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86 entries from June 2007

What's the Difference Between Confirmed and Double Opt-in?

In this blog post, Al Iverson states that confirmed opt-in and double opt-in both mean the following and only the following:

"A potential recipient submits an email address at a web page. This triggers a confirmation request email. No further emails are sent to the end recipient until and unless they take positive action to confirm the subscription in response to this confirmation request email. That means the person who received the confirmation message has to click on a link (or respond to a token, but I prefer the link method) to confirm the subscription. If they didn't do that, then you don't consider them opt-in, and you don't email them further.

If somebody uses the term confirmed opt-in to mean filling out a web form and receiving an email saying “Your subscription is confirmed. If this is incorrect, click here,” then they are mistaken. This isn't confirmed opt-in or double opt-in. It's a signup form with a welcome message. The welcome message lets the recipient opt-out if necessary, and that's great – but it's not confirming anything as far as the opt-in police (ISPs, blacklists, etc.) are concerned. I see a lot of confusion surrounding this and it's important to remember the following: It's not confirmed opt-in or double opt-in unless the recipient has to take that active step of clicking on a YES link or taking some other YES-affirming action."

Continue reading here.

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Selling Ad Space to the Highest Bidder

I frequently get requests from advertisers that would like to advertise their services on my blog. However, I have no idea what to charge for a banner. So I decided to do what we recommend our professional eBay sellers to do: I will list the ad space on eBay and see what advertisers are willing to pay for it.

So, if you are interested in placing a 468x60 horizontal banner on my blog for 1 month*, go ahead and place your bid on eBay now! The only requirement that I have for this banner is that it has to be email marketing related. I do not accept banners that are off-topic for this ad placement.

Some statistics: this blog has approximately 3,500 monthly unique visitors and 8,500 monthly page views.

Bidding starts from $1. Bid now!

This feels like I'm writing the copy for an eBay email campaign :)

*The banner will be placed in the top left corner on the homepage of this blog (right below the navigation bar and right above the first post). If you have any questions regarding this auction, let me know!

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What is Better for Conversion: Buttons or Text Links?

Chad White looked at recent emails from the 100 top online retailers that he tracks via RetailEmail.Blogspot to see whether they used links or buttons more often for their calls-to-action.

What he found is that 60% of top online retailers preferred links in general for their primary calls-to-action, while 40% favored buttons. For their secondary calls-to-actions (those following the primary/main message of the email), retailers had an even stronger bias toward call-to-action links, with 86% using links and 14% using buttons.

What do you think? Do calls-to-action perform better as links or buttons? The Email Experience Council would love to get your input. Just visit the EEC homepage and take the one-question survey there or post your view in the Rendering, Design & Coding section on the email marketing forum.

Source: Email Insider

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links for 2007-06-27

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How Can You Use Purchase Behavior Data in Your Emails?

The foundation for creating more relevant communications is data.   Understanding the overall behavior of your customers across retailers and channels is the basis of an effective communications strategy.

Examples of purchase behavior data and how it can be used include:

RFM. When was the last time you heard from your customer?  Are your consumers actively purchasing in the market? A consumer who buys from you multiple times a year will be motivated to purchase differently from someone who has not bought from you in the last 13 months. By using RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) in segmentation strategy you can develop campaigns that acknowledge the loyalty of your most frequent shoppers. You also can develop separate campaigns designed to re-engage a consumer who is actively purchasing in the market but who has not bought from you.

Past product purchases. If you have a broad product offering, you may have customers who consistently only purchase from one or two of your product categories. Tailoring your messages based on the types of products that consumers have a demonstrated interest is one of the most powerful ways to create relevance.

Behavioral. Multichannel consumers have a variety of options when making a purchase. They may see an item that they like in a catalog and then go online to purchase. They may see an item in an email that they like but then go to a store to purchase.  When analyzing purchase data to create a segmentation strategy, looking at behavior in a single channel may only give you a piece of the overall picture for a specific consumer. Marketers can achieve the segmentation discussed above by using both housefile and outside data.  For example, catalogers who are members of a cooperative database can get an overall picture of a consumer’s behavior among other participating members.  This insight is invaluable in creating a segmentation strategy.

