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19 entries from March 2007

Must-Watch Webinar: Email Metrics and Bounce Management

I attended the "Email Metrics and Bounce Management" webinar that was hosted by StrongMail, the Email Experience Council and Pivotal Veracity. If you'd only attend one webinar this year, I'd highly recommend you watch/listen to the archived version of this one.

Key things you will learn:

  • Review of varying industry practices for calculating delivery, click and open rates
  • How to avoid being misled by inconsistent metrics and bounce data
  • Ways to interpret your metrics and apply them to your business
  • What’s needed to accurately capture, interpret and apply bounce data

Click here to go to the archived version of the webinar.

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

The Average American Knows How to Deal with Spam

According to a survey conducted by the Email Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC), email recipients are brutal in-box editors when it comes to deleting potential spam. They're also willing to take a greater role in stopping spam and fraudulent messages than some may have thought.

The survey, conducted in December 2006 by marketing research firm Ipsos for the ESPC, found that 73 percent of respondents have used email for six or more years and over 80 percent check their e-mail at least once per day. Those surveyed also showed a familiarity and affinity for using Report Spam and Unsubscribe features, with over 80 percent of respondents using each of them to manage their inboxes.

Additionally, the results indicate a clear desire by consumers for greater support from ISPs, email providers, and marketers so that they can more easily control their mail experience. Most would like to see tools like "Unsubscribe" and "Report Fraud" buttons (90 percent and 80 percent respectively) added to their email programs. 53 percent of respondents claimed they would be more likely to open and read email if the sending company was certified with an icon displayed in the email inbox.

Continue reading "The Average American Knows How to Deal with Spam" »

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Email Newsletters Important Information Source for Small and Midsize Businesses

E-mail newsletters are one of the most important sources for business information and advice for small and midsize businesses, according to survey results published by Bredin Business Information.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said e-mail newsletters were either very important or important sources of information, rivaling print media, which garnered 84%. Corporate and media Web sites came in third at 71%.

So-called new media distribution methods came in last. Webcasts and podcasts were cited by 40% of respondents, RSS feeds by 39% and blogs and wikis by 34%.

More than 300 SMB executives were surveyed online in January and February for the report, "Optimizing Email Newsletters for Small/Medium Businesses."

Source: BtoBonline

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How To Design Emails That Render Well in the Preview Pane

No matter how pretty, powerful or on point your email campaign appears to be, it may not show up in the inbox as you designed it. Your creative often gets socked by a double whammy in the email-rendering process, specifically the preview pane, a small reading space that only displays a portion of your email, and blocked images, which leave a red X where your graphic should be.

In the worst case scenario, you end up with an invisible email that shows lots of red Xs, no headline, no call to action, no links to your landing page and, ultimately, no expected results.

With the widespread adoption of Microsoft Outlook in corporate settings, B2B marketers have been grappling with this design challenge for some time. Outlook 2003 blocks images by default, and its preview pane functionality is the most common way to peruse email at work.

The convenience of the preview pane is finally hitting home with consumers. The newest releases of two popular consumer email tools, Yahoo! Mail Beta and Microsoft's Windows Live Mail Beta, enable preview panes by default. For the first time, B2C marketers can no longer assume that consumers will see their entire emails as designed.

Fortunately, you can design emails that render well in the preview pane or in a full window with images turned on or off. It's just a matter of making smart choices.

I urge you to continue reading here » -- this is one of the best article I've read so far on image rendering (and it has lots of screenshots too)!

Conclusion of this article: It really only takes a few hours to redesign your email template for the preview pane and blocked images.

Is it time for a redesign or is your template in good shape? If you are still unsure, take this preview pane rendering quiz for a quick analysis.

Source: iMedia Connection

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A Little Bit Of Everything - part II

As promised (just a little later than expected) here's an overview of the most interesting email marketing related articles that were published in the last couple of weeks:

Design & Layout:
In this article, Justin Premick explains why you should continue to take care of the plain text versions of your emails. In this article, he talks about how to design them so that you get the best ROI of that extra time spent.

Email Vendor Selection:
In this article, Christopher Marriott outlines four mistakes you should try to avoid when you're selecting an email service provider.

He tells us we should avoid the standard RFP approach, not to let the procurement people run the selection process, not to expect too much from email tests but rather make sure to get to know the people who might be handling your account and last but not least, be wary of "bundles" that sound like you're going to save money and get the same level of support by combining your email marketing with your ecommerce provider/ advertising agency/ CRM partner/ dry cleaner. Most of the time "The Bundle" only shifts your email costs to another part of your budget with that partner.

