I wish you and your beloved ones a happy, healthy, peaceful and productive new year! May all your dreams and wishes come true!
28 entries from December 2006
I wish you and your beloved ones a happy, healthy, peaceful and productive new year! May all your dreams and wishes come true!
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!
Return Path's Ken Takahashi is often asked by email marketers which ESP is the best at deliverability.
The good news: when it comes to infrastructure and the basic technological and authentication set ups that ISPs are looking for, all the major vendors in the United States do just fine. Additionally many top-tier vendors have ISP relations or other deliverability professionals who can help fix minor problems as they arise. The smaller players tend to manage this through their technology departments and others offer that service through outsourcing.
But, here's the bad news: No ESP has the magical power to get your email to the inbox. And the truth is that four of the five root causes of deliverability problems are wholly in your control. These are complaints, unknown users, spam traps and content - which are all associated with your email practices and policies.
Weak permission, irrelevant content and poor hygiene practices can't be fixed by anyone but your team. In fact, many of these problems begin with your data collection practices, a point long before your ESP is involved with your program. The fifth cause, infrastructure, is the only part that the ESP has direct influence over.
Moreover, fixing problems caused by complaints, unknown users, spam traps and content is beyond the scope of most ESPs. In the case where an ESP can handle this for you, this is typically accomplished through their consulting divisions. As this is above and beyond what their deliverability team can handle, you should expect to be charged separately for these services. If an ESP states that this service is included, they usually mean their reactive monitoring and relationship services. An intense, high-level consulting project into your email program aimed at resolving root causes for deliverability simply can't be accommodated within their traditional CPM model.
The bottom line is that all vendors have the infrastructure to get your email delivered. So you can relax – if you have a great reputation you aren't going to inadvertently pick an ESP that will ruin your deliverability. But, if your reputation is an issue and your email isn't getting through, you need to be prepared to pay more -- to the ESP or to someone else -- to improve your program and increase your inbox delivery rate.
Source: Return Path
On January 11th the DMA is hosting a virtual seminar on the topic of email deliverability:
Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Email Deliverability
Thursday, January 11, 2007 | 1:00 P.M. - 2:00 P.M. EDT
Speaker: Jordan Ayan, Chairman, Create-It! Inc. and CEO of SubscriberMail
This fast-moving one hour virtual seminar will introduce the ten most important areas of email delivery that marketers using email campaigns need to follow. This virtual seminar is specifically designed to help marketers that are using email in either a B-to-B or a B-to-C setting with the goal of increasing or maintaining good deliverability.
The seminar will answer questions such as:
- What is meant by the term email deliverability - What aspects are involved in delivery, and what can be done to increase deliverability?
- What parameters of email campaigns are looked at in email filters?
- How is your email "reputation" factored into email deliverability?
- What are the best practices for ensuring consistent email delivery?
- What does the future of email deliverability look like?
DMA Member: $149
I had a look at my stats for 2006 and it seems that these are the posts that you enjoyed reading most this year:
- Tips For Your Goodbye Email
- Guide for Creating HTML Emails: Technical and Design Best Practices
- The Best Christmas Emails Of 2005
- 20 HTML Email Design Tips
- 10 Reasons your Agency Should Not Program Your HTML Email Templates
- Ten HTML Tips: Ignore at Your Own Risk
- Improve Email Deliverability: 15 Tips
- Free HTML Email Templates & Email Design Guide
- E-mail Service Provider Market Guide, 2005
- The Importance Of Feedback Loops
- Calculating the Cost of Increased E-Mail Frequency
- 81% Of Email Marketers Not Aware Of CAN-SPAM
- Study explores e-mail creative that works
- 6 Simple Steps to Response-Driving Subject Lines
- Essential Guide to Email Marketing
A lack of customer data and difficulty with analyzing campaign results are the top hurdles facing email marketers, according to a recent Jupiter Research study commissioned by email service provider Silverpop.
The study polled 422 email marketers, both on the ad agency and client sides. When asked what their greatest challenges in conducting email marketing are, 34 percent of in-house marketers said a lack of customer data is the highest hurdle they face, and 32 percent struggle with analyzing campaign results.
