All posts by Catherine Abel

About Catherine Abel

I am a freelance Marketing Manager offering support to help grow your business. I have bags of experience in various Marketing roles and can help with a range of Marketing tasks or projects.

Legal Requirements for Email Marketing

I am genuinely amazed at the illegal practice I frequently see in relation to email Marketing. This is often small organisations where an individual does not appreciate the legal implications of what they are doing, however there are many larger organisations where people are sending out illegitimate and illegal email campaigns.

Email Best Practice

I believe it is always best to follow best practice regarding any Marketing activity, not just to follow the law, but I really don’t want to irritate people. So, I have listed below some points to follow related to email marketing. These points are all subject to change and there are up to date sources online stating the current legislation relating to email marketing, but if you follow these and avoid any malicious behaviour, you should be complying with best practice.

  1. Permission – you must have permission from an individual prior to emailing them. Ideally this is via a double opt-in where recipients allow emails and then follow up with a consent to do so. You can send an email to a corporate address such as, however you must provide a means to opt-out or unsubscribe. You can email previous customers or enquirers, but only if you have their permission and have provided a means by which they can opt out of communications or unsubscribe.
  2. Data Protection – you must store personal information securely and only collect details required for the stated purpose. You should only keep the details for as long as you need them. An individual can request what details you have about them via a ‘subject access request’ and you are obliged to respond.
  3. Sender Details – Limited companies and private limited companies in England and Wales are obliged to include the following details with all emails: Company name, registration number, place of registration and registered office.
  4. Opt-Out – you must provide an opt-out option for recipients so they can easily unsubscribe from future communications. Any opt-out requests should be processed quickly, ideally via an automated system.
  5. Sharing Email Addresses – if you wish to pass on email addresses to a third party, you must obtain consent from each and every individual. You must clearly specify this when obtaining email details and provide a means to opt-out.
  6. Purchased Email Lists – if you purchase an email list from a company then you must ensure you have permission to send messages to the email addresses. Companies selling email addresses must have gained consent from individuals for third party emails. In my experience, purchasing email addresses is not very effective compared to naturally sourced contacts, such as online forms and personal requests.


Email Marketing is a great tool, but anyone embarking on an email campaign should be aware of the rules, which vary by country and are likely to become more restrictive in the UK over the next few years. The worst practices I have seen include using the cc field for all email addresses, which effectively gives away your entire email contacts list (silly, dangerous and illegal). Also I find poor unsubscribe functions are really irritating, especially where you have to fill in your details to unsubscribe and specify why you no longer wish to receive emails. Most email software packages include the unsubscribe details and functionality, so you don’t have to do anything and this ensures you have a nice clean relevant contacts list.

My final point is that once you have a nice loyal contacts list, please ensure that you send them relevant emails with interesting content. I am completely bombarded by some companies with sale after sale or just a pointless message that ticks a box for a Marketing department or agency. Also ensure you do a complete check on all details prior to sending out emails as the “Oops, we made a mistake emails” are very unprofessional.

Happy emailing!

Top 10 Website Usability Checks

website imagesAs a user, I am frequently irritated by the lack of good usability on websites. When I review a website I like to create website journeys to replicate a user’s experience online. This involves creating a number of personas (pretend users). I set myself a goal for each visit (e.g. order a catalogue, find a particular product, find out dimensions of a product etc). Then I put myself in the position of each website visitor and document my experience. This normally reveals a range of issues that cause irritation to the user. I then create a prioritised list of most significant issues with options to resolve the irritations.

Here are some of the common issues I come across when reviewing websites in terms of usability.

  1. What do you do? New visitors want to quickly understand who you are and what you do. Sometimes business owners claim their business is too complicated to summarise. I have never found a business yet that cannot be summarised in about 150 words, which is a handy introduction for someone that enters your website.
  2. Slow download – large images that are not compressed for the web are usually to blame and waiting for a page to load is a major turn-off for visitors who may not wait around.
  3. Too many steps – users want to find relevant information quickly and often websites force users to click through various pages to reach what they are looking for. I like to allow for different searchers to accommodate people who know what they want and those who do wish to look around at the options. A standard search on your website should allow someone to find the page they are looking for if they are struggling or if they prefer to find content this way.
  4. Contact – How many times have I struggled to get contact details?! Often people wish to call you or even visit you. The Contact page should always include a telephone number and email address and where appropriate an address. I hate being confronted with a map showing a location when I simply need a postcode for my sat nav.
  5. Overuse of logins and passwords – yes, I know many of my fellow Marketers are desperate to capture contact details to prove their worth, but I often leave websites when I am required to login as it is just irritating. Forms often have so many questions that they just irritate users and I always prefer to keep it brief if a form is really required.
  6. Readability – Text should be clear and simple to read. Use of jargon and overly technical terms can be very off-putting to users.
  7. Calls to Action – every page should be part of a mapped user journey and should include links to additional relevant content or clear actions. As a user, you should never get to the end of a page and think, what do I do now?
  8. Errors – sounds simple, but many sites feature broken links or errors which simply irritate users who will most likely leave.
  9. Consistency – pages within a site should flow to help the user journey. This includes standard navigation throughout the site as well as similar language and layout.
  10. Mobile Devices – 80% of consumers are using smartphones to purchase, so why are there so many websites that do not function correctly on mobiles? Nobody can ignore the power of the smartphone and websites and emails should always be responsive to avoid irritating users.

