Aria Agency – Putting the “A” in in mArketing!

What is Aria and what types of customers do you work with?

Formally, Aria is an award-winning, independent, full-service agency with more than a decade of experience in destination, real estate and economic development marketing. Based in Dallas, our team of 14 work in disciplines including branding, interactive technologies, marketing, video and publicity.

Informally, we’re just creative, fun people, who love to design things people want to use, create brand memories and push the limits of promotion.

How long has Aria been an Advocate of email marketing?

We’ve used email marketing from the day Aria opened its doors in 2000.  Email marketing is an integral piece of most of our marketing campaigns. Not only for clients but also for ourselves. Email is still a very effective way to communicate with your target audiences.

We’re constantly refining our approach to message, format, audience segmentation, and a dozen other details of email campaigns to find the most effective treatment for our clients and their constituents.

While I was checking out your site, I noticed you use lots of really stellar imagery. How important are quality images in today’s digital marketing world? Particularly in the small business environment?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? And even that is probably an understatement for today’s fast-paced, me-first consumer environment.  People are busy, and it’s difficult to get them to slow down long enough to give you their attention and get your marketing message across. A well-crafted, beautifully designed piece can not only grab attention, but also leave a lasting impression with consumers, in a split second.

So, to answer your question in a word. Incredibly!

As you have worked with your customers, what are a few things you have found to be successful in designing emails?

Start with a simple design, and then simplify some more.  Keep it clean and ensure you’re encapsulating ideas in easy, bite-sized chunks to make it that much easier for your audience to digest. That’s what really ensures you get your message across. Also, we always keep in mind tech limitations with file download size and red flags for spam filters.

Since you focus a lot on brand development, could you give 3-4 tips and essentials when focusing marketing efforts on brand promotion?

Brand marketing is a pretty straightforward concept. It’s simply putting a comprehensive strategy around marketing with a consistent focus on imparting the brand components. It’s played out across the tactics you use to reach your audience.

It’s the execution of those strategies and tactics where businesses and brand managers often screw up.

A couple of tests you can use to avoid any misdirection in your own marketing efforts are:

  1. 1. Brand style guidelines are your measuring stick. The first thing you should always do is make 100% sure that each marketing component and promotional piece adheres to your brand guidelines. If the brand messages you’re sending out through social media, your website and your email campaigns are so vastly different that you don’t get a strong sense of brand cohesion when you look at all of those elements comprehensively, you need to reassess how you’re presenting your brand.
  2. Seek out, and listen to feedback from your consumers. Chances are you view your brand in a very defined way. And, a lot of times we find clients are surprised to find the public perception of their brand is completely different. And that’s what matters. Your brand is really how people describe you when you’re not in the room. Find out what the world thinks of your brand, and then tailor marketing efforts to change their way of thinking if you need to. What does Don Draper always say? “If you don’t like the conversation, change it.” It’s true.
  3. Quality over quantity. Remember your brand integrity and reputation is paramount. One awesome content marketing piece in support of your brand is better than 10 mediocre productions any day.

I see in your “Beliefs” section you state, “Traditional advertising alone yields unacceptably low returns compared to cost” – Can you explain what you mean by this and what is considered “non-traditional”?

By traditional, we mean print and broadcast. It’s the age-old tactic of blasting a message over and over again until it’s part of people’s nature. That really doesn’t work today where people are so inundated (every second of every day) by advertising, that it becomes background noise. It’s just part of the atmosphere — you start to tune out the neon of Las Vegas when you’ve been on the strip for a few hours.

Our aim with any client project (and our own) is to find the most efficient way to make our message as personal as possible. It’s really the only way to ensure you’re going to get the attention of your audience. If you can make it seem like you’re reading their mind, they’ll at least give you a few seconds to make your point.

We see social media, behaviorally-customized web experiences, and opt-in media (like email) as big players in this new marketing approach.

How can small businesses use email marketing to create an “experience” with their contacts, hopefully to build a lasting relationship?

Personalize, personalize, personalize. Use segmentation and personalization features to create content that your prospect wants and finds valuable. If you can add value through your marketing, things that enrich their lives in some way: it could be learning, it could be funny, it could be special offers, it could be advance notice, it could be tips, tricks and secrets… any way you can, make it about me, the recipient, and make it about what I’ve told you I want.

How important is it to make marketing, branding, etc personal in todays digital world? Can you share an example of how being personal helped a customer succeed?

See our previous response for how important we believe it is.

