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15 Incremental Steps for Digital Marketing Success

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
09 May 2012

Recently I listened to Michael Hyatt’s excellent podcast on “The Power of Incremental Change,” and it got me thinking about how we can apply Michael’s advice to help improve our marketing campaigns. Michael describes how, during a summer trip to Colorado with his wife, he was captivated by the Royal Gorge, a 10-mile-long canyon that was cut into solid granite over 3 million years at the rate of a half-inch per year.

OK, so most marketers don’t have 3 million years to show results—or even, in some cases, three months. But the point is that most people underestimate the power of incremental change over time, thinking they’ve got to take massive action to achieve something significant. As a result, they give up before they even start, thinking they can’t make the investment.

I see this sometimes with marketers who know there are powerful tools and techniques available, but feel the time needed to learn and execute these tactics would be prohibitive.

It’s true that change is hard and can be overwhelming.  But as my colleague Loren McDonald likes to say, you don’t have to boil the ocean. Instead, take incremental baby steps to move you along the path to success. Here are just a few examples of some areas in which you can use a series of small steps to help you realize big goals.


Step 1: Build a preference center and offer choices at opt-in. By giving customer and prospects greater control over their relationship with your brand and the marketing messages they receive, you’ll immediately build goodwill and engagement.

Step 2: Offer alternatives during opt-out. Many people who hit “unsubscribe” don’t want to leave—they just want the relationship to change. By offering alternatives to unsubscribing such as switching email address, “snoozing” and changing mailing frequency or channel, you can reduce overall list churn.

Step 3: Use dynamic content to only send around subscribers’ preferences. Deliver more relevant content that aligns with your contacts’ interests, and you’ll improve the performance of your campaigns across the board.

Learn more:


Step 1: Feature opt-ins prominently throughout your website. Move beyond a tiny opt-in link at the bottom of your home page and include a strong opt-in call to action above the fold throughout your site, thereby increasing your chances of capturing those who arrive via search and social.

Step 2: Use social to drive email opt-ins. Build out an opt-in tab and form on your Facebook page, tease to your email program on Twitter, and include links to your newsletter sign-up on LinkedIn, Google+ and others.

Step 3: Utilize mobile to boost opt-ins. Take advantage of foot traffic to retail stores, trade shows and more and promote opt in via SMS or scanning a QR code. Also, invite downloaders of your mobile app or those who check in at your store or event to opt in.

Learn more:


Step 1: Send campaigns triggered by a date or time frame. Whether it’s a special sale, a Webinar or countless other events with a specific date or time, move from a manual “press send system” to an automated process.

Step 2: Personalize your messages. Add first-name personalization to the message salutation, have the email “signed” from a specific salesperson, or use dynamic content to populate the message with content specific to each recipient’s interests.

Step 3: Deliver messages based on email behavior. Set up programs to send automated messages based on whether a recipient opened or clicked on an email. Later, you can incorporate website, social and offline behaviors into your if-then messaging programs.

Learn more:


Step 1: Define and segment inactives. Sift through your data and use a range of parameters—such as email activity, number of sales channels and market environment—to determine which inactives you want to try to re-engage.

Step 2: Employ reactivation campaigns. Try re-engaging certain inactives with tactics such as offering a purchase incentive, asking them to fill out a short survey, inviting them to engage via social media channels, print or SMS, and promoting updates on your website.

Step 3: Engage contacts before they become inactive. Initiate an early warning system that uses reporting and scoring to identify inactive contacts within a few months of opting in. Move these contacts into their own “activation” track designed to get them engaged through different types of content and by inviting them to update preferences.

Learn more:


Step 1: Join the conversation. Get active on social sites pertinent to your audience and establish yourself as a valuable source of helpful, customer-centric information and content snacks. Once you’ve built some credibility, you can include a little social bait to lead others into your world.

Step 2: Use social networks to turn prospective customers into customers. Convert “fans” to the cause and use your corporate social sites to offer white paper and Webinar sign-ups, serve up coupons for your physical or online store, display customer-centric videos and more.

Step 3: Build email campaigns around social sharing. Design an entire email (or series of emails) around content you think is shareworthy and facilitate the conversation by prominently featuring social-sharing links and prepopulating these links with a message (including hashtags) that’s suitable for sharing.

Learn more:

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. From optimizing your forms and improving your transactional messages to implementing lead scoring and getting started with location-based marketing, there are many ways to make the power of incremental change work for you. So why not make this the day you take your first baby step toward big-time success? By taking just a few small steps every week, you’ll be able to look back and realize you’ve actually made substantial progress toward improving your marketing efforts.


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