Using all of the data that is available to you to segment buyers and send the most relevant offers increases both customer satisfaction in the communication they receive from you as well as your revenue.

Source: DMNews

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Gain Control over Your Reputation with a Dedicated IP Address

All email originates from an IP address, a unique identifier for the computer sending the message. Many email marketing software companies offer two means of message delivery – either via a pool of shared IPs or a dedicated IP address.

In a shared IP scenario, your outgoing mail originates from the same group of IP addresses as other customers, subject to the fluctuating reputation of the senders in the pool. Alternatively, a dedicated IP isolates your mail – and only your mail – to a single, private IP address.

Reputation is everything. The history of good and bad email messages originating from the sender’s IP address continues to be an important deliverability factor. In fact, 77 percent of delivery issues occur because of the sender’s reputation, according to leading deliverability and reputation firm Return Path.

By choosing to send your email through a dedicated IP address, you gain control of your reputation and ensure it will be influenced only by your sending activity and history. In doing so, you realize the benefits of your strong reputation and eliminate the possibility that another sender’s activity will influence your deliverability.

However, it also means that you must consistently employ best practices in your email marketing to ensure maintaining your good reputation.

A dedicated IP address requires no special set-up on your part. If you use a hosted email marketing solution, your provider will generally take care of the initial implementation and will establish feedback loops and whitelist relationships with major ISPs

Source: DMNews

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SPAM or Marketing - Do Canadians Know the Difference?

A new study released by Ipsos Reid, has found that even though an amazing 66% of Canadians prefer communicating via email over other methods, 44% of agree that they can hardly keep up with the amount of email that they receive. And spam is the primary culprit. Yet Canadian's willingness to provide email addresses to companies that ask continues unabated.

After a steady decline since 2003 in the amount of email received by Canadians in an average week, that figure has risen again. Canadians report receiving an average of 206 emails per week, a 26% increase over last year and up from a high in 2003 of 197.

But a significant percentage of our inboxes is occupied by spam. Three-quarters of Canadian Internet users (76%) report receiving at least one unsolicited email per week, and the average number of unsolicited emails received has jumped markedly from 86 in an average week in 2005 to a whopping 130 currently.

But the culprit for the perpetuation of spam is ourselves, as a surprisingly high percentage (25%) of Internet-enabled Canadians have opened an average of 3 spam emails per week, mainly because of curiosity (61%), or wanting to know more about the product or service (25%).

Read more here.

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Image-Based Emails Could be Breaking the Law

Marketers who send e-mails using “click here” buttons instead of text for opt-out links risk breaking federal law, said email expert Jay Schwedelson during a presentation at the Direct Marketing Days New York Conference last week.

The federal Can Spam Act requires marketing emails to include an opt-out mechanism and a return address.

However, images are blocked by default in 59% of consumer email and 69% of work email. As a result, if the opt-out link is presented as a graphic, it won’t appear to many users.

“When an image comes up broken and [as a result] there’s no ability for someone to remove themselves, and there’s no physical address of the sender, the marketer is no longer in compliance with Can Spam,” said Schwedelson, corporate vice president for list firm Worldata.

So, make sure to always add a textual subscribe link at the bottom of your emails. And, as Ben suggests: also include the full URL of your unsubscribe link, just in case your clickable hyperlink doesn't work.


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11 Tips for Successful B2B Landing Pages

In this article on the Skatterbox blog, Luke provides these 11 tips for successful B2B landing pages:

1. Carry the message through from the advertisement: Do everything you can to make sure that you aren't pushing your traffic to a "one size fits all" landing page. If the ad that brought them was about a particular feature - then highlight that feature. If it was a discount that brought them to you...don't waste time talking up the feature set. It may be more work to create multiple landing pages...but you will definitely get more conversions

2. Personalize the content: I've seen marketers spend hours segmenting a list and crafting a highly customized message that speaks directly to each recipient...only to forward them to a generic landing page once they decide to take action! If your email program allows for personalization of content... drive that personalization through the link in the email and into the landing page.

