How to use Facebook competitions properly to grow your email marketing list

Data is the key ingredient to a successful email marketing campaign, and from our many years of experience sending email newsletters, we know that the more ‘opted-in’ an audience is the more engaged they will be with your emails once they arrive in their inbox.

Here is the formula for attracting email opt-ins:

A valuable incentive x Lots of opportunities to subscribe

Essentially, the best way to get email opt-ins is to incentive them, and advertise that incentive in key locations across your website, social media channels and beyond. One effective way of doing this is competitions.

With a great prize, a competition can drive subscriptions: when people enter, simply give them the option to opt-in to your newsletter to receive your future content, news, deals, competitions. Simple. Well, in principle. In practice, you have to get them right.

We’ve run Facebook competitions for a number of clients. In my opinion they worked best for B2C clients - but they have been a great way to generate a buzz, delight a winning participant and provide a steady stream of opt-in recipients.

So here are my top tips based on my experience running these competitions.

Apps can manage comps better than you

You see a lot of businesses running Facebook competitions where the entry requirement is asking people to just like the page and/or post or comment or share the post. This can make it tricky to randomly select a winner and get clear email opt-in (not to mention it may conflict with Facebook’s promotion guidelines).

You’re better off using an app built to run and manage this sort of promotion: we use is ‘Contest’. It’s easy-to-use, cost-effective and gives entrants the option to opt-in to your newsletter and then makes it easy for you to export their data. The statistics you get from the app are comprehensive, helping you to improve future competitions.

Encourage people to share the competition with an extra entry

Facebook algorithms are smart cookies. When they notice a post getting a solid number of shares and likes, it assumes that it’s a decent piece of content, and that other people are likely to want to see it. Therefore, it gets an organic reach boost and more of the people who like your page (and their friends) will see the competition. The more people that see it, the more entries you can expect. The more entries, the more potential for opt-in newsletter subscribers.

To drive even more organic opportunities, apps like ‘Contest’ (above) give you the option to give people an extra chance of winning if they share the post. We’ve found this to be a successful tactic, encouraging more entrants.

Boost the post

Facebook ads are great because they’re relatively inexpensive and can be super-targeted. The social media giant may have come in for some criticism about the amount of data they hold (and the way they use it) but for marketers and brands, it’s a dream come true.

One effective Facebook ad tactic is to create a lookalike audience of your email subscribers. This simply means adding your subscriber list to Facebook. If this email address is linked to a FB profile, those clever algorithms will deliver your post to a similar looking audience based on their likes, shares and comments.

If these people look like people who have already subscribed, it’s likely they’ll be interested in what you’ve got to say too.

Pin it to the top of your page

A simple trick… but an effective one. Pin the competition post to the top of your Facebook page to increase the reach and (hopefully) capture new visitors data.

Make the design your own and get the image size right

Compelling imagery is key on social media. Make sure you create a unique and professional looking image for your competition. This will make it stand out from other posts in the timeline, give the right impression of your business and encourage more opt-ins.

People may not trust the post if the image looks very amateur. I’d recommend getting an Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud subscription and attending a Brand51 ‘Adobe Photoshop For Beginners’ workshop. Or getting support from an agency who can help you to always maintain your professional image.

Create urgency through a time sensitive competition

If you set a time limit for entering the competition it will encourage people to act now rather than later, so they don’t miss out. You don’t want people to fall into the trap of saying “I’ll enter that later…” and later never comes.

Make it easy for people to enter

Don’t get greedy with the information you ask for. It’s tempting to try and get lots of data from people to get them to enter, but the easier you make it for people, the more people are likely to take part. Facebook allows competition entries with one click which enters the draw and takes personal info from the individual's profile.

Obviously, the more compelling the prize the more you can ask people to do - people will jump through hoops for the possibility of winning a Bugatti Veyron which they simply won’t or a branded pen. But still, keeping it simple is almost always the best way to go. We’re all very time-conscious and you have a split second to encourage people to engage and not just scroll on by.

And finally… make sure the prize is something you’ll audience will value

If the prize doesn’t hold a high perceived value, like a free 30-minute review that they can get anyway, then don’t expect many people to enter. We’re very savvy to what is a good prize nowadays, so don’t try and pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Obviously, you can’t break the bank but something with high perceived value will get you better results. Over time you can then analyse the results to estimate your cost per signup and make a judgement on how much you can afford to give away.

The Winbox Way is to help businesses to build and maintain a high quality data list and consistently deliver a high-performing email newsletter. To learn more about how Winbox can help your business, get in touch.