Read the full article and found out what you should do when selecting an ESP.

In this article, Dave Dabbah tries to answer the question "how often should you email your subscribers?".

List management:
In this article, Bill Nussey provides five core strategies to encourage people not only to join your list but continue to respond over the long term.

Basically you need to make it easy for people to sign up for your list but don't ask too many questions on the subscription form. You can gather that info later on. Once they're signed up you need to make sure to allocate frequency either by specifying how many emails a person should receive in a particular span of time or by using a calendar to plot out the timing of email sends. Make sure to practice good list hygiene and remove hard bounces from your list immediately. Above all, you need make sure that each message you send is so interesting and beneficial that it will make the recipient eagerly anticipate the next one.

This new site claims to be "the first centralized online repository of statistics and research specific to the email marketing industry".

Subject Lines:
In this article, Stefan Pollard talks about how spammy subject lines can hurt the deliverability of your campaigns. "Not only must subject lines be eye-catching, informative, and brief, they must also assure recipients they come from a trusted source."

Upcoming webinars:

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Getting the Subject Line Right

One of the most important elements of your email communications is the subject line. Next to the "from" address -- which should be a recognizable company name -- the subject line will determine whether your email gets opened.

Writing a great subject line is no small challenge. You only have a few words to make it compelling, urgent and specific -- without sounding too sales-like or misleading your readers.

Here are some tips for writing subject lines that'll get great results:

1. Keep it short and sweet.
Do your best to keep your subject lines under 50 characters, including spaces, as most email clients display 50 characters or less.

2. Be specific. A vague subject line is a waste of prime real estate.

3. Write it last.
When you're done with the body of your email, read it over, pick the nugget that'll entice your readers to learn more by opening your message and use that for your subject line.

4. Take some time. Considering how important subject lines are, take some time to think about them and write several -- at least three or four -- before choosing which one to use.

5. Test it.
  Split your list in half and use a different subject line for each group. After a number of tests like this, you'll have a very good idea of what works for the people on your list.

The next time you're tempted to rush through the process of writing a subject line, think about the number of emails you get every day. After the effort you've put into composing your email, don't you want to ensure that people open and read it?

Source: The Street

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10 Steps to Develop an Effective Email Strategy

Jeanne Jennings says that there are 10 steps you need to take to develop an effective email strategy:

1. Identify qualitative goals.
2. Analyze the current situation.
3. Complete a competitive analysis.
4. Define the target audience.
5. Determine which types of email meet your needs.
6. Develop a content strategy and a frequency and send schedule.
7. Design the email template.
8. Create quantitative goals.
9. Compile budget and ROI (define) projections.
10. Evaluate results and tweak the strategy accordingly.

I highly recommend downloading the complimentary sample chapter from her latest book to read more about each of these steps.

Source: ClickZ

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The Best Email Campaigns of the Past Year

The best 39 email campaigns of the past year are now ready for your viewing -- and inspiration -- at MarketingSherpa's 2007 Email Awards Gallery. These are the different categories:

  • Best Email Opt-in Campaign
  • Best Email Newsletter for Marketing Purposes
  • Best Promotional Blast -- Direct Sale or Lead Gen Offer
  • Best Single Welcome Letter (to New Subscribers)
  • Best Automated Series (Auto Responder)
  • Best Triggered Personalized Email
  • Best Postcard-Style Campaign
  • Best (or Most Dramatic) Test you Learned From
  • Best Non-Email Opt-in Messaging

Check them out and be inspired!

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

Stop Looking to the Big Boys for Creative Ideas

In this blog post, Janine Popick urges all of us NOT to look at the email campaigns of the "big boys" of retailing as a source of creative ideas because they don't necessarily have it down when it comes to email marketing best practices.

I totally agree with her: I, too, receive lots of email campaigns in my inbox every day of big retailers that don't seem to get it right. The emails are gorgeous -- once you download the images. But knowing that most email clients block images by default, a lot of people won't even see these gorgeous emails -- if they even make it to the inbox in the first place.

Janine added a couple of screenshots to her post so you can see what she means. I've also made some screenshots of what a couple of European retailers recently sent me:

Continue reading "Stop Looking to the Big Boys for Creative Ideas" »

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Personalization: 5 challenges

The advent of integrated, personalized, optimized marketing is near. However, Michael Gorman sees five challenges that marketers must overcome before marketers can create emails of which the content is assembled dynamically to match the users' needs and the marketer's goals.

