Erin Hogg

Email Lists: How sweepstakes work for CNET [Live from #SherpaEmail]

February 26th, 2015

Before jetting out to MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, and I took a little trip down memory lane and reviewed some top takeaways from Email Summit 2006.

Of course, it’s exciting to see how some things have changed and laugh at how far we’ve come. In 2006, consumer marketers were warned about Yahoo and MSN Hotmail adding preview panes to email services.

We were using words like “ezines” and “hotlinks.” We assumed email would be dead because of junk mail. We were just getting the hang of using Web analytics and email systems together to track customer value.

While we have come a long way since then, there were some things that have stood the test of time.

Keeping opt-ins actively engaged with email content is key to improving ROI. Don’t have Marketing operate in a silo — work in coordination with not just Sales but also IT to gain the right solutions and tools you need to succeed.

One takeaway caught our eye, as it is something I discussed onstage with Diana Primeau, Director of Member Services, CNET, earlier this week at #SherpaEmail.

In 2006, we heard from David Kreitzer, then Marketing Director, Bella Pictures, and his advice for using sweepstakes to build email lists.

According to David, although sweeps and free bonus offers can dramatically raise email opt-ins, list quality suffers. You may get tons of new names on a list, but they could just be there for the contest.

I’m sure many marketers even now have been advised not to use sweepstakes or contests to build a list.

Fast forward to yesterday, Diana shared how one way CNET builds its list is through sweepstakes and had the numbers to prove that subscribers can stay actively engaged post-contest.


What do we know now that’s different from what we believed in 2006?

It’s simple really: create a relevant experience with users with personalized content to retain them for the long term.

We knew this back then, but our capabilities over the years have grown to allow marketers to leverage the tools and platforms they need to segment, test and optimize an email experience for each subscriber, serving up content that creates a one-to-one relationship.


Diana spoke at length about her work with CNET’s welcome and nurture campaigns. These emails are sent to new CNET users and offer the array of services including ways to connect with CNET on social, the various mobile apps available and the vast library of CNET-exclusive video content.

But it’s not enough to simply push out messaging and hope it sticks — Diana tested to ensure that new users were not being bombarded with too many emails or too much content in a send.


During the time a new user would be receiving the welcome and nurturing series, they would not receive any other email content from CNET. The goal here was to onboard new users and get them familiar to the brand.

Even the order of the nurturing series mattered. For the three-email series, Diana saw that the mobile email, which was originally second in the series and offered up CNET’s array of ways to connect on the go, was seeing high engagement, so she changed the order to move mobile first.

However, this seemingly minor change meant a significant dip in open rates for two-thirds of the campaign.


“Testing takes time, but it also is a bit like low-hanging fruit. You already have the program; just take the time to optimize it. As marketers, testing should be part of our DNA,” Diana said.

Retain users with segmented content sends

This is really where Diana is able to retain those users, even the ones who come into CNET for a sweepstakes.

CNET was already sending out a vast array of high-quality content to subscribers, but how could Diana and her team take it up a notch?

By segmenting users based on …

  • The newsletters they are subscribed to
  • Click and remarketing data
  • User profile data
  • Site engagement

… Diana set up various tests to see if users receiving segmented content would engage with the content more than unsegmented users.

In one test, Diana took CNET’s “News” subscribers and tested sending them a control email with no personalized content.

In the treatment, those subscribers for “News” who also demonstrated behaviors linking them to “Smart home and appliances” content received a newsletter with both types of content.


This test showed that segmented users clicked through the email much more than unsegmented content sends &#8212 an increase of 307%.


What you need to know

Building your email list with sweepstakes entrants can work in your favor if you put the work into creating a first-class user experience with email.

You’re not going to keep everyone, but those who do stay engaged with your brand are worth it to provide an engaging and personalized experience. And of course, always test your messaging and ensure you’re sending the most relevant and effective message to your users.

If you liked to learn all of the top takeaways from Email Summit 2015, stay tuned to the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Newsletter. An event recap with everything you need to know will be published in the coming weeks.


You can follow Erin Hogg, Reporter, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter at @HoggErin.