Interview w/Ben Heald - Sift, Edo, Bristol Pound & St George’s

Ben Heald wears a vast array of hats. Not only is he Chairman of publishers Sift, digital agency Edo and business startup platform eFiling, he also acts as Chair for the Bristol Pound; and as a trustee of live music venue St. George’s in Bristo. He is, in short, a busy chap.

We heard Ben speak at a Marketing Network event earlier this year where he talked about marketing, communications and building a business. As email marketing specialists, however, one comment he made caught our ears. He explained that one of his most effective marketing tools was an email that he sends just once a year, and from that solitary email come leads, contacts, coffees with prospects and friends alike.

We were intrigued, so we pinned him down to find out more.

Winbox: Hello Ben, thanks for agreeing to chat with us. We wanted to talk because we saw you at the recent Marketing Network event, and you were saying how effective your ‘once-a-year email’ is…

Ben Heald: I’m writing one at the moment, actually!

Winbox: We won’t keep you too long then! Basically, you were saying what an effective sales marketing tool this one email is for you. Could you describe that email? What’s it about? Why did you start writing it in the first place?

Ben: I started doing it about twenty years ago; an update to my existing connections. Over the years the database has grown substantially, but the content has remained pretty consistent - it’s a personal message from me about what’s been going on in my life and business.  It’s honest, open, a little bit opinionated and I try to make it ‘wank-free’!

Back in the day, it was just used to promote Sift, but we have fantastic marketing teams within Sift and Edo who push put regular informative email campaigns now anyway. So my mailer is something broader and, like I say, personal.

The one I’m writing at the moment, for instance, covers the five organisations that I’m involved in. I used to call it a Sift Update, but now it’s more of a Ben Update.

Winbox: How occasional are we talking?

Ben: It used to be twice a year, but now it’s more like once a year: I’m involved in more things now, so there’s slightly less time than there used to be.

With the one I’m writing now, I’m going to send it to all my LinkedIn contacts - these days, that’s the best database of all. I don’t think anybody can maintain anything that good, not unless they’re working a database with hundreds of thousands of regular product users. For most businesses, everybody you need to contact is on LinkedIn.

Winbox: But the database you started with twenty years ago clearly wasn’t on LinkedIn.

Ben: No. I used to keep it in whatever contact management system we were using at the time. I still maintain a database for people in Salesforce now, for instance, but soon… well, I’m toying with whether or not I need to keep my own database at all: LinkedIn is really effective.

Winbox: Our take on email in general is that it’s only as good as the data you hold, so… are you vigilant with who you invite or accept on LinkedIn?

Ben: Yes. I don’t say yes to everybody. I only link with people I know, or think are interesting, and I only invite people I’ve met. Sometimes, just occasionally, if someone’s only one contact away, I might approach them, but not usually.

Winbox: Do you actively promote your ‘one email’?

Ben: No, it’s by invitation only really. It goes to people I want to send it to. It’s written to people I know, rather than being a cold thing.

Winbox: Is that why it’s been so effective?

Ben: Yes. It’s personal. It comes from me, and my contacts have been getting for up to twenty years. They know I have views on things, and in most cases they’re people I’ve developed a relationship with at some point - we’ve done business together or they worked for me, rather than bumped into each other somewhere.

Winbox: The golden egg of marketing currently is authenticity, and this is about as authentic as it gets…

Ben: It is authentic, it always has been. That’s the way I try to engage with people and talk to them. If you’re open to them, they’re open back.

Winbox: What’s the call to action?

Ben: The CTA is “make contact with me”. I’m a great believer in sitting down and having lots of talks. I do it a bit less than I used to, but I used to try and have a coffee with about 200 people a year. It’s easy if you meet people at conferences and things. I do a bit less of that now...

What usually happens is that I send it out, and I get 20 or 30 people who make contact and say “Ben, let’s talk about this/that/the other”, and after a couple of months some conversations have built that end in a new idea or a sale or a hiring. All kinds of things flow from that CTA.

Winbox: Talking more broadly, do you subscribe to any emails or newsletters yourself?

Ben: Oh yes - and people subscribe me to lots, too.

Winbox: Do any stick out particularly as must-opens?

Ben: Well, I get things that I’m interested in, from a passion or a business perspective. There are a few news ones - the Economist, the FT, the Guardian - that keep me happy and informed. I get some environmental things, some publishing things, some tech things, but I try not to read too many. I’d rather have a smaller number that I take the time to read. If I never read them I unsubscribe.

Winbox: So is there anything that would make you immediately unsubscribe?

Ben: Anything that I haven’t subscribed to. Even though spam filters are radically better than they used to be - and I think that’s why people are using email more than they used to - I nevertheless get stuff sent by people who subscribed me to something - usually American marketing teams, because they don’t have to adhere to European legislation.

