that email to the user, Apple counts it as an open – even if the intended recipient never opened it.

“We no longer get [data on] who opened an email, open times, geolocation (where someone is when they open that email), or the specific device that’s used,” Michael says.

This feature is available on all iOS15 devices (including iPads, iPhones, and Apple Watches). That encompasses 82% of all its mobile device users as of May 31, 2022. It’s also available on Macs with macOS Monterrey. It isn’t available for emails viewed through a third-party mail app (like Microsoft Outlook) or webmail.

Further, industry estimates say as many as 96% of iPhone and iPad users will turn on mail privacy protection. “This means we’ve lost access to [at least] 50% of the marketplace,” Michael says.

Even worse, he says other service providers have jumped on Apple’s email privacy bandwagon. For example, Google now blocks open-rate data for Gmail users as well as the millions who have emails from organizations running their email system on Google Workspace.

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Forget opens – focus on trackable engagement metrics

Losing access to that open-rate data seems like grim news for marketers. Yet, Michael points out, other email metrics are more reliable – and accessible – indicators of engagement. That includes many of the campaign metrics marketers might receive from their email service providers (ESPs).

Email service providers no longer consider an open as a reliable signal of subscriber engagement, Michael says. Instead, they use engagement signals to measure the deliverability of your marketing campaigns, which helps determine their success.

Open rates are no longer considered a reliable signal of subscriber engagement. Deliverability is what matters now, says @michaeljbarber via @joderama @CMIContent. #Email #CMWorld #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

If your email subscribers aren’t sending strong signals that they’re engaged by your content, your campaigns might end up in the spam folder instead of the inbox, tanking your deliverability rates.

While opens play a small role in this equation, email service providers favor these signals:

  • Messages moved to the junk folder or reported as spam
  • Deleted messages
  • Unsubscribes
  • Addition of senders to address books
  • Messages saved in a folder (both default folders and those the user creates)
  • Messages moved out of a junk/spam folder
  • Direct replies and responses to email messages/campaigns

The email service providers also rank those indicators by strength and as a positive or negative interaction, as illustrated in this Campaign Monitor graphic shared by Michael:

Campaign Monitor’s infographic illustrates how the email service providers  rank critical engagement metrics on a scale from positive (add to address book, open/click) to negative (leave unopened, mark as spam) with neutral actions in between (delete, unsubscribe). 

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Make subscriber replies your priority KPI

Michael says email service providers see replies as the strongest positive signal of a recipient’s engagement with that sender’s content – and not just because Apple and Google don’t block your access to that data.

“As we think about getting emails in front of our subscribers, the question becomes, ‘How do we drive the action of [getting them to] reply,’” Michael says.

#Email service providers see replies as the strongest positive signal of a recipient’s engagement with that sender’s #content, says @michaeljbarber via @joderama @CMIContent. #CMWorld #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

He offered tips for reaching that goal:

Think conversations, not campaigns

Readers are more likely to respond to messages sent by a human, not a company. Prioritize plain, relatable language over jargon and marketing speak. Also, make sure to use a person’s name, not just the brand’s name, in the from line.

Michael shared an example from work management platform Asana. The company sends a series of welcome emails to onboard new customers. In all of them, the sender is identified as their account rep’s name (here, it’s Lauren Zoger).

An email campaign from Asana uses an account rep as the sender rather than the business name.

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Make it an obvious and easy action to take

Recipients may not realize they can reply directly to the email or believe anyone will read their feedback – unless you tell them. Your call to action is a great place to do that.

Place them in a prominent spot and create a URL with a mailto: link, so a click opens a new email in their window. You can include a thought-provoking question in the body copy of your campaign to let them know you’re interested in hearing what they have to say.

Writer Michael Estrin applies this approach skillfully in his weekly Situation Normal newsletters. His prompts are relevant to his story. Each is written to prompt an ongoing dialog. It’s a clever way to extend the audience’s engagement long after they’ve finished reading the content itself.

Situation Normal’s weekly emails feature reply prompts that extend audience engagement with its storytelling. In this one, he asks questions such as what's your favorite '80s sitcom or who was the last politician that asked for your vote.

Get to the point

Your subscribers’ time is precious, and many only glance at your email in their inbox before deciding to open, ignore, or trash it.

Michael says a vague subject line wastes their time and won’t compel subscribers to engage with your campaign. Instead, use the space to say exactly what they’ll find and why it’s worth opening.

He points to email campaigns from sticker company Stickermule as an example of this best practice. The subject line – Last day for buttons – reveals exactly what the email is about (a product discount) and also emphasizes the time-sensitivity (last day for the deal):

Stickermule’s subject lines tell subscribers the email's message right away.

Michael advises marketers to frontload the words that matter most in the subject line and use the pre-header or preview content to offer more context or details.