We recently undertook (and will be publishing results in our own case study soon) an interactive game for a client. It’s entire focus is on personalization. We’re using behavioral decisions (did they go to a museum or a concert, did they like a baseball player or a politician, etc.,) to create profiles of each individual. We’re using social media, text messaging, email marketing, and physical game components to personalize — down to the smallest degree possible — our messaging from here on out. And each decision from here on out only makes our personalization that much more specific and finite.

We’re really early in the stages of this new game, but we’re hoping for crazy engagement metrics compared to the one-size-fits-all approach of old.

We’ll let you know how it goes.

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Boutique Hotel Seven Days – Pragues email marketing success

ActiveCampaign’s guest contributor for today’s marketers spotlight is Mrs. Radka Konigsmarkova, the General Manager of Botique Hotel Seven Days.

Please tell our readers about your business and where you are located.

We are a 4 Star boutique hotel located in Prague, Czech republic.

Since you are in the hotel / service industry what made you decide to start using email marketing?

There are several reasons we decided to start using email marketing. As the most important, I consider keeping communication with our guests and improving the overall impression of our services and care. The other reason was to find the best way to offer other services of our hotel such as airport transfers, spa & wellness, restaurants to the guests before their arrival. Especially to those who booked through some online reservation portal like

With the Hotel industry being so personal, what are some of the marketing tools outside of email marketing you feel are valuable to companies in the Hospitality industry?

Today it is all about the online marketing. We try to use all online tools that we find useful to build our online presence – blog, social media etc. We concentrate on our website, as I consider it as one of the most important marketing tools and we  constantly optimize it to increase the number of direct bookings as they are the key to the success of the hotel.

What are a couple of the features within ActiveCampaign you use in your email marketing and why are they important to you?

I really like the possibility to set up Auto Responder Campaign and Date Base Campaign as both types enable us to send the campaigns just at the right time without much effort. Once the campaign is set up, we just need to provide data and the rest is done by ActiveCampaign.I also find the reports very well done, user-friendly and clearly showing all important information. You can see an example of an autoresponder campaign which relies heavily on personalization tags below.

Providing shelter for patrons has been around for thousands of years. What are some of the things that have been changing in more recent times, and how does your Hotel adapt to these changes?

One of the things I have to mention is definitely the power of online reviews and ratings. I do not believe that with bad reviews and low score any hotel can be successful and profitable as the online reputation has a direct impact on the hotel revenue. I believe that our hotel deals with reviews very well, we read all of them and react to them. I am very happy that our guests appreciate what we do.

What are some of the steps you take with your marketing to set yourself apart from the competition?

We have guests on our minds whatever we do. We focus on guests and their needs in every stage of the booking proces, during their stay, and even after they leave. We do our best to offer our customers a value and offer only what we are really able to fulfill.

Do you have any words of advice or tip for other customers who might be in the service or hospitality industry?

It would be the same as what I have just said: Focus on guest and his needs in every stage of the booking proces, during his stay and even after the departure. Make everything easy for your guest – easy to find you, easy to book, easy to contact you, easy to check-in etc.

Making Online Shopping Personal

“Give the lady what she wants.”

That’s the mantra that made Marshall Field famous.

For years, customers associated this high level of personalized shopping with iconic brick and mortar stores such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales. Today, customers are beginning to find the same customized shopping experience at their favorite online stores as well.

The growth of online mega retailers, which offer an enormous range of inventory to a diverse consumer base, further increases the need for stores to personalize the online shopping experience.

A better shopping experience helps support a retailer’s ultimate goal: to maximize a customer’s lifetime value. Now we have the data-driven tools to do this with personalized product recommendations, shopping cart abandonment, and targeted emails.

Personalized Product Recommendations 

Amazon was one of the first stores to offer customers product recommendations based on past purchase history. Historically, these recommendations led to over 30 percent of the company’s revenue.

More recently, Amazon announced a partnership with Facebook in which users can link their accounts to receive even more personalized recommendations based on their interests and activity. Users can easily create and send their own gift wish lists to family and friends.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

Complex algorithms can be used to predict which items consumers are most likely to purchase, but most retailers often overlook an easier solution: look at what users put in their carts.

It’s not just a customer’s purchase history that’s important, but the history of what they didn’t purchase. You can learn a lot from that, especially those things they almost bought.


Remind the user of the abandoned items, and potentially sweeten the deal.  The subscriber obviously has an eye on this item, why let a fish off the hook when the bait has clearly been set?

Target the subscriber with a service-based message as soon as an abandoned shopping cart is detected. The service-based message should consist of a recommendation of a substitute product or, even better, bundle a new offer with the item from the abandoned shopping cart. For abandoned cart recommendations to be most useful, timeliness is essential.