When I was first subscribing to email newsletters back in the Nineties, different boundaries and laws applied. My address was added to all sorts of things and it’s simply not possible to get out of them. At some point I got added to a list that obviously said “opt in for emails”, and once you’re on you can’t get off. So I’m always being added to things off the back of that.

Winbox: So email is a valuable part of the marketing mix, here and now?

Ben: Yes. I don’t think it’s ever really been challenged. In the professional or business sectors, people mostly work through their emails fairly religiously. It’s a valuable place to put your message. If you can get your message in a trusted email vehicle into someone’s inbox, that’s the best thing to do.

The majority of business people don’t use Twitter, and those who do, don’t watch it very carefully; Facebook’s use case is more personal; then you have the rise of internal networks and Whatsapp and all. There are plenty of networks about, but there’s nothing as ubiquitous as email - if you can get in there.

Winbox: How well has email worked for the businesses you chair?

Ben: Well, on the Sift side, it’s one of the most effective thing we do. For example, AccountingWEB is our largest title, and we send an email to subscribers that goes to around 100,000 people three times a week. If we promote one of our clients in that email, they get hundreds of leads. It’s a self-targeting group, and they respond well to promotions - it’s not dissimilar to the old-fashioned trade magazines.

I’m trying to get St. George’s and Bristol Pound to learn from all my experiences at Sift. I’d like Bristol Pound to send out a daily email - Bristol Pound’s lunch of the day or best night out - because it would work in the same way, it’d be self-targeting.

Winbox: From once a year to once a day - do you think there’s an ideal regularity for email?

Ben: It depends on the business. I get emails more than once a day from Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, which should tell you something. You know email is still the prime method of communication when the biggest social media platforms still use it to communicate with you.

Winbox: We couldn’t agree more. Ben, thanks very much for your time. We’ll let you get back to that email.

Ben: Pleasure, thanks.

Thanks again to Ben for his time and insights. You can follow Ben on Twitter here, but you’ll have to wait for an invite to the newsletter. For more expert email advice, download our ebook here.

OTW 049 - Why B2B companies should up their marketing in the summer months

In this episode, Marc explains why you need to put more effort into your marketing in the summer months.

If you have any email marketing questions that you'd like answering then make sure you send us your questions via our social channels:
Twitter: #WinboxWinners

Guest post: Tony Robbins ruined my life…temporarily!

Greetings ladies & gentlemen!

I recently had the extreme pleasure of seeing the awesome Tony Robbins live at #UPW2017.

This trip was long anticipated and I had been excited for a long time before the time came to board the train at Temple Meads, Bristol – and head to London for the event.

To save your sanity and for the sake of this guest post – I’ll cut straight to the chase – as I could waffle on for AGES about this spectacular event.

And I still wouldn’t have made the point that I want to make here today!

UPW (Unleash the Power Within) is a 4 day, mega long event – 830am til gone midnight, every day – from Thursday to Sunday.

The aim of the event is to invest time in yourself to really step up, raise your game and make your life the life that you would love it to be.

Tony & his team spoke, did exercises and shared knowledge on all things from Mental Health & Wellbeing, Physiology (how the body directly affects our minds) and Psychology – on all things in life and even business.

There were 9,999 other likeminded souls in the room – all dancing, whooping, jumping and being hugely positive and vibrant – and the atmosphere was totally addictive!

When we were about to enter an important part of the event, Tony would ‘change our state’ by putting on thumping dance tracks or soothing music – which everyone participated in.

And I can’t even begin to tell you about the amount of hugs, high fives and love in the room – crazy!  Even for me – and for those that know me, know that I am a hugger! J

Which is all great.

Really great.

Whilst I was at the event.

Now, Tony did forewarn us all about the effects of coming back to reality and how the changes we had made would be perceived by others – but also the way we perceive others may have changed too.

So, home I came – determined to put my new found self in to action.

BUT without my 9,999 new friends – it was difficult to maintain this.

Plus I started seeing traits in others, when going about my business – that no longer resonated with me – and opinions that were SO negative – that it was no wonder that I often found myself previously absorbing these traits as my own.

So, actually – for a couple of weeks after – I felt miserable as sin!

But like when any of us take on a challenge, an exercise or an idea that takes effort and clarity – we can often look at things as ‘too tough’ or label it as something that “is just not me’.

And often those thoughts are self limiting, self defeating and … completely NOT your thoughts! 

These are usually things that you have been told by others – which you have adopted as the truth, usually wrongly.

Humans eh? :)

Fast forward a few weeks and I am implementing what I was taught, seeking support from likeminded souls and pushing forward with all of my positive plans.

The moral of this story is this:

In life, in business – we all need to make changes at some point, to allow us to grow, thrive and develop.

