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37 entries from June 2008

Sneak Preview: Subject Lines - Length Does Matter

Alchemy Worx are about to release their new whitepaper on Subject Lines, in this week's Infobox, and it has some very interesting  (and possibly quite controversial) findings.

The study was conducted on 646 subject lines across 205 million messages earlier this year. By repeating the strategy behind MailerMailer's Email Marketing Metric Report (2008), they were able to achieve the same findings as MailerMailer, however, when analysing the subject lines in more detail, the results became very different.

Some of the findings in this report are:

  • Shorter subject lines optimise open rates
  • Longer subject lines tend to optimise click and click-to open rates.

They also analysed not just the number of characters, but also the relationship between the number of words within a subject line and its open and click rates and found there to be similiar results.

The report also then goes onto look at why this would be so and discusses what I think to be the most interesting finding in this study - that the longer the subject/the more words which are used, result in the 'right' type of people opening the email i.e the subscriber is given enough information to be able to determine whether the email is relevant to them and hence is more likely to take action and click through.

For a sneak preview of the whitepaper, before its release later this week, you can download it here:

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Use Serialization to Boost Your Readership you've heard it before, yeah yeah...serialize articles and it will draw people back again and again. But how many of us actually do it within our newsletters? This week at Inbox/Outbox London in his presentation, my good friend Dela Quist of Alchemy Worx brought this up as a great way to increase readership.

So why does it work? Well think about it... Who saw all the The Matrix movies? Lord of the Rings Trilogy? Spiderman 1, 2 and 3? (hey - I've got teenagers!). People can't help it - they get involved and need to know what happens. I watched the movie Jumper with my 15 year old daughter on the weekend and at the end you could see that they had written the ending perfectly to allow a sequel. Why? Sequals are an easy way to bring in an audience...

Thinking about the popular soaps which are around, the phrase which people use when referring to them is 'hooked on it'. I have a friend (no, it's not me!) who is 'hooked' on the Australian soap, Neighbours. They insist on discussing it with me even though I don't watch it (their logic being because I am Australian I must watch it).  She is 'hooked' and keeps coming back again and again - it's powerful stuff.

Serialization is not only applicable to retention newsletters though. You can also use it with your promotional emails. One way of doing this is by offering tokens or vouchers in each email and the reader having to collect a number of them in order to redeem a special offer or prize. In the UK, Eurostar sometimes offers very cheap fares upon collection of a number of tokens which are published in one of the leading newspapers. This can be very easily applied to marketing emails.

Another very easy drawcard to implement is to promote what the next issue is going to contain. This is what the soaps do. Have you ever noticed that immediately after the show has finished, they start promoting the next show? Again, a very easy, yet powerful marketing tactic.

Anyhow, I'm convinced. I've decided I'm going to take action and start planning for serialized content in both the newsletters which I am Editor of.

After all - if it's so easy, how hard can it be?

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

links for 2008-06-23

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Study Reveals Email Tactics of Top U.S. Retailers

Silverpop uncovered some interesting results when it recently joined with Internet Retailer magazine to conduct research for the “Top 500 Guide” profiling the largest 500 U.S. retail Web sites ranked by annual sales.

To evaluate the email programs of the top online retailers, their research team logged on to the Web sites of 820 top retailers identified by Internet Retailer and registered to receive emails from each that had an email marketing program (94 percent of Top 500 companies vs. 83 percent of other companies studied). Then they compared the practices of Top 500 retailers to the other 320 retailers.

Among the findings:

  • Not surprisingly, nearly six out of 10 retailers in the Top 500 offered a preference center at opt-in, while only one out of four other retailers studied did so.
  • However, nearly three-quarters of the companies in the Top 500 with email programs didn’t offer customers any alternatives to unsubscribing, such as choosing different subscriptions or altering message frequency. And even more interesting, three out of four companies that had offered choices at opt-in didn’t offer to let recipients change those choices when they went to opt out.
  • And the most surprising finding: one out of five companies that didn’t offer recipients any choices when they opted in to receive emails did give recipients choices when they tried to opt out. As a last ditch effort to keep subscribers on board, these companies offered to send less often or send different types of content.
While this may be a successful strategy for some companies that want as much freedom as possible in their frequency and content up-front, the impact of this tactic should be closely measured, since recipients may choose to hit the spam button instead of going to the trouble of unsubscribing, jeopardizing your deliverability.