You might also like

Three Takeaways on Customer-centric Marketing from Email Summit 2015 Media Center [More from the blog]

Social Media Marketing: 7 steps for using contests and sweepstakes to promote your brand [More from the blog]

Viral Marketing: Month-long sweepstakes generates 1,170% ROI and 488% lift in email subscribers [MarketingSherpa case study]

List Growth: 11% increase from sweepstakes for current subscribers [MarketingSherpa case study]


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Taylor Kennedy

Live from Email Summit: Two tactics to reduce perceived cost in your email capture forms

February 23rd, 2015

I’m reporting live today from the MarketingSherpa Email Summit in Las Vegas, one of the most exciting weeks of the year for email marketing practitioners (woo hoo!). While I never imagined being this pumped up about email marketing growing up (I had a passion for dinosaurs and Transformers as a kid), it’s incredible to see this many email marketers in one place sharing what works for the benefit of the whole industry.

Today marks the start of the Summit with a workshop on “Effective Email Messaging” taught by Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute, and the MECLABS team.

One of the concepts that seems to be resonating especially well with the marketers in attendance today is the concept of email marketing as a continuum, where the relationship you establish in the email capture form (lead generation form) affects each interaction that occurs thereafter.

Therefore, starting your “email relationship” off on the right foot with a well-thought-out email capture strategy is of critical importance. Let’s avoid any and all applicable first date metaphors and dive right into the key principles that Flint has covered in this session, backed by tests to support them.


A framework for reducing perceived cost of the email capture

When testing your email capture fields, where do you begin? It’s important to remember that any action you wish the visitor to take on your website is a balance between two forces — cost and value. In order to increase the likelihood of the visitor taking the desired action, you should always be seeking to minimize cost and increase value.

In today’s post, we’ll be exploring the cost side of the equation.


Typically, one of the easiest places to start is by looking at your email capture forms for any unnecessary elements that might contribute to the perceived cost.

Cost takes on two forms when dealing with email:

1. Amount of information required — Think the amount of form fields involved. How many form fields are actually getting put to use by either the marketing or sales team once captured. If you’re not using  a particular form field currently (or not planning on using it in the near future), then get rid of it. Also, make sure your audience is clear on which form fields are required to participate in the email list.

2. Nature of the information required — This is the type of information that is required in the form fields. If you require a telephone number for a digital download, this might convince the visitor that you have an ulterior motive for their contact information. Also, think about more personal information types, such as driver’s license number or social security number. This information may be more difficult to obtain or could cause concern to the visitor.


Eliminating form fields

In the experiment below, the MECLABS team focused on reducing the amount of information required, by eliminating the phone number requirement, reducing the number of fields from five to four.




The results of this change? A 28% increase in capture rate with the shorter form.


Dropping form field requirement

In the next example, the team altered the nature of the form fields by no longer requiring the telephone number. Remember that certain form fields can have a much greater perceived cost. In terms of email vs. phone number, it is much easier to ignore an email than a sales representative constantly dialing you at your personal number.




The results? An impressive 275% increase in capture rate when the phone number was no longer a required field.


Cost dials

You might look at the examples above and think, “Wow, that’s easy.” However, you need to consider the importance of maintaining a form that is both optimized for generating quantity as well as quality. In one of my favorite tests that I have conducted at MECLABS, we boosted lead capture by over 166% using one simple tactic.

The concept is illustrated below using the quantity and quality dials: 


To increase the quantity of leads, you need to reduce the perceived cost in your capture forms using the tactics that we discussed in previous examples.

However, to increase quality, you may actually want to increase the perceived cost of your capture form fields to ensure only the most motivated prospects make it through to your sales team. By taking this approach, you are making the email capture form an important first element in your lead qualification process.

In this test, we leveraged the costs (both amount and nature) required in the email capture to drive a significant increase in the list size, while maintaining quality.

After performing data analysis on the funnel, we concluded that the form field was attempting to capture too much information at once and may be causing visitors to exit the funnel. In order to increase our KPI of lead quantity, we decided to move the most basic information needed to a form  located on the product and category pages.

This tactic achieved two goals:

1. It took a step out of the process for the visitor to submit their information, as they were no longer required to click a CTA to be shown the initial form.

2. It made the logical next step in the decision making process clear for the visitor considering a “request for more information.”

Then, after generating the basic information for the visitor to become a lead, they were given the option of providing more information in a light-box that appeared upon form submission.

The copy on this secondary step not only thanked the visitor, but also let them know how the additional information they provided could help them in the process (especially since the product being offered was an extremely complex sale).


The results?  A 166% increase in leads for the treatment.