Choose your mentors well, persevere despite those who doubt you, be careful not to adopt people’s thoughts as your own (as it’s all them!) and always seek the support of a trusted network of people who have your success at heart.

Remember, massive changes are painful at the start – but in the words of Tony Robbins – step up, set a new standard and be a force for good!

Go get ‘em, tiger!

Nick Elston

Founder of Talking Anxiety

OTW 048 - 3 Guiding principles to a successful email marketing strategy

In our latest episode of On the Winbox, Marc explains what principles you need to consider when designing and implementing your marketing strategy. 

If you have any email marketing questions that you'd like answering then make sure you send us your questions via our social channels:
Twitter: #WinboxWinners

Effort: the secret of success in marketing and life

As a huge personal development fan, I read several books and attend a handful of talks each month to quench my thirst for self-improvement. An avid sports fan, I particularly like talks with a sports theme, and the more successful the speaker, the more interested I am. That’s because I’m driven to learn from people who have been there and done it; scouting through the specifics of their achievements and trying to find the trends their success is built on.

 Over the past year, I’ve seen some incredible speakers, including Karen Brady, Roger Black, Gary Vaynerchuk, Barry McGuigan and Maggie Alphonsi. Each of them was full of fascinating stories, having reached the very pinnacle of their chosen fields. But what was strikingly obvious was the one piece of advice they all gave for their success – something we can all do ...for free.

It’s a case of putting in the work.

Every one of the speakers above said they just worked exceptionally hard. Some called it an obsession; others stated that they simply put in the hours. If you follow Gary Vee, you’ll know he’s a big advocate of ‘the hustle’. The other speakers mentioned the fact as a passing comment – something they just expected of themselves.

 Whether in sport, marketing, fitness or acting, the field doesn’t matter; but there is a clear correlation between working hard and achieving more. In marketing, professionals are often seeking a quick fix. That’s why articles like ‘Top 10 Things…’ do so well for clicks. But the truth is if you want to get great results you need to put in the work.

If you’re putting little effort into creating your marketing email campaigns, you’ll likely get poor results. This is because you’re not super-focused on producing something helpful to your audience, or a must-see email in their inbox. Instead, you’re simply adding to the clutter.

 And there is a lot of clutter. In fact, on average we get 121 emails per day. I’ll bet only 1-in-10 of these are worth your time. I’ll often come out of an hour-long meeting to find ten unread emails on my email app, only to swipe left on almost all of them, deleting them before I’ve even opened. Do you do the same?

But what happens when you put thought and effort into your campaigns? What if you carefully construct an email strategy you believe will offer real value to your audience; target and segment your list so each email you send is relevant; write compelling content, beautifully presented; and constantly test, measure and analyse to learn more about what your audience wants and doesn’t want?

 Well, then you’ll get good results.

 All of the above take effort and commitment, however. But at the end of the day – and in the modern marketing and business environment – this is what it takes to get great results. So ask yourself: Is the work you’re putting into your marketing campaigns equivalent to the ambitions that you want to achieve?

 I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please leave a comment below or tweet me at @WinboxLtd. Onwards and upwards!

One off email campaigns: When do they work, and how should you do them?

Ok, so you’ve got your email newsletter set up and, no doubt, by now you’re seeing a significant surge in traffic. However, there are times when even your regular mailer doesn’t provide the time, space and focus needed to promote or explain a particular aspect of your business. That is where the one off mailer comes in.

What’s the difference?

As the name suggests, a one off mailer is an email that is sent to your subscribers a single time only. This differs to a recurring email template such as a newsletter, which is sent out at the same frequency every week, month, etc. and designed to look the same albeit the changing content presented within it each time. 

Now, we know what you’re thinking: if you’ve already got a regular newsletter why opt for a one off mailer?

Well, because it is the most direct and economical means to highlight an aspect of your business that is deemed important but is very much of the moment or time dependant. If the message is only going to be conveyed once, why spend on costly marketing as even social media channels, arguably the most instant form of communication, often require paid promotion and targeting to get people to even notice your content. 

Another benefit of the one off mailer is that it adds variety to your content schedule. This also breaks up the gaps between your regular newsletters, helping to further engage your subscribers by promoting or reminding them about the products and services you offer. 

When to go “one off”

While there are endless examples out there, the one off mailer can be split into three main categories, which are as follows:

Sales oriented

When it comes down to it, all customer communications are sales oriented in one way or another. So what we really mean by this term is those emails that can be directly linked to driving transactions and even measured for success using analytics tools. This includes hero campaigns, for example a flagship product launch, through to arguably the most upfront of all marketing campaigns the sales, offers and promotions.