While the study underscores that leading retail companies do optimize their programs for best results. It also reveals that even the best programs can improve and take results to new levels of success.

Source: Silverpop

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links for 2008-06-19

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Newsflash: Your Open Rate Does NOT Tell You How Many People Opened Your Email

It's amazing how many people do not know how open rates are calculated. Loren McDonald rightfully is trying to convince the email marketing world to change the name from "open rate" to "render rate" because that is what it is. Read his articles and the comments on them here and here.

Open rates are tracked by the number of times a certain image was downloaded from the sending server. So if images are not being downloaded it will not be able to track whether or not you've opened the email.

Let me explain with two examples:

  1. Let's say your email client downloads images by default and you use a preview pane to scroll through your inbox. In this case when you preview an email in the preview pane, even if it's only for half a second, this will be counted as an open. 
  2. If your email client blocks images by default and you open an email and read it without downloading the images, an open will not be tracked.

In the first case, an open is tracked even though you didn't read the email, in the second case you read the email but an open is not tracked because the images were not downloaded. Only when you view an email (it doesn't matter if you open it or view it in the preview pane) and download the images, an open will be tracked.

Keep this in mind when you evaluate your open rates. The only reason you should look at open rates over time is to determine a trend. Don't use the open rate as an indication of how many people actually opened and read the email, because you might be way off.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

10 Tips to Enhance Your Transactional Messages

Lisa Harmon posted these 10 tips to enhance your transactional messages over on the EEC blog:                   

  1. Include your company logo and colors to make transactional communications feel consistent with your other marketing materials.
  2. Include navigation items relevant to the transaction
  3. Use text treatments, color and graphics to maximize usablity and legibility.
  4. Make it easy to locate the most critical account and order details.
  5. Include customer service contact information
  6. Say “thank you.” 
  7. Show product photography and link product names back to your website
  8. Cross- and up-sell relevant products to already-engaged buyers.
  9. Add valuable content and offers.
  10. Protect the primary purpose of the message.

Read the full blog post and check out a bunch of examples here.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

New Tool Helps You Find Out Which Email Clients Your Recipients Are Using

Fingerprint I got an email yesterday about a new tool developped by the folks behind Litmus (a tool that shows you what your email will look like in different browsers). The new tool is called Fingerprint and it shows you which email clients your readers are using. I tried it out when I was sending out the newsletter for the Email Marketer's Club yesterday and I was very impressed with the results.

Basically what happens is that you get a piece of code (an image tag) to add to your email and about an hour after sending your campaign you get to see the first results.

I would advise everyone to try it out to get a better idea of which email clients you should be designing your emails for. Is Lotus Notes used by a big part of your audience? Do they use version 6 or 8? Do they use Gmail in Firefox or in Internet Explorer? Do they view your email on their iPhone...

Drop everything you're doing and check it out now! Really. I'm not kidding.

And in case you're wondering: I didn't get paid to post this. I really believe in this product and I think they are selling it way too cheap, so you want to get in and start using it before they realize what goldmine they are sitting on ;-)

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

links for 2008-06-11

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Five Questions to Ask During Your Mid-Year Email Review

Karen Gedney talks about a mid-year review that she will be doing for one of her email marketing clients. These are some of the  questions she is going to focus on:

  1. Is it Time to Switch to Some New Metrics Beyond Open Rates and Click-Throughs?
  2. How are Your Landing Pages Performing?
  3. How can you Increase the Average Purchase Amount and the Number of Purchases?
  4. Can you Make Your E-mails More Relevant to Your Primary Market?
  5. What Marketing Campaigns are on the Agenda for the Rest of the Year?

Read the full article here.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Customers Open & Read Transactional Emails

Transactional messages remain one of the few underutilized opportunities in email marketing. Used properly, marketing within transactional (or “service”) emails can be timely, helpful and relevant. Used incorrectly, transactional emails can sour a permission relationship just as quickly.

The chart shows that most consumers are comfortable with many types of email transactions. The exception is personal finance. But even there, notifications would get a much higher approval level than statements – which the chart asks about. As the types of transactional email grow, so does the opportunity for marketers.

Why an opportunity?