Explained conceptually, the process looks like this:

From a single page form to this two-page form that boosts quantity, while maintaining quality



Now if you find you are having an issue generating too many leads for your sales team to handle or the leads are of a lower quality, you might consider adding fields back to your initial form to help your team better qualify prospects. Please don’t add fields for the sake of adding fields. Think about what form fields will actually help you convert leads into customers.

Starting your “email relationship” off on the right foot may take some work, but hopefully the tactics above help you strike the perfect balance of quality and quantity to build your list.

I would love to hear from you about what works in your marketing campaigns.


If you liked to learn all of the top takeaways from Email Summit 2015, stay tuned to the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Newsletter. An event recap with everything you need to know will be published in the coming weeks.


You can follow Taylor Kennedy, Senior Research Manager, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter at @OptimizeDude.


You might also like

Value Proposition: NFL’s Jaguars increase revenue with customer-centric marketing [More from the blogs]

New Chart: Viral Campaign ROI Starts with Realistic Assessment of Costs [MarketingSherpa chart]

Email Marketing How-to: Overcome 3 common errors to increase clickthrough [MarketingSherpa how-to]

Landing Page Optimization: Leveraging perception to tip the value scale (Part 1) [More from the blogs]


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John Tackett

Landing Page Optimization: How a navigation test increased leads 34%

February 19th, 2015

Site navigation can make or break the user experience on your site.

So what can you do about it?

In today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post, I wanted to share with you an interesting experiment from our latest Web clinic that shows how a tourism group increased leads 34% by testing their site navigation.

Before we get any further, let’s take a look at the experiment:

Background: A tourism commission seeking to enhance visitor interaction with their website content in order to boost appeal for choosing their city over other destinations.

Goal: Test the site navigation to increase visitor engagement with key site content.

Primary Research Question: Which navigation type will increase site engagement?

Secondary Research Question: Which navigation type will lead to the highest lead generation rate?

Test Design: A/B/C split test

In the control above, the MECLABS research team hypothesized that the navigation was increasing user friction by including an almost-overwhelming amount of options.

Read more…

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Sam Caruso

SEO Marketing: Adding value without risking search rank

February 16th, 2015

It’s common knowledge that search engine optimization (SEO) often plays a major role in how companies group their key terms, whether they be in the headline or in the bottom of a page.

This practice can also lead some companies to avoid testing certain areas of their site in order to maintain page rank.

However, there is one area where company value can easily utilized without risking online ranking. Here’s a recent experiment where we tested one minor change in an SEO headline and achieved a significant lift in conversion.

The MECLABS’ Research Partner wanted to concentrate on headline testing for one of their high-ranking SEO pages but had a few stipulations on how the headline copy could be laid out.

To avoid any ranking pitfalls, we went over various value points for the Research Partner to find the best way to incorporate value without damaging any SEO rankings if any treatment were to outperform the control (the existing high-ranking page.)

After careful review of the partner’s various value points, we found that the partner had a price guarantee that presented good value to potential customers.

For the experiment, the copy for the treatments had to be worded carefully as to not interfere with key search terms. To keep in line with the partner’s SEO parameters, we developed logos depicting the price guarantee alongside headlines that featured the word “guaranteed” and mixed them with the key search terms used in the headline.

The main rule that had to be followed when putting the treatments together was that the first two words of the existing headline had to remain where they were to keep search ranking in place. The following logos were placed next to the headline to express company value:

  Read more…

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Ken Bowen

Value Proposition: NFL’s Jaguars increase revenue with customer-centric marketing

February 12th, 2015

The Jacksonville Jaguars, located in the home city of MECLABS Institute, have not had a winning season in nearly a decade. By some measures, the team has actually gotten worse in recent years.

Yet, despite a miserable 1-7 home record for the 2013 NFL season, the Jaguars actually enjoyed a significant lift in local revenue in 2014 and increased average game day attendance by over 3,000 fans.

How did they accomplish this feat?

By viewing their product from the perspective of their prospects and answering one simple question: “If I am the ideal customer, why should I purchase from you rather than your competitor?”



Jacksonville is the NFL’s smallest true market, and by most metrics, it’s a borderline miracle that a metropolitan statistical area of only 1.35 million people has been able to sustain a franchise in the country’s most expensive sports league for 20 years and counting.

The per-capita ticket buying pressure on the city is astronomical — approximately one in 20 citizens must purchase a ticket to each game to keep the stadium full on Sundays — as is the sponsorship demands on local corporations.