For many retailers, the sale season is a make or break part of their financial year and without question deserves more than a footnote in a newsletter. Individual emails announcing the launch, further reductions and close of a promotional period are a must for any e-commerce site and tied in with the right piece of content, the one off mailer can provide a speedy transition from pitch to click through to order. 

Brand building

Unlike sales oriented emails, brand building is less quantifiable but then again that is not really the point. These often lack a transactional thrust because what you are really trying to sell is the brand itself by creating an image of the business that will encourage subscribers to continue shopping with you over your competitors in the long run. One off mailers that support this type of brand building can cover everything from the heritage of the business to how your products are crafted, partnerships with charities to a recent award win. If there’s an unique angle or story to your business this is the space in which to share and enthuse about it to your customer base.


Your customers have subscribed to your emails because they want to stay informed with what’s happening at your business. While you may already send out newsletters, there are occasions when a piece of news content warrants more than simply a mention and can be better explored using a one off mailer. This could be for a number of reasons: perhaps it is an important event that you wish to promote; the business has gone through a merger that will have repercussions as to how it operates; or there has been a change to policy that affects the customer experience. Whether it is celebratory or more serious in tone, a one off email gives the topic the weight it deserves and will help prevent customers from feeling that they have not been properly informed.

How to do it right

Staying on brand, use the one off mailer as a chance to do something different with the graphic design compared to your regular newsletters. It needs to stand out, whether it is the colours used, a different type of font for the headers or a whole new layout, so spend some time thinking about how you want it to look or better yet get a professional design team to do the work for you.

Similarly, you can have a bit of fun with the copy provided it fits within the scope of your “house” style. Writing a punchy email subject line is an art form in itself with a one off mailer a good time to test out something different and see how it affects factors like open rates. If your subscribers are more responsive to a pun then why not give the people what they want? Afterall, it means more people opening your emails and discovering your products.

How you present your email will also depend on the type of products or content you’re attempting to drive people to. Say you have a new product launch, a one off mailer should be there to drum up excitement so that your subscribers click straight through to the product and are compelled to purchase. You can also use a single subject email as a means to drive traffic to underperforming areas of your site, for example a product category. Together the design and copy can tell a story or provide some inspiration to reignite interest.

Taking this a step further, incorporating editorial content such as blogs into your emails helps build your authority as a brand. For example, a one off mailer that provides a user guide to getting the best from your product will appeal to those who have purchased from you before and will likely encourage them to keep coming back. Importantly, it also allows you to market your products in a more subtle manner, providing a more informed user journey that feeds from email to blog to product. 

Implemented correctly alongside a regular newsletter, the one off mailer can dramatically enhance the user experience. That added layer of interaction, insight and inspiration is something that will not go unnoticed by your customers and will not only lead to a short term lift in sales but also translate to long term brand loyalty. It’s also a case of not underselling your business. If you know you are the go-to for a particular product or service then to not properly communicate that story using low cost channels such as one off mailers is an opportunity wasted.

OTW 046 - How to do email marketing for e-commerce companies

In this episode of our video series, Marc explains the basics of email marketing for e-commerce companies. 

If you have any email marketing questions that you'd like answering then make sure you send us your questions via our social channels:
Twitter: #WinboxWinners

12 key dates for your email calendar

Say the words “awareness days” in company and you’ll no doubt hear a groan or two - and for good reason. The list of “celebrated events” on our calendars is no longer confined to the likes of Christmas, birthdays and New Year. After all, how boring would life be if we didn’t celebrate British Tomato Week in May, Sewing Machine Day in June, or Don’t Step On A Bee Day in July?

(We scoff, but we’ll make an exception for the likes of National Beer Day and National Doughnut Week…)

While many of these national days, weeks and months seem ridiculous, they can prove beneficial to businesses that have a connection to these occasions - especially when it comes to email marketing. Calendar days shouldn’t be ignored when planning your marketing strategy but, as with everything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Let’s take a whistlestop tour through the calendar year for some ideas.

Date: January 1st - New Year’s Day

Why? Because the New Year not only signals a fresh start, but also one of the year’s biggest sales periods: your customers and prospects will be in shopping mode, and they’ll be looking out for a bargain.

Tips: For B2C campaigns, be sure to think about timing - which will all depend on the purpose of your campaign. If your sale begins on December 27th, then send out your email either on the day or the day before. If you’re sending a “New Year, new start” type email, then New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day is perfect. Either way, it makes sense to get Christmas out the way first.

For B2B campaigns, timing is also important when planning a New Year campaign. Since many offices close for weeks around Christmas, think about when you’ll get the chance to put the campaign together - and when your subscribers will have a chance to read it. Creating your campaign early and scheduling for a set date and time will save you a lot of hassle during this busy time of year.

Date: February 14th - Valentine’s Day

Why? Because there are some easy wins, even if you’re not a chocolatier, greetings card retailer or florist.