@Michaeljbarber advises marketers to frontload words that matter most in the #email subject line and use the pre-header or preview #content to offer more context via @joderama @CMIContent. #CMWorld #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

Make it a VIP-only affair

Emails with exclusive content and offers can help you achieve multiple content goals all at once, Michael says. That includes adding new subscribers, sustaining engagement of existing subscribers, and driving immediate replies and responses.

Travel discount service Scott’s Cheap Flights has built its brand on this approach. While anyone can visit Scott’s site for travel guides and stories, only newsletter subscribers are notified about the latest discount deals. The emails disclose the travel deal’s location and price range in the subject line.

Scott’s Cheap Flights shares travel advice and discount deals, but only subscribers get the full details. The subject line includes the location and price like this one "Amsterdam - $400."

To succeed with this technique, Michael recommends you share your most valuable content first with your email subscribers and wait as long as possible before you publish it on your open-access content platforms and channels.

Scott’s follows that advice too: It sends a special edition of the newsletter to its paid members whenever a really big discount comes along. They get first crack at the deal before it gets shared with other subscribers.

Understand the new rules of email engagement – and how to drive it

If your emails create satisfying experiences your subscribers want to read and respond to, you won’t have to worry about the effects of Apple’s privacy rules. By focusing on driving replies, you’ll have all the data needed to measure and optimize your email campaign success.

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 Register to attend Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Top 3 Strategies for Success

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

With the advent of e-commerce, manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to expand their reach, streamline their operations, and enhance profitability. Amidst this digital revolution, adopting Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is pivotal in optimizing production processes, quality control, and resource management.

As the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar sales and online commerce continue to blur, manufacturers increasingly realize the need to adapt and thrive in this new digital landscape. This article explores the top 3 strategies manufacturers can employ to succeed in e-commerce.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is specialized application software designed to solve the tasks of synchronization, coordination, analysis, and optimization of production output within any production. MES systems belong to the class of shop floor-level management systems but can also be used for integrated production management at the enterprise as a whole.

MES collects and analyzes production processes, product demand, and inventory data. This allows manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, reconfigure production to meet current requirements, and closely monitor trends. As a result, manufacturers can more easily predict and meet customer needs, which helps increase online sales.

MES helps in maintaining accurate inventory records and managing inventory turnover. This avoids overstock or shortages, which can affect a company’s ability to meet online demand and maintain customer service levels.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enhance transparency and automate operations, reducing human errors and operational costs. Integrating Manufacturing CRM streamlines customer data, allowing manufacturers to tailor products, respond to market changes, and offer competitive prices in online stores. The synergy between MES and CRM creates an agile manufacturing environment, optimizing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Content Marketing

Kapost’s research shows that companies in the B2B segment that blog get 67% more leads on average than companies that don’t. However, it’s worth remembering that content marketing requires a lot of resources to prepare and regularity in publishing it. This content can be, for example, brand identity and E-commerce logo, articles and videos, webinars, research, and interviews.

The content should help solve a specific problem to create the image of an expert and thus influence the decisions of potential customers. The topics discussed should not be chosen randomly. A little research in Google Trends will help select the main topic, discussion areas in the video, phrases, and words that should be included in the article. Publishing content based on such a prepared analysis allows you to achieve high positions in search engines. It provides a good user experience for customers looking for answers to product/service questions, comprehensively covering the subject matter.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are free traffic, increased user confidence, and the creation of an expert image.

Content marketing is a form of promotion that requires patience and time. Its effects will also depend on the quality of thecontent itself, its optimization, and promotion methods. No specific terms can be specified here.

YouTube channels as a form of content marketing

You can discuss your production process and show and test products on your YouTube channel. If someone is looking for information about a product and is unsure which brand to choose, they will likely find your video and maybe make a purchase. Remember to choose a title that matches the search query and prepare a video description with product links. You can send out an email to announce when new videos are released. Whenever you have particularly compelling videos, you could also promote them via texting notifications to drive even more traffic.

Utilize user-generated content and social media

Not utilizing the content that your users generate is a huge issue. This is because it’s not easy to refresh an e-commerce website and keep it alive. But photos and videos taken by real customers are great for this purpose.

Adding a “widget” that connects your online store’s website to its official social media accounts brings significant benefits. These include revitalizing your social media accounts, increasing your credibility as a manufacturer, inspiring other customers to buy, and encouraging repeat purchases.