1. Data integration. This is top priority for many marketers right now. Companies must work out how to assemble data from external and internal sources to build that elusive single view of the customer.

2. Cross channel integration. Today, technology makes every type of marketing dynamically targetable, but the numerous systems and solutions that make targeting possible generally don't talk to one another. So the behavioral data, which I used to target the banner you just saw does not travel with you as you enter my Web site; nor does your recent click behavior accompany you into my email database after your purchase.

3. Optimization.
With so much content and so many users, and each visit lasting only a few clicks, how do you decide what to show next on your Web site? Once you pluck the low hanging fruit, like 'abandoned shopping cart' and 'last product viewed', how do you make systematic progress at a rapid pace without spending a fortune on creative development?


Continue reading "Personalization: 5 challenges" »

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Better B2B Email Deliverability in 6 Steps

In this article, Bill Nussey explains that there are steps B2B marketers can take to ensure more of their messages get through to the people who have asked for them. As long as you are already sending permission-based, well-branded messages, promptly honoring unsubscribe requests and scrubbing bounces from your lists, these six tips can help improve your B2B email deliverability:

1. Check blacklists

According to MarketingSherpa's "Email Marketing Benchmark Guide, 2007," most email marketers check whether they are on a blacklist less than once a month, and yet more than a third of the corporations use them in their anti-spam efforts.

2. Look into an email reputation service
Email reputation services such as Sender Score and Habeas compile detailed information in order to categorize senders based on their email reputation, and then they vouch for companies with the best reputations. Such endorsements may help you get through some corporate firewalls.

3. Use a deliverability provider

Companies like Pivotal Veracity or Return Path can help you get a handle on your reputation by auditing your emails to determine why they aren't being delivered. These audits uncover causes and fixes for content and coding errors, rendering problems, "black-holing" (messages that are discarded by ISPs without notice), and other factors affecting your reputation and deliverability.


Continue reading "Better B2B Email Deliverability in 6 Steps" »

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Reportlet: Branded Subject Lines

There’s significant evidence that consumers are more likely to open emails whose subject lines contain the brand name of the sender. For instance, nearly half (48.8%) of consumers are attracted to emails that have the brand name of the sender in the subject line, according to Return Path’s Third Annual Holiday Email Consumer Survey. That makes it almost as powerful as subject lines that offer a discount or free shipping, which 49.6% of respondents said made a subject line catch their attention.

Chad White did a little research and found that 67% of retailers never or rarely put their brand name in the subject line. Read his reportlet here.

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

Preview Pane Design Best Practices

Effective email marketing in a preview-pane world is all about making your point fast; in the first few inches of your email. Here are eight best practices:

1. Put the most important call to action in the upper left-hand corner, so it can be seen in either horizontal or vertical preview panes. For promotional emails, the offer or "shop now" call to action goes here. For newsletters, the table of contents or "In this issue" teaser goes here.

2. Do not embed copy in images or use single, large images. What happens if your headline, call to action or even the entire email is encapsulated in a graphic? The reader can't see it at all if that image is blocked. Make your most important points in words, as well as in graphics, and place descriptive copy under each image. Also, always link to a web version of your email with all graphics intact.

3. Use HTML instead of graphics. Many of the issues with image-blocking can be avoided simply by using HTML design choices. HTML background colors, font colors, font tags and font sizes can give you a great look, without the headache.


Continue reading "Preview Pane Design Best Practices" »

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Email Industry Lacks Consensus on Most Basic Metrics

Ten years after email began to emerge as a serious commercial marketing channel, the email marketing industry still has no consensus on the definitions of even the most basic metrics, according to a survey conducted by the deliverability roundtable of the Email Experience Council. Even the most fundamental metric of them all, the delivery rate, has no standard definition.

For example, 79% of email service providers surveyed defined "delivered" by deducting all failures from total mailed, while 21% calculated it by deducting hard bounces -- where the address no longer exists -- from total mailed.

Email marketers were in even further discord on the "delivered" metric as 63% defined delivered as total failures subtracted from total mailed, 11% defined it as simply total mailed and 10% defined "delivered" as only those emails that made it into the recipients' inboxes versus their spam folders.