Those same challenges are still at the top of the list, though slightly less significant, for email marketers at ad agencies, with lack of customer data named a challenge by 25 percent of respondents, and analyzing campaign results named by 26 percent.
"The ability to analyze customer data in meaningful ways is more important than ever for marketers," said Elaine O'Gorman, VP of strategy for Silverpop. "Driving Web site traffic, personalizing content and improving ROI can't happen without sufficient levels of customer data and sophisticated analysis of that data."
When shopping for an ESP, sophisticated marketers should be looking for a solution that includes customizable reporting capabilities and the ability to program recurring campaigns, O'Gorman said. Those features are important to 38 percent and 35 percent of survey respondents, respectively.
Advanced features become even more important when campaigns grow, according to the survey results. Among marketers sending more than 50,000 emails a month, customizable reporting capabilities are important to 41 percent of respondents, and recurring campaign features are important to 38 percent of those respondents.
Other features important to large marketers include campaign-triggering capabilities, cited by 35 percent of those respondents, as well as integration with other applications and access to reporting data for an unlimited period, both of which are important to 29 percent of respondents.
"As marketers move toward increasingly sophisticated email campaigns, they need increasingly sophisticated email marketing solutions that provide them with the reporting functionality and analytics needed to maximize results," O'Gorman said.
Among survey respondents, 317 are in-house marketers, and 105 are email marketers at ad agencies. Of the marketers, 38 percent currently use an in-house email marketing application from an ESP, and 15 percent plan to do so in the next 12 months. Thirty percent of in-house marketers employ an ESP directly, and 12 percent do so through an ad agency. Thirteen percent say they plan to employ an ESP directly in the next year.
Responses from agencies are not much different, with 40 percent currently using an in-house email marketing application, and 14 percent planning to do so in the next year. Thirty-three percent of agency respondents say they currently employ an ESP directly, while 11 percent say they plan to in the next year.
When in-house marketers are segmented by company size, clear differences in their usage of ESPs emerge. Among companies of 101 or more employees, 46 percent of marketers say they use an in-house app, compared to just 14 percent of marketers from smaller companies. Another 11 percent of large-company marketers plan to use an in-house app in the next 12 months, while 27 percent of small-company marketers have plans to do so.
Thirty-four percent of large-company marketers employ an ESP directly, and 19 percent of smaller ones do so. Another 10 percent of large-company marketers and 7 percent of small-company marketers plan to employ an ESP directly in the next year. Interestingly, the size of a company does not appear to affect decisions to use an ESP through an ad agency, since 16 percent of large-company marketers and 17 percent of small-company marketers are doing that.
Despite the fact that JupiterResearch data indicates lifecycle email marketing campaigns generate as much as nine times greater results than other types, few email marketers are taking advantage of this customer-oriented strategy based on the idea of delivering the right message at the right time.
Many marketers are confused about where to begin and are concerned about the additional work required to implement this truly one-to-one strategy. But during a recent presentation to Atlanta-area marketers, Silverpop CEO Bill Nussey detailed a simplified approach to a developing lifecycle marketing program.
He recommended marketers begin by thinking about recipients in three distinct ways - Interested Prospects, Engaged Customers and Lapsed Customers. Interested Prospects are those email recipients who have expressed some desire for communication; Engaged Customers are actively involved with the brand and expect to receive communications and, potentially, promotions from you. Lapsed Customers are those who have stopped opening and clicking your emails or who no longer make purchases.
"Understanding the mindset and needs of these three groups and acting on them with tailored campaigns can dramatically strengthen returns on investment," Nussey said.
"Unsophisticated email campaigns treat every person the same, regardless of their interest level and lifecycle stage. Dividing your list into three simple lists like this can be a good first step to creating more targeted and relevant messages," Nussey explained.
Nussey added that marketers should have unique goals that align with the customers' mindsets for each lifecycle stage. For example, goals for Interested Prospects might include moving them to opt-in to receive regular messages from you, visit your Web site, make an online purchase or visit a retail location.
Goals for Engaged Customers could include maintaining or increasing purchase levels, strengthening loyalty, encouraging recommendations to friends and the delivery of efficient customer service. For Lapsed Customers, appropriate goals would include gaining an understanding of their concerns, attempts to re-engage them with the brand and prevent them from switching allegiance to another company.