Tips: Segment, segment, segment. Blanket emailing your entire database with exactly the same message could lead to more unsubscribes than interest. It’s likely that men and women will respond better to differing subject lines, content and design at this time of year, while a couple in their sixties will (on the whole) celebrate the occasion in a very different way to a couple of university students.

Valentine’s Day marketing for B2B brands isn’t as tenuous as it sounds either. There’s plenty you can do to tie in with the occasion: showing the love in the form of a charity donation and sharing the news, sending ecards to your customers to show your appreciation (or to prospects to say how much you’d love to work with them), or even a “spread the love” referral campaign to tout for new business.

Of course, you should love your customers all year round, as we explain in this Valentine’s Day piece...

Date: March - National Puppy Day

Why? Because it’s a way to stand out from the crowd. Because the Internet is obsessed with dogs. Because, unless you’re in a dog-related business, chances are it’s a slow news day, so take advantage!

Tips: While many of the “awareness days” we read about are… somewhat spurious, this can be a positive for businesses. The “big” holidays - Christmas, Valentine’s Day and others - will see customers’ inboxes deluged with emails linked to the occasion, but celebrating lesser-known days like these means you can stand out from the competition, and show your fun side. Content-wise, try humanising your business by sharing photos of employees with their pooches, or making a donation to a local dog shelter and sharing the news with your subscribers - ideas appropriate for B2B and B2C firms alike.

Date: April 22nd - Earth Day

Why? The mission of Earth Day Network is to “diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide”. It’s your chance to show your business’ environmental credentials.

Tips: Don’t boast. Simply listing out all of the ways that your business contributes to helping the environment will simply sound like bragging. Soften the message, offer value to your readers, just like usual.

One option is to focus your campaign on education. Consider explaining what Earth Day is and why it’s important; you could even tie it in with how consumers can use your products in an environmentally friendly way. An office supply company could talk about recycling printer ink cartridges, a food company could talk of the best way to dispose of cooking oil… there’s a potential environmental message to everyone’s work.

From a B2B angle, you could talk up a change that you’re making to celebrate this year’s Earth Day - or again, humanisation could come in, by asking employees to make pledges to change one thing, which you share with your customers.

Date: May - National Share-A-Story Month

Why? Because storytelling should be at the heart of your marketing efforts.

Tips: Although National Share-A-Story Month focuses on connecting kids with stories each May, there’s no reason why adults shouldn’t get involved too. Both B2B and B2C brands can leverage this date as an opportunity to tell your own brand stories: let customers know about you and your brand in more detail. Listen to their stories, too: ask them how your product/service has made a difference to their lives, or run a short story competition where entries need to feature your brand.

Date: June - The Big Lunch

Why? Because it’s all about networking.

Tips: The Big Lunch, funded by the National Lottery, is all about getting neighbours together to share meals, whether big or small, casual or packed full of activities.

For a business, it’s a chance to get involved and to get to know your own neighbours and local customers; which is another way of saying “a segmented marketing campaign.” Consider hosting your own Big Lunch as a chance for customers to see where the magic happens, to enjoy a meal and for them to get to know you better - and vice versa. Invitation management can all be done via email, as can sharing news of the event itself.

Consider inviting other local businesses who aren’t on your mailing list too, and offer incentives (apart from the free lunch) such as a goodie bag. It’s a day of the year that many businesses won’t think to take advantage of; one that can deepen the relationships between you and your customers, and give you plenty of content for your newsletters and website post-event too.

Date: July - Tour de France

Why? Because it’s a major event on the sporting calendar.

Tips: While the Grand Depart no longer takes place in the UK, the Tour is still popular in this country. Like the summer itself, it’s long and drawn out: email marketing at this time of year can be a challenge for B2B and B2C businesses alike. A large part of your subscriber list are likely to be ignoring their emails and enjoying the sunshine - either at home or abroad.

For B2C businesses, try enticing them in with tour-related offers: restaurants could offer discounts for customers arriving by bike, department stores could promote offers on cycling gear, health and wellbeing brands could shout about the benefits of cycling.

If you’re operating in the B2B arena, consider using the Tour de France to inspire content that helps your customer base. Maybe a piece on how cycle races are all about marginal gains - small improvements in both technology and performance that can create a winner. It’s the same for businesses… and so on.

Date: August 19th - World Photo Day

Why? Because photography can be a powerful marketing medium - and because it’s great for crowdsourcing content.

Tips: “Photography is a powerful method of communication that we can use to uplift, inspire and initiate change in our world” says Korske Ara, the founder of World Photo Day. The day’s about getting people to “share their world with the world” via photography… and putting a campaign together around this day can have numerous benefits for email marketers.