Continue reading "Email Industry Lacks Consensus on Most Basic Metrics" »

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Five Keys to Selecting an Email Service Provider

In this article, David Baker sums up these five critical questions you need to ask yourself before selecting a new email delivery partner:

1. What type of service do you need?
2. How much flexibility do you have with budget and contracting?
3. How much integration do you really need?
4. How do you transition from one vendor to another effectively and efficiently?
5. What type of partnership do you want?

Read the full article here. It offers some excellent insights!

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

Notes from MarketingSherpa's Email Summit

Below you can find my notes from MarketingSherpa's Email Summit along with some stuff I noted down when I was reading a bunch of white papers and studies on the plane home. I hope you find it useful!

General Guidelines

  • The average person receives 133 emails per day (US)
  • Make every communication count!
  • Don’t follow best practices blindly => test!
  • Your welcome message is the most impactful (highest open & click-through rates - take advantage of this “emotional moment” when recipients feel most connected & engaged) with your brand
  • Make sure you have a formalized content strategy - written down!
  • Set up an email best practices newsletter (Benchmark countries against each other (eg best conversion), Share learnings & best practices)
  • Keep your emails below 75KB maximum (Preferred size: 35 KB)

Continue reading "Notes from MarketingSherpa's Email Summit" »

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

A Little Update On What's Going On

Here I am again. My first post after the Email Summit - which was very interesting by the way. More about that later. Let me first apologize for not posting the last couple of weeks. After the summit I spend a lovely couple of days in the US, visiting Miami Beach and New York. I guess I would have enjoyed New York a lot more if 1) if would have been smart enough to listen to my friend Beate and put some sunscreen on my body before going for a walk at Miami Beach (I looked very much like a boiled lobster for about a week) and 2) if it weren't so cold in New York! :-) But I met A LOT of very interesting people, and that made all of that worthwile :)

The week after my trip to the US, the only thing I wanted to do in the evenings was sleep, sleep, sleep (I hate jetlag!) and last week was all about planning for Q2 at work. I've also been elected to be part of an international team that wants to bring email marketing to the next level at our company (which is badly needed!), so there are great challenges ahead and I'm very much looking forward to that.

This morning I received an email from Norito, one of my Asian readers. He told me he likes my blog very much and asked me to please continue to keep it up-to-date. Thanks for giving me that little push that I needed to start blogging again, Norito-san. I've missed it!

In my next two posts I will give you my notes from MarketingSherpa's Email Summit and an overview of the most interesting articles that were published in the last couple of weeks. As from then, it's back to normal posting behaviour :-)

By the way, I now have 45 responses to my reader survey. My goal is to reach at least 100, so if you haven't responded yet, please do so now! I promise to give you the results as soon as I reach 100.

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

A Little Bit Of Everything...

As promised, here's an overview of the most interesting email marketing related articles that were published in the last couple of weeks:

List management:

  • MarketingSherpa advises to use text-only if you're emailing BellSouth names. Apparently the ISP modified its filtering system in January. The folks at MarketingSherpa did some testing and discovered that text-only messages were the ONLY types getting through. In fact, not even emails being converted from HTML to text with a multipart MIME detecting system will land in a BellSouth inbox. BellSouth provides Internet service in the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