Personalized Emails

Finally, and this is where many retailers make fatal errors, you have to personalize email recommendations. As an alternative to weekly newsletters to highlight products, instead try to target specific consumers with a particular product, brand or category. In addition, avoid the trap of selling to your subscriber outside of what your data tells you; focus on what the consumer has shown a history of wanting. If an email recipient has shown a strong affinity towards certain brands or price levels; refine the recommendations around these data attributes. A recommendation email that lacks a personal connection will also lack a conversion to a sale.

Looking Ahead

With studies suggesting that online sales are increasing at a rate roughly 10 times that of brick and mortar stores, it’s critical that online retailers stay ahead of the curve. Retailers should be able to meet a consumer’s changing demands – from short-lived fads to changes that come from a consumer’s lifecycle changes.

Changes in demands and life cycles can be deduced from past purchase history and pairing customer information (such as name and email) with 3rd party research firms.  In the future, retailers should be proactive in reaching out to current and potential customers.

Luckily, with widely available tools for online retailers, “giving the lady what she wants” is possible for online retailers large and small.

The SimpleRelevance Solution

SimpleRelevance has the tools that can optimize abandoned shopping carts and convert them into sales. SimpleRelevance employs a three-prong approach which includes branded email templates that have been automatically customized with the company’s logo; automatic creation and delivery of personalized emails sent to each consumer at the optimal time of the day; and optimized messaging that sends the right email at the precisely right time. The personalization technology tool optimizes your email’s subject line, content, and delivery time.

About the Author

Erik Severinghaus is the founder and CEO of SimpleRelevance, a Chicago-based company leading the way on developing next generation tools to help companies personalize digital communication. Prior to that he received a patent while in IBM’s IT Optimization organization, and helped co-found iContact—a leading Email Service Provider. Follow him on Twitter.






A Marketing Coach’s view on Email Marketing for Small Businesses

This week’s Marketer’s Spotlight picks the brain of marketing expert Chris Fourgere, owner and creator of Freedom Marketing Coach.

Chris, I see that Freedom Marketing Coach offers a wide range of marketing services. How did you get started in this industry and how has it evolved since you started?

I started helping people with just marketing and sales.  Then it morphed into fixing and creating systems and organization for their businesses so that they can hang onto and handle the sales increases! We use new media or ideas with tried and true methods. ie using Facebook fans to build our databases or client databases.

When it comes to marketing in general, what are the biggest mistakes you see small businesses make?

They do not have a strategy for getting more 1st time clients and then converting them to regular clients. They are constantly looking for a quick fix, without understanding that you can actually get paid to build your database and use automated systems like email to followup with all your prospects!

Do these type of mistakes often come from a lack of marketing strategy, or are there other factors that you see being the major contributors?

For sure a lack of a marketing strategy and the skills to create one, plus they have a hard time understanding how to leverage technology to do most of the work for them. They rarely also have a lifetime value of a customer/client figured out, so they are afraid of “giving stuff away.” ie. one of my other businesses is a restaurant, now I could run a magazine ad all pretty and stuff extolling the virtues of my restaurant, or I can put an email widget on my website giving away FREE appetizers to anyone who will give me their name and email. The money I spend on giving my prospects the Free appetizer drives way more business, and I know it because we track it, then a brand building add in a magazine. This trial run process can be used for ANY business.

Example: We work with a chiropractor who gives his new clients a 65 dollar chiropractic pillow when they come for the initial assessment. The visit happens to be 65 bucks also,  so the net out for the client is zero in essence. So now the chiropractor pays out the cost of the pillow, and time gives out $130 worth of value for $65, but he now can put that person on a care program. I am on it with this particular chiropractor. and will end up paying $1200 this year to have optimum health in regards to my back and neck so easily worth it for me and maybe even more for him!

With the growth of digital marketing, how to you see the landscape of marketing changing over the couple of years?

It is easier then ever to build a database online and two giants, facebook and groupon have continued to prove, the money is in the list. So get in touch with someone who can set you up with at least email marketing to begin, then facebook, then some type of loyalty program for starters, and make a marketing funnel for your prospects and clients to get into and stay in relationship with your business.

Obviously you are involved with email marketing. How do you see this type of platform helping your customers, especially those in the small business arena.