  • Service emails are read far more frequently than standard newsletters.
  • Service emails can convey information about the recipients for a marketer. A receipt, for instance, suggests add-on or complimentary products. A travel confirmation places the user at a destination on a given date, opening up possibilities for relevant marketing.

Read this article over on MarketingSherpa and find out where to begin.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Tackling List Churn

List churn may be the least-talked-about but highest-impact issue in email marketing. Look at the facts. While every list is different, the typical rule of thumb is that about 30% of your list’s email addresses will vanish each year. This actual churn is comprised of bounces, abandoned/changed email addresses, unsubscribes and spam complaints.

Say you have a target to grow your list by 20% this year. But, if 30% of your list disappears every year, you actually need to grow it by 50% (your hurdle rate). To grow lists of 100,000 or 1,000,000 to 120,000 and 1,200,000, you need real growth of 50,000 or 500,000 subscribers respectively to reach your goal. Ouch.

Do you know and track your list churn/growth hurdle rate? If you don’t, simply add up the monthly address churn, multiply by 12 and add your annual growth goal — and presto, you have your hurdle rate.

Oh, and it gets tougher: there is also the percentage of your list that goes inactive each month. These are people who don’t unsubscribe, but who basically check out and rarely, if ever, open or click on your emails anymore. While I’m not aware of significant research in this area, my own and others’ analyses suggest that typically 1% to 2% of your list may be going inactive each month. This adds another 10% to 25% to your annual list hurdle rate.

So, if you are potentially losing 30% to 50% of your list each year to churn and inactivity, how do you plug the leaks? In this article, Loren McDonald offers a few tips.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

links for 2008-06-10

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Seth Godin's Email checklist

Before you hit send on that next email, Seth Godin advises us run down this list, just to be sure:

  1. Is it going to just one person? (If yes, jump to #10)
  2. Since it's going to a group, have I thought about who is on my list?
  3. Are they blind copied?
  4. Did every person on the list really and truly opt in? Not like sort of, but really ask for it?
  5. So that means that if I didn't send it to them, they'd complain about not getting it?
  6. See #5. If they wouldn't complain, take them off!
  7. That means, for example, that sending bulk email to a list of bloggers just cause they have blogs is not okay.
  8. Aside: the definition of permission marketing: Anticipated, personal and relevant messages delivered to people who actually want to get them. Nowhere does it say anything about you and your needs as a sender. Probably none of my business, but I'm just letting you know how I feel. (And how your prospects feel).
  9. Is the email from a real person? If it is, will hitting reply get a note back to that person? (if not, change it please).
  10. Have I corresponded with this person before?
  11. Really? They've written back? (if no, reconsider email).
  12. If it is a cold-call email, and I'm sure it's welcome, and I'm sure it's not spam, then don't apologize. If I need to apologize, then yes, it's spam, and I'll get the brand-hurt I deserve.
  13. Am I angry? (If so, save as draft and come back to the note in one hour).
  14. Could I do this note better with a phone call?
  15. Am I blind-ccing my boss? If so, what will happen if the recipient finds out?
  16. Is there anything in this email I don't want the attorney general, the media or my boss seeing? (If so, hit delete).
  17. Is any portion of the email in all caps? (If so, consider changing it.)
  18. Is it in black type at a normal size?
  19. Do I have my contact info at the bottom? (If not, consider adding it).
  20. Have I included the line, "Please save the planet. Don't print this email"? (If so, please delete the line and consider a job as a forest ranger or flight attendant).
  21. Could this email be shorter?
  22. Is there anyone copied on this email who could be left off the list?
  23. Have I attached any files that are very big? (If so, google something like 'send big files' and consider your options.)
  24. Have I attached any files that would work better in PDF format?
  25. Are there any :-) or other emoticons involved? (If so, reconsider).
  26. Am I forwarding someone else's mail? (If so, will they be happy when they find out?)
  27. Am I forwarding something about religion (mine or someone else's)? (If so, delete).
  28. Am I forwarding something about a virus or worldwide charity effort or other potential hoax? (If so, visit snopes and check to see if it's 'actually true).
  29. Did I hit 'reply all'? If so, am I glad I did? Does every person on the list need to see it?
  30. Am I quoting back the original text in a helpful way? (Sending an email that says, in its entirety, "yes," is not helpful).
  31. If this email is to someone like Seth, did I check to make sure I know the difference between its and it's? Just wondering.
  32. If this is a press release, am I really sure that the recipient is going to be delighted to get it? Or am I taking advantage of the asymmetrical nature of email--free to send, expensive investment of time to read or delete?
  33. Are there any little animated creatures in the footer of this email? Adorable kittens? Endangered species of any kind?
  34. Bonus: Is there a long legal disclaimer at the bottom of my email? Why?
  35. Bonus: Does the subject line make it easy to understand what's to come and likely it will get filed properly?
  36. If I had to pay 42 cents to send this email, would I?