  • In this article, Melinda Krueger answers the question "How do I calculate the cost for acquiring the email addresses of our "customers" to build our database?"
Subject Lines:
  • In this article, Gail Goodman discusses approaches and "secrets" behind great subject lines.
Events & Seminars:Studies & Research:
  • The eec recently released their Value of an Email Address report.
  • Alterian debuted a free online assessment tool that measures a marketer's e-mail marketing sophistication and recommends tips for improvement. The Email Self-Evaluation is available here. The tool asks marketers to answer 10 survey questions to gauge the level of each marketer's e-mail program. Then, based on the score, it gives marketers a rich media presentation that offers them ideas to help advance their e-mail marketing programs. The results are given in real time and let marketers compare their efforts to others in the industry. The overall results will be published and shared with the public when the study is completed.
Design & Layout:
  • Each email reader handles emails differently - what works in Outlook 2007 does not necessarily work in Outlook XP or Yahoo or Gmail or Hotmail. Thus, if you cannot identify what each customer is using but you know your customers are using a range of email readers and each email reader treats emails differently, you may be stuck creating emails that conform to the lowest common denominator. In this study, Pivotal Veracity compares each of the major Outlook readers on all critical elements you need to know to ensure your emails retain their brand integrity and effectivenss.
  • Found this one through Kelly Rusk's blog: Salima Valji, an emarketer from Microsoft, has posted a great guide for designing emails for Outlook 2007.
  • In this article, Stefan Pollard discusses how to resolve ISP blocks. Bottom line: start a dialogue with the ISP and try to understand what caused the delivery challenge. And then fix it!
  • In this article, Derek Harding discusses the challenge of getting your transactional emails delivered to the inbox. Bottom line: you should apply the same principles and techniques as you do to marketing campaigns to ensure transactional messages are delivered every time.
  • In this article, David Baker explains the difference between reputation services, authentication and accreditation by making an analogy with license plates on cars. For those that are having difficulties understanding what it's all about.
  • In part 2 in a series of articles about email deliverability, Spencer Kollas explains how to maximize email deliverability through applying effective list hygiene techniques. He suggests to scrub your lists regularly, to remove bad domains, distribution accounts, "spam" email addresses, inactive addresses and to use data checkers.
Landing pages:
  • In this article, Jeanne Jennings offers seven tips for creating effective landing pages. Most important of all: match your landing page to your call to action and use a look and feel that is consistent with the email.
  • In this article, Dylan Boyd compares newsletters versus one-off email campaigns. Basically he's trying to say that if you really want to sell and not educate, focus on the one-off campaign.
  • A flood of spam coming out of China and South Korea is fueling a 30% jump in spam levels in just the past week, according to a new report.
And last but not least: Mequoda developed 10 guidelines for designing an effective email newsletter that will help them analyze the email newsletters of successful B2B and B2C publishers. Beginning in February 2007, Mequoda will begin publishing one Mequoda Email Newsletter Review each month. Over the next year, these reviews will create a reference library of the best and worst B2B and B2C email newsletters. A perfect "A" Mequoda Email Newsletter Score is 40, or 4 points for each 10 Best Practice Guidelines.

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

It's Been A Busy Couple Of Weeks...

I haven't been posting the last couple of weeks and that's basically because I've been too busy travelling and making up for it by spending some quality time with Wim, my partner in life.

On the work front I've been busy creating our very first outsourced email campaign - and it's been a great experience so far. I can't stress enough that when you decide to outsource your email campaigns to an agency, you should chose an agency that has proven experience with email marketing. They need to know the specifics of designing and writing copy for email rather than for print or the web.

Last week I gave a presentation at an email marketing conference in Stockholm which was organized by DF Kompetens and L-Soft. It was the first time I spoke at a public event and I loved it! I love sharing knowledge and helping other people but I've always been afraid of actually standing in front of an audience of total strangers and talk about it. But it was great! The audience was great and they asked a lot of questions, the other speakers were very inspiring and Stockholm is a lovely city! Many thanks to Outi, David, Eric and the others for inviting me!

I'd love to do this more often, so if you're organizing an email marketing event and you want someone to come and talk about email marketing, let me know! :)

I'm on a plane to the US as I'm writing this, so I have plenty of time to go through the hundreds of unread emails in my mailbox. Most of them are newsletters about email marketing and other internet marketing related subjects. Instead of writing a dozen of new posts, I'll give you an overview of the most interesting articles in a separate post.

As I said, I'm on a plane to the US where I will be attending MarketingSherpa's Email Summit in Miami on Monday and Tuesday. So look out for some interesting learnings over the next couple of days. Actually, the nice folks at Citrix will be hosting a web seminar next Friday where they will share some of the learnings, you might want to sign up for it. I'll be in New York on Friday, and if my hotel room has an internet connection I'll try to attend as well!

On another note, I have received about 30 responses to my reader survey. The responses I received so far are very insightful and I will share them with you soon.

One thing that seems to be coming back is this: you want me to write more about my own experiences and/or give my own perspective to the articles that I post. Well, it's never really been the intention of this blog to do this - I already spend so many hours just reading and posting the best articles I read, I just don't have the time to add more of my own perspective for the time being. But I will definitely keep it in mind and I will try to do it when time permits!

Many thanks to those that have already completed my survey! If you haven't filled it out yet, please do so now! Ideally I'd love to get at least 100 responses from you...

Well, that's it for now. I'm looking forward to spending an interesting week in the States, mixing both business and pleasure. If you happen to be at the Email Summit, please come and say hi - I'll be at the eec networking meeting on Sunday as well as the Email Roundtable networking event on Monday. On Wednesday you'll find me sightseeing in the Everglades and from Thursday to Saturday I'll be in New York.

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