"By approaching your list in these fairly straight-forward segments, you can create specific campaigns that target each group more effectively and with better results than would be the case if you communicated to all with the same messages," Nussey said.
Campaign elements appropriate for Interested Recipients might include:
- Welcome messages
- An educational campaign
- Lead warming activities
- Promotions for first purchase
Messaging elements to Engaged Customers can encompass:
- Renewal notices
- Shopping cart abandon notices
- Service alerts
- Reminders of upcoming events
- Special promotions for top customers
- Targeting based on Web site page visits
Tactics to re-engage Lapsed Customers include:
- Sending surveys to identify reasons for lack of engagement
- Offering incentives to re-visit the Web site
- Delivering promotions to encourage purchases
Nussey recognized that many marketers think time-based, one-to-one marketing is difficult because only a few email service providers fully support these types of sophisticated email marketing programs without the need for custom programming. Additionally, new metrics are required to measure the types of ongoing campaigns that are part of a lifecycle program. He urged marketers to begin today to implement basic lifecycle data into email marketing campaigns.
"The point is to begin the effort," Nussey said. "The more you deliver relevant, targeted messages to prospects and customers, the better your results will be."
Two separate studies on the effectiveness of email communications have found that recipients generally find email from businesses useful, but that a higher level of targeting is still needed.
The first, conducted by Harris Interactive for digital marketing firm Acxiom Digital, has found that three in four online adults value email from companies they frequently patronize.
The Acxiom study found 30 percent of those people went on to purchase a good or service after receiving an email. It also found 94 percent of online adults have received an email solicitation from a company.
Separately, on-demand email and marketing provider company Responsys has released its first annual study on email personalization through surveying marketing executives. The firm found relevant email campaigns increased net profits 18 times more than broadcast mailings.
According to Responsys's survey, "The State of Personalization," 44 percent of marketers already personalize some aspect of email campaigns and 89 percent plan to increase their use of personalization in future efforts. At the same time however, the results show that 40 percent of personalization efforts are restricted to the salutation, and only 10 percent individualize all aspects of their email campaigns, including salutation, images, timing and promotion.
The Acxiom report also found that tailoring a message to match its recipient is essential. It states that 61 percent of those surveyed identified timing of the email as an important factor in their desire to respond. It also states that 60 percent reported that compelling offers and discounts were an important factor, and 55 percent reported that email targeted to their specific interests, lifestyle or preference was important to them.
Kevin Johnson, president of Acxiom Digital, stresses that companies need to explore advanced marketing techniques that match email to increasingly email savvy online adults who can differentiate between spam and targeted marketing.
"We have clients who are earning literally hundreds of millions of dollars off their email programs. For every 5 cents they spend on an email, they are earning a buck and a half back in revenue," he said. "In the coming year, cutting edge clients are back to talk about integration and how important email is, and how to make it better integrated with their online and offline strategy. The advanced marketers are going to leave the spray and pray emailers in the dust."
He also said that the use of RSS feeds, podcasts and other cutting edge communications technology may be necessary for the "chic" factor when marketing directly to a tech savvy audience, but not to let such approaches distract focus from technology that is "here and is valuable," he said. "Some of the other more buzz laden media like RSS and podcasts aren't worth a fraction of what email is."
The pervasiveness of email and the high number of conversions demonstrate the importance of businesses maintaining email campaigns, said Johnson.
"The Harris poll demonstrates what we've known for the past five years. There's a tendency to forget the core value of email," Johnson said. "You're going to have to invest more to earn more in 2007 and 2008. Your returns are going to increase, but the bars have been raised. You can't just afford to let email chug along. It's about how to increase the personalization and timing, and how it integrates with other channels."
The Acxiom survey was conducted at the end of September of this year among 2,541 adults.
The Responsys survey was conducted in October 2006 in conjunction with The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and surveyed approximately 300 US marketing executives.
As online hotel bookings increase, many hotel marketers are overlooking the customer service and up-sell potential of pre-arrival guest email. This Jupiter report answers the following key questions:
- How desirable is pre-arrival hotel email to online hotel guests?