3. Keep the form simple and above the fold: You can test this yourself, but I have ALWAYS gotten better response when the form is above the fold. And of course, its always better to limit the amount of information to only that which is necessary. Do you really need to know the state when you have the zip code? If possible its even better if you can...

4. Pre-populate the form: Want to know the easiest way to increase conversion? Pre-populate the form on the landing page. If you are driving traffic from an email campaign then you already have alot of this info...don't ask them for it again!

5. Minimize outbound links: You spent alot of money to get the visitor to the landing page so it is perfectly acceptable to drive traffic to a landing page optimized for conversion. As long as you are giving the visitor exactly what the ad are not entitled to give them access to every page of your website. If you want to force a conversion or an exit...then that is acceptable. I will usually offer a few ancillary links if they aren't ready to take action, however...the intent is obvious and I try to do everything I can to encourage the dominant call to action.


Continue reading "11 Tips for Successful B2B Landing Pages" »

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How Often Should You Email your Subscribers?

By Margaret Farmakis

How often should marketers send email to their subscribers? According to Chad White at the Email Experience Council (eec), that depends to some extent on the industry norm. He compiled frequency data for 92 major retailers over 16 weeks and found that the average number of touches is 1.7 per week.

What's a marketer to do if you fall above or below the industry average? The knee-jerk reaction is to submit to the peer pressure of your industry's frequency statistics and fall in line accordingly. But will that really make a difference when it comes to response?

Not if what you're sending isn't really compelling in the first place. These frequency results raise some interesting questions for marketers to consider before making any drastic decisions or myopic quick-fixes to your email program's frequency.    

  1. How do you find a balance between encouraging subscriber response and overwhelming them with multiple touches?    
  2. If you're sending less than your competitors, should you send more to stay in step and vice versa?    
  3. What do subscribers really want?    
  4. What are the risks of sending emails too frequently or infrequently?

The answers to these questions lie in devising a cadence and content strategy based on the following:    

  • Timing is key. Instead of ramping up or scaling back your frequency to meet the industry norm, consider triggering your messages when your subscribers are most receptive to them: base it on their position in your sales lifecycle. For example, if a subscriber recently made a purchase, follow up with a discounted offer on related items; if they filled their shopping cart and then abandoned it, send an email reminder listing the items along with a link to complete their purchase or contact information for customer service if they have questions or need help. Rather than sending too little (and losing your top-of-mind positioning) or sending too often (and getting lost in the inbox clutter), optimize your messaging for the moments when subscribers are primed (and want) to listen to you.

  • Focus on quality, not quantity. When you send engaging content with information your subscribers can really use, your emails will resonate, not irritate. Once prior value is established and subscribers come to expect that your emails will be of interest to them, they will be far less concerned with how often you send your messages and pay more attention to what's in them.    
  • Offer a choice. Ask your subscribers when they want to receive your emails and supply a frequency option when they sign up for your program. By putting the subscriber in control, you'll have a file that's more engaged and less likely to delete your email, unsubscribe from your file or report your email as spam. And if they do choose to opt out, provide them with the option to receive less rather than no email from you by including checkboxes in your unsubscribe form to select a lower frequency.

It's certainly a good idea to keep an eye to the industry norm and use it as a benchmark; however the ideal frequency has more to do with what you're sending and whether or not your subscribers want and welcome your emails.

Furthermore, smart email programs recognize that cadence isn't static; frequency can be adjusted to ebb and flow with your subscribers' changing lifecycles and needs. Instead of searching for the magic number in report data and market research, focus on what your subscribers are telling you (through open, click and opt-out metrics), ask them or give them a choice to make that decision for themselves.

Source: Return Path

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Reporting 101

In this article, Spencer Kollas explains how using reporting to catch problems early can improve email campaign effectiveness and safeguard your sending reputation.