These are just a few thoughts regarding website usability as it is a regular irritation for me and something I have worked on in the past. I hope this list is useful for you to review your own website and try to ensure users are getting the best experience out of your site.

If you would like any support in testing your website or improving usability then please contact Blooming Marketing.

Email Subject Blog

Deliberating Over Email Subject Lines

email imageHaving spent time creating an attractive, engaging email campaign, I sometimes end up spending as long deliberating over the subject line. I strive to come up with an effective subject line to ensure my creative work is actually seen and read by the target audience. This is so important and it is no easy task. Here are some tips that I have considered recently when working on emails…

Keep it brief – as usual, it pays to keep it concise. MailChimp recommends using 50 characters or less. As more and more of us read our emails on smartphones, the window for viewing a subject line is restricted so you need to get your key message in a very small space.

Clarity – a strong subject will give a good idea of what is contained within the email. People are short on time and will quickly delete an email if the content doesn’t match the expectation from the subject.

Teaser – whether you entice readers in with a tempting offer or pose a question that is absolutely relevant to them, it is always good to grab attention with a teaser where opening the email will reveal the answer or provide the promotion details.

Audience – put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. What would really engage them? What will make them open that email over all the other ones in their mailbox.

Different – try to stand out. This doesn’t mean you have to be wacky, just check the last bunch of emails you received and try to avoid using the same old subjects that they are using.

Words to avoid:

There are certain words that are best avoided in email subject lines. “Free”, “Help”, “% off”, “Reminder” – MailChimp suggests that these particular words may trigger spam filters. This is less of an issue than it used to be as spam filters are more sophisticated based on strength of the sender. Some successful companies are using these terms day in day out so maybe it is working for them or maybe if you create another message with these same terms it will just get lost amongst them – you decide.

Personal dislikes:

Personalisation where I am not familiar with the brand or personalisation failures e.g. Hello Miss or Hi <Surname>

Exclamation marks!!


Images and emojis – no thanks 🙁


website images

Improve your Image with Website Images

website imagesI am working on a website at the moment to improve the look and feel as well as expanding the content with SEO rich copy. The first thing I noticed when checking the website was that there were no photos on the site. For me, pictures and illustrations are a really important part of Marketing materials. Even a simple document like an Employee Handbook is enhanced with a few pictures because nobody wants to read a big block of text. It can be quite intimidating and certainly not inviting for readers. Finding and choosing the right images for your website can be a time-consuming exercise, but I’d argue it’s worth the investment.

Why do I need Images?

  1. Interest – we are programmed to look at images before reading text and an appropriate image will set the tone of an article, indicating whether the content is worth reading.
  2. Engagement – if a person can identify with an image or they are intrigued by it, they will be more likely to read on and find out more. This also means that the wrong image can be a major turn off. If using images of people, it generally makes sense to try and reflect your target audience. For example, if you are targeting teenagers then a photo of an older person can be off-putting.
  3.  Credibility – an image will provide signals to the reader regarding the credibility of the author. An appropriate image will strengthen the perception of the piece.
  4. Accessibility – images break up text making it a lot easier to access the information. Whether it’s a graph, a photo or a video, visual content increases the chance of people reading the text.


Professional Photography

Personally, I simply like pretty pictures and I think all websites need them. I have spent a lot of time with professional photographers and I am amazed at their ability to make a simple product look amazing. Having access to a great library of pretty pictures makes a Marketers life a lot easier and I have been lucky in previous roles to get involved with photographers and create appropriate photos that can be used in a range of materials.

Stock Photography

Service providers often struggle to get relevant images and online stock photos can be invaluable. Websites like Fotolia and istockphoto and Shutterstock are examples of sites that I have used. A simple search for “stock photos” will reveal a load of other sites. These sites have thousands of images which you can find by entering a search of key words. It can be a timely exercise, but once you’ve bought an image you can usually use it as much as you want on a variety of materials (website, email campaigns, brochures etc). Normally you need to purchase a number of credits and you can select the required size of image (in terms of pixels) or alternatively you can sign up to a monthly allowance where you can download multiple images every month.