There’s no denying the power of visuals in marketing: in 2016, 42% of B2C marketers ranked visual content as the most important form of content for their business, while 51% of B2B marketers said that creating visual content was one of their top priorities.

A competition where subscribers submit a photo of how your product or service fits into their day-to-day lives can not only initiate engagement with both B2B and B2C brands, but give you insight into how your offering is really used.  Sharing your brand’s photos on social media and encouraging subscribers to follow these accounts can help to create cohesion in your marketing efforts.

Date: September - Back to school

Why? Because the return to school after the summer offers fantastic opportunities to market to the needs of parents and their children alike.

Tips: Think laterally. It’s not just suppliers of stationery, school uniforms and laptops that can benefit from a back to school email marketing campaign. Think about mums now having more time to themselves, teachers needing to stock up on teaching aids, and consumers who are neither parents nor teachers, but who may enjoy a good old fashioned dose of school nostalgia (or who are simply glad that there are no longer hordes of kids around on week days).

Don’t forget about university students at the end of the month; they benefit from all sorts of sales campaigns, from tenants’ insurance to toilet cleaner. Depending on who you’re targeting, you may wish to run multiple campaigns to catch those who shop at the start of the summer holidays to be organised, and those who leave everything until a few days before the schools go back.

In the B2B world - especially for those providing services, rather than products, the “back to school” theme can be used as the backbone for content focused on going back to basics for maximum profitability.

Date: October 31st - Halloween

Why? Because it’s a chance to share some FRIGHTENINGLY good content with your subscribers, to TREAT them to an exclusive discount, and to BOOst your statistics...

Tips: Combine email and social media. Halloween is perfect for crowdsourcing content: photo competitions for the best Halloween costume or spooky party food, asking customers for ideas of how to use your products to celebrate the occasion… there’s loads you can do. Start your campaign early to capture these ideas, and share results in early November too.

Think beyond the subject line. While an eye-catching, Halloween-themed starting point will grab attention, you need to back it up with great content. Whether this is a trick or treat game which will offer some customers a discount code, crowdsourced costume ideas from your customers or showcasing products that tie in with the Halloween theme, there needs to be both style AND substance.

On the subject of Halloween, here’s a little piece we wrote that compares email marketing campaigns to different monsters, demonstrating how varied your spooky content can be. Campaigns like this are perfect for brands who, like us, operate in the B2B arena.

Date: November - Movember

Why? The combination of moustache-based fun and charitable giving can work wonders for your brand image.

Tips: For companies such as razor manufacturers and shaving cream producers, a Movember email marketing campaign is a no-brainer: it’s the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of their products, and even for them to consider a charitable donation.

You don’t have to be in this sector to make the most of this month-long endeavour, though. Want to encourage more subscribers to open your weekly emails? Share progress photos of those in the office who are taking part. Consider awarding a prize to subscribers in various moustache categories at the end of the month: length, style, most bizarre hair growth pattern… you get the idea. It’s a great way to inject some humour and personality into your brand.

On a more serious note, Movember’s all about striking that balance between fun and fundraising. It’s the perfect time for B2B and B2C brands  to show their charitable side: consider hosting fundraising events, sharing details of the sponsorship money raised by those in the office who are taking part, or even donating a percentage of November’s profits to cancer charities and sharing the news with your subscribers - it builds rapport and positive brand equity, and may make them more likely to buy.

Date: December 25th - Christmas

Why? Because...well, because it’s Christmas! Who ignores Christmas?!

Tips: Much like Valentine’s Day, the advent (see what we did there?) of Christmas will see consumers’ inboxes becoming fuller than Santa’s sack. They’ll be promised offers, discounts and gift ideas galore - so how do you make yours stand out?

Effective targeting is a good starting point: lavish Christmas bonuses on loyal customers, and “we miss you” emails on those who are MIA. Consider advent calendar competitions with a prize each day, encouraging subscribers to open, click through, and move on in the customer journey.

The gifts angle works well for B2B brands too. Here, it’s important to think about how Christmas ties in with your offering, getting a little creative if needed. Law firms could talk about Santa’s employment law requirements for his elves, hotel chains targeting corporates could encourage early booking to avoid a “no room at the inn” situation. It’s a time of year when people are expecting a little fun.

That said, don’t sweat the Christmas angle if it’s not right for your business. If you’re trying to flog weedkiller or engine oil, trying to position it as “a great stocking filler” will likely do more harm than good.

The important thing to remember is not to shoehorn a date into your email marketing efforts if you actually have nothing to say - or if it goes against what your business does. If you’re a meat producer, for example, trying to create a campaign around World Vegan Day in November may not be a great idea.