Basically it all comes down to looking at the right things, identifying what is important, and knowing what to do with that information.

First, you need to identify the email communications that are most important for meeting your company's objectives. Then, examine what the desired response is for each email and track that metric. For example, the key metric for an email marketing campaign could be clickthroughs, sales or in-store traffic, depending on the call to action.

Don't get caught in the trap of only tracking opens and clicks, which won't always show you the whole picture. If you focus solely on the delivery of your newsletter and neglect tracking your welcome messages or other transactional mailings, you are losing out on huge learning opportunities.

Before delving into the various reports, you need to make sure that you understand what your systems can provide.

Reporting Orientation
When looking at reporting, there are a number of things to consider:

  1. Establish the terms you'll be using and make sure that everyone understands and agrees with them. For example, are you calculating clickthrough rates based on delivered emails or opens? It's important to get internal consensus on a definition and then stick with it moving forward.

  2. Track the same benchmark statistics each month in order to see trends and identify possible issues.

  3. Create a simple way to show these reports to key stakeholders within your company. If you only discuss the numbers with your marketing team, you might be losing out on valuable information from others, such as your technical folks.

  4. When you see issues arise, take action immediately. Don't wait to see if it was just that one message or something that happened that month. You can't risk waiting to see if it happens again.

Key Reports
So what should you be tracking? As mentioned above, you will want to adjust what you're tracking for each message type, but there are some overall reports that you should check on regular basis. These key reports include:

  1. Messages sent
  2. Messages delivered    
  3. Open rate    
  4. Click rate    
  5. Purchases    
  6. Unsubscribe rate    
  7. Complaint rate

This is the most basic information that you should be reviewing after each mailing, and definitely on a monthly basis for benchmarking purposes. In order to simplify the process, you should create a standard dashboard of all your key indicators to quickly review your performance.

By looking at these numbers, how they relate to various email message types, along with using some type of delivery monitoring tool, you will be able to get a decent understanding of what works for your customers.

Troubleshooting With Reports
There are a million different ways to slice and dice data to gain valuable insight into your mailing practices. This is how reports can be used to diagnose problems in several key areas:

  • Content Effectiveness: your reporting will tell you a lot about what content is working and what isn't. Depending on the reports you look at, you can help isolate problems with the subject line or embedded offers. If you have high open rates but low clickthrough, that would point to a lack of compelling content. However, if you have high deliverability, but low open rates, that might indicate a poor subject line, or perhaps a problem with frequency, which I'll discuss next.
  • Mailing Frequency: it's not always easy to find the right frequency that keeps customers engaged with your brand without annoying them with too many emails. One way to find out if you're over-mailing your customers is to look at trends in your open, unsubscribe and complaint rates. Review your data over a six-month period and look for a correlation between an increase in mailings, a decrease in opens and spikes in unsubscribe and complaint rates. If you segment your mail, compare the number of mailings against these three criteria. You should also establish a benchmark of typical open and unsubscribe rates, so you can notice any anomalies moving forward.
  • List Practices: reporting is one of the most important tools for identifying problems with your list practices. If you suddenly see a spike in delivery failure rates you should use reporting to isolate the main problem. If it's not due to an ISP spam block or other outside factors, you will want to investigate whether you have a problem with your data capture process, or if you've recently added a bunch of new contacts to your database. 

So remember, review as many relevant reports as possible, agree on clear definitions for those reports and discuss the findings with all that are involved.

Source: iMedia Connection

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How to Position Email Within the Marketing Lifecycle?

In this article, Jeanniey Mullen asked Andy Goldman to explain how to position email within the marketing lifecycle:

"Email is not recommended at every stage of the advertising and marketing relationship," says Goldman. "There are certain times to use it when results will be extremely strong. Other times, email won't help your efforts. The key is to decided which type of email is best served, based on where you are within your product marketing cycle.

Top-line recommendations include:    

During product ideation: monitor creative of top competitive brands to drive insight into the volume, frequency, and general content variations of competitive email campaigns. Rate and reflect on competitive efforts for opt-in email subscription processes (opt-in planning).    