Email campaigns

10 Tips For Effective Email Campaigns

I love working on a good strong email campaign and I am currently working on some emails to promote healthcare services so I thought I’d share some tips for effective email campaigns:
Email campaigns

  1. Relevance – only send emails to people that will be useful or interesting for recipients. Think before starting an email, is this something that someone is likely to want to open and read about? If necessary, segment your recipients to send specific messages to different people.
  2. Brief – keep it brief. I always like to keep email content brief and direct people to the website. Then you can provide as much or as little information as people require and you can monitor how many people have clicked through to your website.
  3. Website back up – ensure your website has relevant content that you can link to from the email campaign. You may wish to set up a page specifically to back up the email campaign, which looks and sounds like the email they have just read.
  4. Subject line – spend time thinking about a strong subject line that will lead people into your email. Think about your audience and what is in it for them. Time is valuable and people are increasingly picky about the emails they open. Ensure your email delivers on the promise of the subject. I hate opening emails on the basis of an enticing subject only to find a disappointing message inside or an amazing offer that really doesn’t exist. Avoid words like “Free” “Offer” “Win” that may mean your email goes straight to the Junk files.
  5. Lists – allow people to leave. It can be upsetting to lose subscribers, but contacting people who do not want communications is at best irritating and may be illegal if you do not have permission to contact them. Best practice requires a double opt in for emails where users request communications and follow this up with an agreement to receive emails.
  6. Monitor emails – most email software packages offer amazing analysis allowing you to monitor the effectiveness of your email campaign. You can watch how many people open the email and how many click through to your website. If you monitor a few campaigns you should start to learn what interests your audience.
  7. Be friendly. I normally like to use a conversational tone of voice as this is usually the most engaging style, however avoid being over-familiar is this can be a bit creepy.
  8. Personalisation – this is highly debatable. When this is done well, it can be great. However when it is poor, it is a real turn off. If there is any risk of you sending emails starting “Hi Miss Catherine” or “Dear Abel Catherine” then don’t do it. As a recipient, I am generally not a big fan and certainly not from a brand I am not familiar with.
  9. Images – I think images are great for breaking up text and helping with your message. Be sure to pick carefully to support your message rather than take away. Try to choose people that most likely reflect your target audience. There are lots of great websites with bags of images to choose such as Fotolia. You have to pay a bit, but then you can use the images on your website.
  10. Calls to action – include clear calls to action. What do you want readers to do? Contact you, go to your website, download something. Be clear and reinforce in different ways e.g. include links within the copy, add a button link, create links from images.

I hope this list is a useful start point for anyone that wants to create an email campaign. If you would like any help developing and sending email campaigns then please contact me to discuss.

Look After Loyal Customers

loyalty satisfactionNew vs Existing Customers

I read an interesting statistic the other day and I have seen and heard similar figures in many different studies. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. These figures were reported by Marketing Metrics and there are many others out there that I could have used.

I have also read many times that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain one.

Relationship Marketing

Almost 15 years ago I worked on a dissertation about Relationship Marketing and I covered this issue within it. From a commercial point of view, if you were to step back, it would make sense to invest time and effort retaining existing customers and make sure that they are happy as well as selling to new potential customers.

New Customers

Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to be the popular choice with many companies focusing all their energy and resources at attracting new customers. I am always baffled when companies shout out about “Introductory Offers” and “New Customer Deals”. It is just a major irritation for loyal customers who actually support the organisation and have helped them achieve their success so far.

Reward Loyalty

There are so many reasons to acknowledge your current customers. They may tell all their friends and family about how wonderful you are. They may provide useful feedback if you ask them about their experience. They can become a reliable source of income for you if they order regularly. They are less likely to take up time and resources with questions and problems. New customers, by definition, have shopped around to find you so they are a lot less likely to remain loyal. So how can you reward existing customers? Loyalty discounts and free products are normally appreciated, but communication can equally be fruitful. You could let customers know when you launch a new product or service, maybe offering an exclusive preview or early ordering.

Customers like to be appreciated and little gestures go a long way. If you are in a position to consider customer relations, please thank your loyal customers.

Complaints Can Help

Like most British people, I don’t really like to complain. I am the kind of person that will smile and nod when a waiter asks if I’m enjoying my meal even if I’m quite disappointed with what I have received.

unhappy bread faceI read an interesting statistic the other day which stated that 96% of dissatisfied customers won’t com
plain and 91% of unhappy customers simply leave and never return. I have often been that person that leaves never to return without a word of complaint.

However I have decided to try and be more honest when asked whether I am happy with products and services. It doesn’t come naturally to me to make negative comments and it can be really difficult. I have to tell myself that I owe the person the truth if they have asked. Interestingly, I have so far found that most people try to defend their mistakes and problems. It seems that people struggle to apologise and aim to improve, which is generally what I want to hear. I am not impressed when I hear excuses like “We have been busier than expected” or “We are missing a key member of staff today”. How refreshing it would be to hear something constructive like “I’m sorry about that, what would you have expected?”