Source: Seth's Blog

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Email is to direct mail as social networking is to...?

We often associate, compare and group email with direct mail marketing, however, if you look closely at email best practices, following the direct mail marketing rules amounts to a whole lot of no-no's. The past year I've been getting more interested and involved in social media marketing, only to realize its best practices are more closely related to email marketing than direct mail every was, let me give you some examples:

  • Buying lists=bad, building lists=good - By now we should all know buying email lists is a big no-no that will could get you poor results, perceived as a spammer and even blacklisted. While this practice is perfectly acceptable, and even standard, for direct mail it doesn't work for email because it's missing the most important factor in email: permission. Like social media marketing, where you have to 'earn' your audience (I assure you, no one is going around buying Facebook friends!), same thing with email. An email address is a valued possession and many don't want to give it up to just anyone. Promise (and deliver) value as well as a sound privacy policy to build a killer list.
  • Don't just push your message, seek feedback and suggestions - "Do not reply to this unmonitored email address" is my biggest email pet peeve! I'm sure you have someone around willing to sort through and react to the emails that need it. Most people understand when you are mailing to a list, it may take a few days to reply, so don't sweat it too much. Not only should you allow recipients to reply, but pay close attention--just like you should in the social media world--to what folks are saying to (and about) you, and even encourage feedback to make your emails more relevant. There's nothing worse than a "corporate" Twitter account that doesn't follow and respond to others, and the same should go for email.
  • Realize the consumer is in control - In the social media world, if you say or do the wrong thing, you're likely to get flamed by users, as many brands have learned the hard way. With email the results may not be as immediate, but your email could be trashed in a blog or message board. This point is also important to remember when offering exclusive discounts. If you provide your recipients with a  coupon code, it may find it's way around the net, and you might have trouble honoring your discount. Again it's about giving your subscribers what they want and keeping them happy, in turn, they'll reward you with loyalty and sales.

When the new hot marketing trends come around, it's easy to forget the old favorites, however when you can apply new emerging strategies to tried and true marketing tactics, you're on your way to surefire success.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

3 Tips to Streamline Your Company's Email Communications

It’s not unusual for larger organizations to be actively using several different email platforms to manage their campaigns. In these instances, transitioning to a completely centralized approach requires almost Herculean effort.

However, in the absence of a completely centralized approach, there are still things you can do to streamline email communications and ensure a positive experience for your audience. Here are three specific tips that are reasonably quick and easy to implement:

1. Develop and share an email marketing calendar.

Wherever there’s a risk of message crossover, establish a marketing calendar to track these campaigns and assign a calendar owner. Although the owner is ultimately responsible for keeping the calendar updated, all groups should participate in the calendar development and notify the owner if campaign dates shift.

My team uses a web-based calendar hosted on our intranet site; however, tools such as Google Calendar or even an Excel spreadsheet are simple, no/low-cost alternatives.

2. Ensure that all stakeholders are on all campaign seed lists.

Whether you’re sending a campaign to a house or rented list, be sure and add the appropriate people to your seed lists. You may want to send test seeds to a smaller group for review and feedback, and then to a larger group for live campaign drops. This is additional insurance that everyone is aware of what messages are leaving the building.

3. Share examples of campaigns and results at cross-functional monthly or quarterly reviews.

At least once a quarter, get together and share examples of campaign creative and results. Even if you’re mailing to completely different audiences, best practices are sure to emerge that you’ll want to apply to your line of business.

If you work for a large organization, the idea of centralizing your email marketing may seem difficult, if not impossible. But by doing a little detective work and implementing some quick fixes that don’t require a lot of administrative overhead, you can do a lot to improve the quality of your email communications and set yourself up for more formal centralization in the future.

Source: Email Experience Blog

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

links for 2008-06-09

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!