Snapchat Planets

Snapchat’s “Planets” feature provides a unique and interactive way to engage with your e-commerce store’s audience. Here are some creative ideas on how to leverage Snapchat Planets to create engaging content:

  • Virtual Store Tours: Use the AR feature to create a virtual tour of your store. Each planet can represent different sections or categories of your store. For instance, one planet could showcase your latest collection, another could highlight bestsellers, and another could offer exclusive deals.
  • Product Launches: Announce new product launches by creating a cosmic journey. Users can travel from one planet to another, each unveiling a new product with engaging visuals and detailed descriptions. This creates a sense of excitement and discovery around new arrivals.
  • Interactive Shopping Experience: Create interactive shopping experiences where users can explore products in a fun and engaging way. For example, users can navigate through different planets to find hidden discounts or special offers, making shopping more interactive and rewarding.
  • Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Develop a loyalty program where users earn points or rewards by exploring different planets. Each planet can offer unique rewards, such as discounts, free samples, or exclusive access to new collections. This gamifies the shopping experience and encourages repeat visits.
  • Themed Campaigns: Align your marketing campaigns with planetary themes. For instance, during holiday seasons, you can create a holiday-themed planet where users can find special holiday deals, gift ideas, and festive content.

By leveraging Snapchat Planets, you can transform your e-commerce store’s content into a captivating and interactive experience that keeps your audience engaged, entertained, and coming back for more.

Use newsletters to captivate your target audience

Newsletters can strengthen the connection with the consumer and demonstrate that shopping with you is safe and profitable. Remember that the more personalized the message, the more effective it will be. It should contain a call to action (CTA), such as a button that redirects to products.

Don’t forget to put a box to check for consent to process personal data when subscribing to the newsletter. Also, add an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter in each email.

A regular email account is not adapted for the newsletter, so do not use your everyday email address. This way, you risk being blacklisted by spam filters. The benefits of newsletters are optimizing advertising costs, increasing loyal audiences from different channels, and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Print and PDF Channel

1716522964 432 Top 3 Strategies for Success

In the digital landscape, the significance of Print and PDF channels cannot be underestimated for manufacturers engaging in e- commerce. The tactile experience of print offers unique psychological advantages, enhancing comprehension and retention, which are vital for technical manuals and complex product details. PDFs merge this benefit with digital accessibility, ensuring wide reach while maintaining format integrity. This dual-channel approach not only caters to diverse consumer preferences but also bolsters marketing efforts, making technical content more engaging and understandable. Utilizing catalog software further streamlines the integration of Print and PDF channels into e-commerce strategies, enhancing product presentation and distribution efficiency.

Contextual advertising: Google Ads

1716522964 713 Top 3 Strategies for Success

If you want the advertising you invest in to have an immediate effect, it’s worth turning to Google Ads. Google displays paid ads in search results and on Google’s network of partners (on-site ads in the form of banners).

You bid when you search for a keyword for which advertisers have set up a campaign. The search engine determines who will appear in the search results and at what position. When assigning bids, the quality of the landing page, the quality of the ads, and the stated maximum bid per click are all considered.

To start setting up your campaign, simply login to your Google Ads account. Using the service is free, and you’ll find plenty of online tutorials on creating a campaign. However, you may find that it won’t generate valuable traffic if you don’t set it up optimally. Your budget will be wasted on clicks that won’t lead to conversions. This is why most companies resort to the help of agencies, including specialized agencies.

There is probably no industry in which Google Ads campaigns cannot be used. However, advertising can be moderately profitable if there is a lot of competition in the industry and margins are low.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are large audience reach, the ability to get the target audience as accurately as possible, and very detailed statistics on results.

The effect of launching a campaign should appear almost immediately. A properly set up campaign will increase traffic to the website. By systematically optimizing the campaign, you can achieve much better results.

You also can use paid Facebook Ads post promotion. It is important to pinpoint your target group, but how do you do it? A popular way is to draw up a customer portrait, that is, to make a collective image of your customer.

This considers age, gender, income level, location, interests and hobbies, and online behavior. Such a person will display a group interested in your services or goods.

Implement personalized product selections

Recommended product block and cross-selling are very powerful internet marketing strategies. In addition to the recommended product block, which shows the analogs of the product being viewed, it is worth paying attention to the website’s functionality.

As a rule, the products in the “You may also like” block are selected based on the pages previously viewed by the customer, his previous purchases on the website, as well as what was purchased by other customers with similar tastes. If this functionality is implemented technically sound, it can lead to additional items added to the shopping cart. “You may also like” block partly acts as an alternative to the advice of a specialist or consultant.

With blocks for cross-selling related products is a similar situation. Usually, in them are placed products from the same product line, collection, or simply those that perfectly match the product being viewed. You can use AI-powered live chats to proactively engage in customer conversations and suggest products based on their behavior.

Conclusion

E-commerce for manufacturers is a vast field, and in this article, we have presented the most popular and most effective forms of selling online. Remember, no effective e-commerce strategy exists. Each industry and business will have specifics. Try combining the above mentioned e-commerce strategies to maximize your chances of success and increase your profits.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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