I really value good customer service and I certainly share positive experiences as well as bad so I think it makes sense to everyone to communicate with suppliers if you have had a less than positive experience.

Nobody likes to hear negative feedback and there are some people who just love to moan, but if someone is brave enough to tell you they were unhappy, then maybe you can use their feedback to improve your products/services then it could actually help your business.

Social Media Glossary

If you don’t know a tweet from a post or you are still yet to check out Pinterest and Instagram, the following list may help clear up some confusion in relation to Social Media. Here are some of the key tools and terms in the world of Social Media:


A blog is an online facility for posting content such as news, comments and discussion. Blogs perform well in search engines where content is regularly updated. They are typically conversational and less formal than standard webpages.


Launched in 2004, Facebook is the most popular social networking site. Users can add “friends” and share photos, status updates and videos. It is also possible to set up Groups to represent businesses and other organisations.


Google+ is Google’s own social network site and users can post and share content. Google positions the content in search results according to the authority and location of the author.


Instagram is a platform for sharing pictures and videos which can be shared via other social networking sites.


LinkedIn is the leading networking site for business users. Users can create a profile detailing their skills and work history and connect with other users. It is possible to represent an organisation on LinkedIn with a Company Page.


Pinterest is a sharing site where users can post photos related to events, hobbies, collections or other things that they wish to share with other users. Users have pinboards which are like their own collection of great ideas and may include other users’ pins.


Twitter is a platform which hosts short messages (maximum 140 characters). These messages are called Tweets and hashtags are often used preceding a word or phrase to define the key themes relating to the message.


YouTube is a video sharing website. Users can upload and share video clips. Businesses can use YouTube to promote products and services or provide technical advice.

This is a short list to introduce some of the most common Social Media tools.

Got to get Blogging

Wow, time flies!

I am living proof of the difficulties in maintaining a blog. I can tell anyone a number of reasons of why they must invest time in a blog and I am as bad as everyone else at maintaining my own. This is a very long overdue blog and simply a wake up call to start blogging regularly.

I set up my first blog in 2007 – Square Vision. This was a bit of an experiment after first hearing about Blogger imageblogs and it proved mighty successful. I was writing about the design possibilities of carpet tiles and the blog was getting over 1,000 hits a month. I have set up and maintained several since then and I have been writing regular blog posts for as long as I can remember – for other people!

I wonder how many people have included Blogging within their New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. It’s just one of those things that gets left behind when work gets in the way! If you are struggling to maintain your blog, please contact me – I’m really reliable at producing blogs for other people, it’s just my own that I struggle with!


A Basic Introduction to Google Analytics

If you’ve spent time and money developing a new website then you’ll probably want to know whether anyone is looking at it.Search Engine Optimisation

Amazingly there is a great tool for monitoring your website visitors, which is free. Google Analytics is an online tool that helps you to understand how people are using your website. The tool is constantly being updated so the following details are valid at the time of writing (June 2014).

Google Analytics Overview

When you log in to Google Analytics you see an Audience Overview screen which shows how many visitors have viewed your website in the last month. You can change the date range at the top or view by hour, day, week or month. For a true view of how many people have visited your site, you should look at “Users” rather than “Sessions” as Sessions will include repeat visitors.

Benchmark Figures

Lots of people ask for benchmark figures in relation to Google Analytics and the sad truth is that all industries are different and all websites are different so the best thing to do is to compare figures over time and focus internally. Monitoring your own statistics and reacting to changes is usually the best strategy.

Most Useful Figures

Personally I like to look at Pages Per Session and Average Session Duration to get a feel for whether people are interested in the information on the website. This will vary from site to site depending on the size of the website and goals of the site, however it is normally a good thing if people are spending longer and viewing more pages on your site. Be careful with this logic though. I recently worked on a website to improve the visitor experience and journey to help users find what they wanted quicker and easier. In doing so, I warned that this would likely reduce the time people spent on the site and the number of pages viewed. This is exactly what happened as both reduced by about a third and this reflected the reduction in steps to reach product pages.

Setting Up a Google Analytics Account

Registering for a Google Analytics account is surprisingly straightforward as long as you have access to the code for your website. Your login details require an email address and password and you’ll need a Google email address or an AdWords account to set this up. You need to fill out some basic details about your website. Then you will receive “Tracking Code” which you need to add to your website. This begins with <script> and ends with </script>. If you have used a website developer you may need to ask them to help with the next step or if you have access to the source code, you should be able to do it yourself. Copy the Tracking Code and paste it into every page you wish to track immediately before the </head> tag. It can take up to 24 hours for the tracking code to start working but once it is up and running you will start to see figures and graphs.

If you would like any help with setting up or monitoring Google Analytics account please contact Blooming Marketing.