For this reason, the Jaguars do not enjoy the same leverage to arbitrarily raise ticket prices as do teams in much larger cities where season-ticket waiting lists are the norm and NFL tickets are truly a scarce commodity, cities where demand will likely always outstrip supply.

We live in an age when professional sports (particularly in mid-sized markets) have never faced tougher competition for discretionary income and mindshare. Whereas once there was only a handful of entertainment and recreation options available to consumers, major sports now must compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, YouTube and a rapidly expanding universe of low-cost entertainment options hyper-specific to each customer’s personal tastes.

At the same time, live professional sports also have to compete with the home theater experience.

In the last 10 years years, economies of scale have made it possible for the average family to afford a high-fidelity home theater setup that provides a perfectly suitable alternative to being at the game in person, at a fraction of the cost. No parking hassles. No overpriced concessions. No traffic bottlenecks. And no $85 tickets, on average.

Without the leverage or on-field product to justify a price increase, the Jaguars made a multi-million dollar bet that they could positively impact local revenue at existing prices simply by putting customer-experience first and enhancing the value proposition of their existing game day experience.

Perhaps the best way to visualize this customer-centric approach is via the exchange fulcrum.


The exchange fulcrum:


Every purchasing decision that a prospect makes is driven by a competing set of forces — value and cost.

“What value am I receiving, and at what expense?” Every time a customer is confronted by a call-to-action, these two elements will wage war in his or her mind until the scale is ultimately tipped in favor of either conversion or rejection.

The exchange fulcrum — with value force and cost force on opposing sides — brings life to this analogy. Taken one step further, the fulcrum can be given predictive powers via the exchange heuristic:

VfAC – CfAC = Nf

Where Vf = Value Force

AC = Acceptance

Cf = Cost Force

Nf = Net Force

  Read more…

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Kayla Cobb

4 Essential Marketing Insights from Freakonomics Author Stephen J. Dubner

February 9th, 2015

As all marketing professionals and watchers of “Mad Men” know, marketing is a tricky field. It’s one of the few industries that rely equally on creative ideas that have never been seen before and cold, analytical testing.

But what do you do when you feel stuck in a marketing rut?

Luckily, Steven J. Dubner was there to the rescue. Co-author of the popular Freakonomics book series, which have sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, Dubner is a seasoned pro at looking at seemingly obviously problems from a new angle.

As a self-identified “freak,” I jumped at the opportunity to interview Stephen J. Dubner about what his advice is when it comes to breathing some new life into your marketing strategy. The following interview offers a glimpse into the Freakonomics way of thinking, while giving a taste of what Dubner will be covering during his session at Email Summit 2015. So without further ado, enjoy.


First things first, what does it mean to Think Like a Freak?

Whereas Dubner and Levitt’s first two books, Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, melded pop culture and economics to explore topics and arguments that “traditional” economists would typically never touch, their latest book explains the thought process behind Freakonomics.

Think Like a Freak explains how to apply this questioning mentality that Dubner and Levitt have employed so successfully in both of their books to answer questions in everyday life. But I’m making this all sound more complicated than I need to.

Essentially, thinking like a freak involves looking at common, everyday problems from a new lens. It encourages the “freak” to be unafraid to question every step of the processes and conclusions that surround them.

The practical idea behind this mentality is simple — how can we be absolutely sure that we are performing at our best if we never try anything new? Thinking like a freak really boils down to one idea: testing.

Here is just a taste of what this freakish mentality is:

So what was Dubner’s advice on revitalizing your marketing?


Lesson #1: Get creative

First start with a white sheet of paper. Don’t hold back. What types of things might your customers relate to?

One of the biggest challenges that can come from running campaign after campaign is finding new and exciting ways to look at problems. After all, constantly being on your creativity A-game is draining. Luckily, this is a feeling that Dubner knows all too well:

MarketingExperiments: What are your top strategies to avoid falling into a creative rut?

Stephen J. Dubner: Surround yourself with people who don’t think like you (or come from different age or income or ethnic or political or vocational brackets, etc.). When you’re traveling, always pick out one site to see that you think sounds ridiculous, and see if you can learn something with it. And here’s my favorite: when you meet someone new, no matter what they do, just say this: “Tell me something I don’t know about [whatever you do].” It’s the best ice-breaker in the world, and you’ll learn a lot.

I feel more creative already.

Read more…

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