There are all sorts of weird and wonderful days to celebrate throughout the year, and adding seasonality to your email marketing campaign, when done the right way, can really boost your stats. When done wrong, though, you may be better off celebrating National Quiet Day the whole year round...

Starting from scratch: What to expect from your first email campaigns

A couple of weeks ago, we had a concerning conversation with one of our clients. They had just launched a newsletter campaign, and were a bit stressed about it. They only had 23 sign ups after a month, and were starting to wonder if email was worth the investment.

There are a couple of things that we’d like to clear up. One’s about expectations: your first campaign is not going to earn you everything you’ve ever wanted for your business overnight. The other’s about metrics: at first, your results will depend on the traffic you already have, and momentum will take a while to build.

Expectations: what to know before you start

We advise clients to set their expectations by the quality of the data they start with. The more traction you already have, the more effective your campaign will be.

For example, if you’re already generating a lot of traffic to your website, a scroll box inviting readers to sign up and providing an opt-in incentive will yield results. Merely adding a box to Entrepreneurial Spark’s website secured them 3,000  sign ups in three months, while HS Johnson secure an average of 120 new signups a week by offering subscribers a discount on their first purchase.

If you're starting from a low starting position in terms of awareness and momentum, it will take longer to build your list. Opt-ins and existing customers will yield more results than a bad list, full of cold clients and unconfirmed prospects. The first thing to do is clean your existing data, and look at importing your existing networks by approaching LinkedIn contacts or Twitter followers and asking them to sign up.

Metrics: how to tell if you’re doing well

Considering your campaign’s results in isolation is never a good idea. We need context to evaluate our performance in any field, and email marketing is no different.

Check your campaign against benchmark figures in your industry; you’ll usually find that any concerted email marketing effort results in a bump against that standard, as well as against your previous performance. Our clients generally beat industry averages by 50%. After about six months of continued campaigning, and provided their analytics are up to scratch, most have a realistic sense of how well they’re doing and how to change or improve their strategy in future.

Ultimately, though, opt-ins are based on the traffic you already have. Whether you’re inviting signups through scroll boxes on the website, social media shouts with a call to action or conversions from other media platforms, you’re still working with people who already know you exist. Realistically, 5-10% of your existing traffic would be an amazing signup rate; 1-5% is more likely.

Email marketing is not a quick fix or a silver bullet, and it depends on getting people to sign up - which means it goes hand in glove with other channels that bring people to your website, social presence or events. The goal of email marketing is to warm up prospects and build long-term rapport with them; not to get a thousand subscribers in a day.

OTW 045 - The benefits of email marketing for e-commerce companies

In this episode of On the Winbox, Marc explains what the keys benefits of email marketing are for an e-commerce company. He also shares some advice for what you can include in your campaigns. 

If you have any email marketing questions that you'd like answering then make sure you send us your questions via our social channels:
Twitter: #WinboxWinners

I did the HubSpot Email Marketing Certificate, and here’s why you should too!

At uni, my life was consumed by further reading and a constant sense that there was always something else I should be doing to study towards my final marks. When I graduated, I did so with a huge sense of relief that I would never have to spend my free time further educating myself again. I would get a job, do my work, go home and focus my attention on other things. Down time is important, but learning is also about developing and bettering yourself. In my role at Winbox, I look after a client’s campaign and then analyse what worked and what didn’t. I have the skills and expertise to make sure our clients’ marketing makes an impact in a big way. But by developing my existing email marketing skills I could then, in turn, develop our client’s campaigns and better them into an even more engaging piece of marketing for their clients. Not only did it make sense to get myself certified, but I actually never really lost that itch to keep on learning and developing my marketing skills.

So a few other reasons as to why I did this certificate are as follows:

  1. HubSpot are, arguably, one of the biggest sales and marketing platforms out there. They know their stuff, they’re trusted and they're respected. If you’re going to get certified from anyone, it might as well be them.

  2. I put together the email campaigns for our clients, why wouldn’t I want to make sure that I’m following the best practices and therefore getting the best results for clients?!

  3. It took up an hour of my day for a couple of weeks, if that.

Marketing is a huge part of business, market yourself badly and it can have detrimental implications. With GDPR only a year away, not following best practices can be a huge price to pay, €20m in fact. The HubSpot certificate looks at how you can be compliant with your data, and what the best practices are to follow. Also, a lot of what was covered in the course are things already implemented in the Winbox process, so whilst completing it, it was a little extra reassurance from HubSpot that we were doing things the right way. Thanks HubSpot!

If you’re doing email marketing yourself, or are outsourcing it and just want to brush up on what it’s all about, then I’d highly recommend this certificate for you. I’d also be more than happy to answer any questions you might have on the certificate so please reach out in the comments box if you’d like to know more.