- What information are online hotel guests seeking in pre-arrival email?
- To what extent should hotels offer information and up-sells in pre-arrival guest email?
Mailchimp scanned over 30 million emails delivered by their system and calculated average open rates, average click rates, average soft bounces, average hard bounces, and average abuse complaint rate by industry. How do your email campaign stats compare? Check it out here.
Dylan Boyd posted some more notes from the Email Insider Summit:
Myth: Subject line testing requires 1000's of subscribers per test cell and several days to get stastically significant results.
Fact: Active "clickers" are VERY sensitive to subject lines. Email aficionados tend to check email often and provide insights quickly. Using very small samples of the right subscribers works well. You can test a small ACTIVE group and small INACTIVE subscriber list and see within 1-2 hours what each group would respond to.
Dylan Boyd posted his notes from a session on segmentation practices at the Email Insider Summit that was held earlier this month.
In this session Michele Souder (General Mills), Betsy Alperstein (General Growth Properties - Large Retail Malls) and Mark Braitsky (Peterson's) discussed how they deal with the following challenges:
- Capturing the Data
- Accesing and Segmenting the Data
- Creating the Versions of the Content
- Getting the Resources and Budget
Most brands are only using simple segmentation and content driven (dynamic data) emails. The reasons being: time, staff, true understanding, and resources (money). Most of the brands are taking this last years data to better shape 2007 campaigns. The reasons being that they are just starting to get enough data to target based on behavior and wants/likes.
On December 19th MarketingSherpa will host their annual email stats teleconference. By attending you'll find out what 3,637 email marketers revealed about open, click, conversion rates, list growth and budgeting. Plus, you'll receive a PowerPoint Presentation PDF featuring 8 new data charts & tables plus Eyetracking Heatmap that you can share with your colleagues.
According to MarketingSherpa, one out of every six people who asked to be on your mailing list won't receive your email newsletter or marketing message because a spam filter blocks it by mistake.
Your emails fail to reach your subscribers for three basic reasons. Either the email is blocked by the subscriber's ISP or enterprise firewall (in which case it never gets delivered), the email is blocked by the subscriber's spam filter (in which case it gets delivered but is never seen) or the email is deleted by an irritable subscriber with an overzealous delete-key-finger who does not recognize your "From:" address or mistakes your email subject line for something unwelcome.
But take heart. Alan Sharpe offers some tactics you can employ today to increase your email deliverability scores and reach your newsletter subscribers and customers with the email messages they have asked you to wing their way.
1. Hire someone to monitor your mail
Your most expensive option is to retain the services of a third-party vendor to monitor your email deliverability. For a fee, ReturnPath.net, PiperSoftware.com, Deliverability.com, DeliveryMonitor.com and other companies will seed your mailing list seeded with hundreds of email addresses from a variety of domains. When your email arrives, these firms record the time, count the number of emails that escaped the spam filters, and generate a report that shows deliverability scores for each ISP. These reports help you notice which ISPs are blocking your messages or only allowing a few to get through before blocking the rest. You can take the steps needed to improve deliverability.
2. Test your email messages for spam before sending
The above companies and a host of smaller software firms let you run your email message by a spam filter before sending. They search for "free," "buy now" and other words that trigger spam filters. That way, you can see if your message is likely to be flagged as spam somewhere enroute, and tweak where needed to improve your score before hitting Send. Try the free service at www.ezinecheck.com.
3. Make sure your ISP is not on a blacklist
Spammers may have abused the servers of the autoresponder or listserver service that you use. As a result, the major ISPs may have blacklisted or blocked emails from these servers. To discover if you are blacklisted, find the IP address of the email server and do a spam database lookup at www.DNSstuff.com or www.OpenRBL.org.
4. Slow down your email send rate
Some ISPs set a threshold for how many emails you can send during one session. If you exceed this threshold, their software flags you as a spammer and blocks the remainder of your messages. One way around this wall is to send your messages in small bursts, say 200 at a time, with a pause of a few minutes between bursts. The other solution is to host your list on a reputable listserver.