I recently spoke in front of a class of business students at a local college. It was 11 am in the morning and I asked how many of them had been on social media already 75% of the hands went up. Now the cool thing is, I asked how many had been in their email, and 99% of the hands went up. So as hot as social media is email is still king, and will be for a long time. They key is to begin with email which is as common as having a phone and integrate with social media later. But start with email and get out some communication to your prospects to educate them and let your clients know what is new, cool and can help them too!

What are your favorite tools to recommend using when you start people with their email marketing and why?

If you have a brick and mortar business where people come you must go to staples and get a drawbox and starting giving something away for a monthly draw in exchange for the email addresses of your visitors. This way you can build your list and followup with everyone automatically!! You can also use a tablet to help with the signups if you want. Android le pan on Amazon is what I use,  and short cut the entering in of all the written ballots. But either way get going today. I have 15,000 people on my database and this is the method I use. Otherwise, get going with ActiveCampaign right away and you don’ t even need a website as they can host a form for you. Just get started and use the inexpensive tools like ActiveCampaign and a $35 draw box and a gift basket or gift card to giveaway to build your list online (your website or Facebook and instore if you have a physical location).

What are top 3  pointers you can give for those who are still in transition mode from pure traditional marketing to digital platforms?

  1. Get started today.
  2. If you don’t know how to do it hire someone who does it will be one of your best investments
  3. Remember traditional marketing to digital marketing is still marketing the delivery system is the only thing that is changed. So embrace change and profit!!

If you are interested in having your business featured in “Marketer’s Spotlight”, please send an email to

“Subscribers” have become “Contacts”

Today we rolled out an important change to our platform. In an effort to make email marketing more understandable and closer to our clients, we decided to change the way we address your contacts. They will no longer be called “Subscribers” in the system, but “Contacts”.

A couple of things worth knowing:

  • Subscribers are from now known as Contacts
  • Opted-in subscribers will now be “confirmed contacts”
  • If a contact does not have a name we will refer to them as “Recipient” for any personalized content
  • The API has changed to reflect this update. Old API calls will continue to work as they did before.
  • Your existing Web Hooks will still work as expected.

Introducing the ActiveCampaign Experts Corner

Experts Corner

At ActiveCampaign we take service and support very seriously. All of our hosted accounts come with free phone, email, and chat support, in addition to webinars and one on ones.

Additionally, we love developers. We actively maintain and improve our API and Zapier integrations to make working with our platform a breeze.

That said, sometimes you or your business might need someone who can go beyond even what we can do for you. Maybe you’re not a programmer but you want ActiveCampaign to tie into your company’s systems, maybe you need custom templates in mind, or maybe you want someone to help you choose a server system for our On-Site edition. With these things in mind we’re going to make it easier than ever to connect you to folks who can help do all these things and more.

Today we’ve rolled out our Experts Corner. Here you can find listings of companies that we recommend to help you with the things we cannot. We’ve hand picked a few to start off with but we’ll be adding more as time goes on. If you’re an ActiveCampaign expert and would like to be included let us know.


Plain Language for Date Based Campaigns

When building software, very often adding features can also add complexity and in some cases even confusion.

Take for example Subscriber Date Based Campaigns, with this feature of ActiveCampaign our goal was to allow you to send a campaign to your subscribers on birthdays, wedding anniversaries, or any other date information you may have on file.

To program this is relatively simple, essentially need to look to see when a one date matches another plus or minus a number of days, weeks or months.

However when presented this way in a human interface here is how it looks:

The old way of entering a date based campaign.

While this might make sense to a programmer, it served to confuse many of you and even some of us. In order to address this, example text was added but we still weren’t happy with it.
In order to find a new approach we needed to take a look at all the variables involved:
  • How often does this message send: Every year or just once?
  • Is it sent before, after, or on a specific date?
  • If before or after is it a matter of days, weeks, or months?
  • How many of those days, weeks, or months?

The first thing we did was to try to write out the most complex scenario in plain language:

“Will send (every year / once) ((x) (days/weeks/months) (on, before, after)) the subscriber’s (date variable)”

As well as the simplest:

“Will send (on) the subscriber’s (date variable)”

By replacing exactly/plus/minus with on/before/after we not only addressed the biggest source of confusion but we are now able to present it much more elegantly:

New Date Based layout

Instead of expanding the phrase out from the end as before we decided to style the drop-down boxes to appear more subtly and expand from the middle. When the word “on”  is clicked the phrasing will expand and allow you to customize the setting as you see fit while retaining an easy to read and understand the sentence.

Date Based Expanded

To further simplify we broke out the setting for how often this sends on the right to match our other settings. You can now also click  the option on the right to toggle between sending yearly or only sending once.