5. Send your email when it's most likely to get read
If you send your message to businesses on a Friday afternoon, chances are that your recipients won't check their email until Monday morning. Your message will be buried way down the list with a ton of spam ahead of it (assuming the recipient's inbox is sorted by date). The most recent messages will get the attention, and your message will likely get overlooked or deleted in the rush to start work. The open rate for email is strongest within the first two days of delivery. Then it drops off a cliff.
6. Mail on the best days
Online marketers have discovered over the years that B to B emails are read most often when they arrive on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, around noon. Mondays are too busy. And Fridays are too close to the golf course.
7. Use the right email service
Choose a reputable service provider who is respected by the major ISPs. They will work on your behalf to keep you off blacklists and deliver your messages on time.
8. Help subscribers change addresses
In every email message, tell your subscribers where they need to go to change their address or modify their subscription. You'll reduce the number of bouncebacks you receive each mailing.
9. Use creative copy tactics to circumvent spam filters
Spam filters block your e-newsletters and marketing messages in a number of ways, and one of them is looking for words that are found in most spam. These include perfectly legitimate words and phrases, such as "free," "opportunity," "multi-level marketing [OK, that one is debatable]," "compare rates" and "free installation." Most of these words you can get around by employing a thesaurus. Instead of saying "free," say "complimentary," or "no charge." You can also disguise the word in some way (free becomes free~, or fr*ee), although you must tell your subscribers what you are doing beforehand.
10. Get your subscribers to whitelist you
When your subscribers opt-in to your list, immediately tell them to add your sending email address to their whitelist or "allowed senders" list so your messages are never blocked by the subscriber's spam filters.
11. Use a distinctive, predictable subject line
Include a phrase in every subject line that shows at a glance who you are and what your message is about. Subscribers get used to recognizing each message from you.
12. Welcome new subscribers immediately
As soon as someone signs up for your e-newsletter or opts-in to your list, send them a welcome email. Immediately establish a connection between their opt-in action and your email that confirms their membership.
13. Make your email welcome message look like your sign-up form
Help new subscribers to recognize you in their inboxes by branding your online sign-up page and your welcome email with the same colors, images and typography.
14. Send from the same domain that signs them up
The domain in your welcome message and subsequent messages should match the URL of the webpage that subscribers used to opt-in to your list, otherwise they may not recognize you as the sender and delete your message by mistake.
15. Use the same From: address
Keep your From: address constant. This helps subscribers who have added your email address to their whitelist or "allowed senders" list.
This is not really an email marketing specific article, but I found it very useful so I'd like to share it with you:
Selecting a creative agency - or, more to the point, the right agency - is a crucial decision for any company. Choosing wisely will lead to visible, positive results for your company. The wrong agency fit, conversely, will not only be a waste of money but also make your marketing life miserable. Too many companies take a haphazard approach to this critical decision; they may get lucky, or they may not. Based on experience, here is a structured approach that should lead to the best decision.
By Matt Blumberg
Here we go again: another obituary for email marketing.
This time it comes from, of all people, speakers at the Email Insider Summit. According to a MediaPost article, several executives feel that email marketing is on the decline, mainly because of the spam issue. Consumers and businesspeople are fed up with so much spam and marketers can't get to their inboxes anyway. Woe is email.
I'm sure this won't surprise you, but I beg to differ.
Mark Brownlow posted some stats on general email usage and particularly the market share of the big webmail services. With links to all the data sources for those who want to explore further.
The main point to come out is that Google's Gmail gets a bigger share of press coverage than its actual user base would seem to justify. They've got some work to do to catch up with Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail.
Back in July, Karen Gedney wrote this article in which she discussed the need for an email calendar. Most of us are already planning our 2007 campaigns, so I thought it was a good idea to post about this now. So here are a couple of things to consider:
Consider the seasonal nature of your prospects' work and personal lives and when they want to read about certain topics. This varies both by industry and by the kind of person you're trying to reach.
Business-to-business (B2B) magazines in your industry probably follow a standard calendar. Analyze a year's worth of issues to see if you can detect a pattern in the kind of articles published at different times of the year. This can clue you in to email readers' interests. Additionally, you may spot ways to synchronize your mailing with the publication's regular features, such as annual buying guides, state-of-the-industry reports, and so on.
Spamlinks.net is a pretty comprehensive anti-spam portal that contains everything you didn't want to have to know about spam. It's all there...
An online survey conducted by Belgian email provider Emailgarage shows a positive trend on the use, role and success of email in the marketing mix of Belgian companies.
The survey reveals that, in the 2005-2006 timeframe, seven out of ten Belgian companies used email in their marketing mix. Mainly the email campaigns and newsletters sent to contacts on their own address lists were successful.
The percentage of opened emails on these lists averages 35%, which respondents say is around two times more than with rented email address lists. With an average click-on-link percentage of 14,5 % there is a marked growth of 45% versus 2004.
Email campaigns are also being measured more consistently than before. 44% of the companies measures interaction even up to personal level.
Belgian companies are pursuing the following objectives: maintaining relationships with customers, supporting sales, creating traffic to web sites, generating new contacts and supporting brand recognition.
82% state that email marketing plays an important role in the marketing mix. For 49% of the respondents this is even at the expense of other marketing activities.
The efficient integration of the different media is high on the agenda. Marketers are testing where email scores best (acquisition, growth, retention) and where it is best combined with other media channels such as direct mail, webinars or telemarketing.
The development of an in-house email database remains a constant challenge. 59% of the respondents - compared with 76% in the previous survey -- now have this as their top priority. Every existing contact moment (web site, point of sale, call centre, mailshot or face-to-face interview) is now used to collect email addresses.
A vast majority ask for permission beforehand to send emails, or work within the framework of the law. 51% of the respondents claim that they hardly ever receive any spam complaints.
When questioned about sub-tasks that are out-sourced, 15 to 25% leaves email design, copywriting, dispatch, measurement and reporting to specialised companies or obtain professional advice from them on these subjects. However, the definition of the marketing strategy and management of the email address lists are usually carried out internally.
Belgian companies are still not personalising their email campaigns to full effect. About 55% of companies manage to address recipients using their correct name. Only 4 out of 10 companies take the relationship they have with the recipient into account (customer/prospective customer/…).
According to a recent survey by Belgian email provider Emailgarage, more than half (52%) of Dutch companies are satisfied with the results of email marketing. The survey focused upon the development and trends of email marketing in the Netherlands.
77% of the companies that took part have added email marketing to their marketing mix. The main reasons cited for not using email marketing were the lack of the correct tools, the lack of efficient contact databases and a lack of relevant knowledge.
Email actions and newsletters sent to addresses in the company database were noted as being a success. On average, 39% of emails sent to company’s own databases were opened as opposed to half as many when using rented address lists. The click-through rate for the company database was also markedly higher than for rented address lists: 23.4% versus 12.5%.
The enrichment of the company database is a top priority for 45 per cent of the respondents.
It was widely realised that email addresses could be collected from any or all existing points of contact – website; point-of-sale; call centre; direct mailing; face-to-face etc. However, only 62% of the companies succeed in addressing their email recipients by their correct name. Only 30% take their relationship with the recipient into consideration when deciding upon tone-of-voice.
Both the open rate and the click-through rate were 2% higher in Business-to-Consumer emails than in Business-to-Business emails. In a Business-to-Business environment, the email open rate was 29% and the click-through rate was 16.8%.
The results of email campaigns are measured consistently by the respondents, 33 per cent even measures the interaction as far as a personal level. Obviously, the results of email campaigns are consistently measured by those involved, with 33% reporting that the interaction was measured as far as the personal level.
The latest email Trend Report of Double-Click placed the international average for opened email at 32%, and the click-through rate at only 9.7%. Dutch companies seem to – according to their own figures – generate more clicks in their emails.
The goals for email marketing are to support branding, customer relations, sales, to generate new contacts and build traffic to the websites. More than half of the respondents are satisfied with the results. Furthermore, 67% believes that email marketing plays an important role in their marketing mix. For more than one third (35%), this is even at the cost of other marketing activities.
‘Yet the efficient integration of different media has a high ranking on the agenda’, maintain the researchers. ‘Marketers try-out where email scores the best –acquisition, growth, retention – and where it can best be combined with other media channels such as direct mail, webinars or telemarketing.’
According to the Dutch email marketers the two biggest threats are the still evolving spam issues and the erosion of the used data-banks.