We’re proud of this approach as we think it is clearer and much easier to use and we think you’ll think so too.

Clarity and ease of use is important to us, if you discover other areas that you think could be simpler we’d love to hear. Drop us a line in our feedback forum. Thanks.

List engagement & removing non-engaged subscribers

In the past IP reputation & segmenting types of email to different IP’s was the obvious delivery tactic for many email senders.  But now the combination of domain reputation and engagement is increasingly making deliverability quite a challenge for some senders.

We have had many people contact us to help remove non-engaged subscribers.  We even had some internal tools to help do this on-demand.  We recently took a little time to add the capability into everyone’s account so you can manage your engagement and clean up any subscribers that have not engaged in a specific time period.

When you click “View Cleanup Options” you have the option to either remove all subscribers who have not engaged ever or anyone who have not engaged within a specific time period.

You can find this new page by going to Lists > Advanced Options > Engagement

Replies Automation: Tracking, segmenting, & automation based on replies

You can already create automated marketing campaigns based on interactions with campaigns, subscriber data, and more.  But what if you wanted to send follow up campaigns dependent on whether a subscriber replied to a previous campaign?  Now you can with ActiveCampaign’s new reply management feature.

How it makes your life easier

When you send a campaign you now have an option to enable tracking for replies.

If you choose to enable that option, we set both a reply-to email address and a from email address that we manage (

When we receive a reply to one of your campaigns we immediately log it and then instantly determine what to do with it:

  • If it is found to be a vacation or away message we don’t forward it to you
  • If it is found to be spam (with a 99% chance) we log it and don’t forward it to you
  • If it is found to be a “my email has changed” type of email we automatically update the subscribers email and don’t forward it to you
  • If it is found to be a human verification/challenge email we log it and don’t forward it to you
  • If it is found to be an “unsubscribe me” type of email we unsubscribe the subscriber and don’t forward it to you

If none of the above apply we will send the email to your “from” email address exactly how we received it.

You can view a list of all the replies (with the subject and contents of their message) by going to the campaign report page and clicking the replies tab.

These replies will be saved for 7 days and include replies that we don’t forward on to you (vacation, email changed, etc…)

Marketing automation benefits with reply management

While helping reduce the flood of auto replies is great we have extended the capabilities of managing replies much further.

  • Segmentation based on replies
    Have follow up campaigns send only if someone does or does not reply to a specific campaign (or any campaign)
  • Marketing automation based on replies
    Setup automations to run instantly when someone replies to an email.  You could add them to a new list, send a specific campaign, update subscriber data, and more.
  • Receive reply data externally
    Utilize our new webhooks system to automatically receive new replies to any external script.

Knowing Your Customers Leads to Marketing Success

This is a guest post from Bradford Shimp, a writer at Batchbook.

Small businesses have a unique advantage in that they often know their customers really well. This knowledge comes in handy when having personal interactions with customers, and it can lead to greater loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Unfortunately, all that knowledge often goes to waste when it comes to something like email marketing. Because of its low cost and ease of use, as well as its potential for high impact, email marketing is a smart choice for any type of small business. However, when you are sending out just one generic email to everyone, you may be missing opportunities to connect with people more personally and drive in even more business.

This happens because knowledge about customers is often kept in people’s heads. And even when important details are recorded, they aren’t always used effectively in marketing efforts. Social CRM can change all that by providing one place your whole team can record customer interactions and key bits of information. This customer data can then be used to get more personal with marketing efforts.

You should absolutely be tapping your customer database for information that can help you personalize your email messages and to build relevant segments of people to send specific messages to. Batchbook is a social CRM that helps you keep track of all of the important details about your customers. With Custom Field Sets, you can record what you know about them; things like their buying preferences, how many kids they have, or how often they make a purchase.

Once you start recording what you know about your customers, you can start to search for groups of people who share similar information. A quick advanced search in Batchbook could give you everyone who made a purchase in the last six months. Those contacts can then be tagged and imported into a specific ActiveCampaign list via the Batchbook integration.

You can then use the tools in ActiveCampaign to further refine your email list. When you send your next email campaign, you can target it to just one group of people and speak to them on their own terms. This more personal approach will pay off in higher engagement and more sales.

In such an high tech world, it is sometimes easy to forget the power of the personal touch. But knowing your customers is one of your biggest assets as a small business. Software like Batchbook and ActiveCampaign can help you record and use all of your collected information to help you serve your customers in a more personal way.

Batchbook is a social CRM for small business. Bradford Shimp is a writer at Batchbook.