During product pre-launch: consider demographic and psychographic overlays to more strategically identify and evaluate consumer target segments. Guide media planning focus and strategies with data-driven profile reviews that can suggest email pilot releases (surveys, polls, in-store drive).

At product launch: coordinate opt-in programs with media placement. Use heat-mapping to identify key layout and positioning.

Post launch: develop and execute subscription-based programs (newsletters, etc.) to capture personally relevant information from consumers and grow profiles. Consider implementing channel response metrics and qualitative surveys to keep the conversation going and close deals faster.

Goldman adds the results and lessons from these efforts must be integrated into future planning efforts. Be cautious, though. These email usage efforts work best for established brands."

Source: ClickZ

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Accelerating Marketing ROI: webinar

Exact Target and the EEC are hosting a webinar called "Accelerating Marketing ROI" on June 26th and July 11th. You'll learn:

  • How marketers use permission-based email to convert leads faster, drive initial and repeat purchases, and build brand loyalty
  • Why email has become the most effective way to leverage data captured in CRM systems to support the selling efforts of corporate and field sales personnel
  • How to use transaction-triggered email to deliver information and offers relevant to the needs, preferences and profile of individual recipients

Click here to register

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Use Throttling Techniques to Avoid Getting Blacklisted

One of the simplest ways to avoid getting blacklisted is by using throttling techniques, which keep you from over-saturating your prospects’ e-mail servers.

Throttling is exactly what it sounds like: managing the flow of e-mail going out of your servers and into another company’s. This is important because one of the ways a company can get placed on a blacklist is by sending too many e-mails from a particular IP address to particular servers.

Most corporate servers as well as ISPs set limits as to how many e-mails they will accept from an individual IP address within a set period of time, he said. “Once it crosses that threshold, the mail server starts blocking your IP address,” Ashery said.

Corporations and smaller ISPs may set that threshold between 1,000 and 10,000 messages within a 10-hour period, while larger ISPs might have much higher limits, such as 50,000 per day per IP, he said.

E-mail marketers can get around this limit by segmenting their lists manually or having their ESPs send out staggered groups of messages. “It’s a very big undertaking, but if you have a large list, you really need to do this one way or the other,” he said.

Read more here.

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4 Things to Keep in Mind When Expanding Your Email Efforts

To grow your business or your email program, and to appeal to as many subscribers across the spectrum as possible, you need to branch out and diversify your email holdings. However, you need to think strategically when boosting frequency or adding new mailings or message categories.

In this article, Lena Waters explains gives us some guidelines:

1. Permission isn't portable Sure, you have no better audience to market your new email messages to than the database of people who have already given you permission to email them. That doesn't mean they want anything else that they didn't specifically sign up for. Don't confuse "interest" with "permission." Never assume you have their permission to email them anything they didn't request.

2. Each message must deliver high value If you merely want to send email more often, rather than introduce a new product or message, do you have enough content to make each message valuable to subscribers? Moving from a bi-weekly message to a weekly means you need to have twice as much fresh content, otherwise subscribers might assume they're receiving duplicate mailings and either junk them unopened, unsubscribe, or report them as spam.

The trick is to introduce your expanded marketing program to your current customers so cleverly that you don't violate their expectations or your original permission grant. You can do it, too, if you respect your subscribers' interests and expectations by introducing relevant new programs carefully.

3. Strategies for adding more subscriber contacts Run the numbers first. Technically, we should file this discussion under "increasing frequency," because at the heart of it, that's what you'll be doing. You think each category of email message is in its own stand-alone silo, but some of your subscribers might not distinguish between a regular weekly newsletter and an on-the-fly solo offer.

EmailLabs has put together a formula to help you assess whether you would gain enough in sales, registrations, or other relevant metrics to cover the costs of more frequent mailings.

4. Promote from within using four existing message channels You can safely upsell existing subscribers using three message channels already open to you. The fourth is a little trickier, but it can pay off if you do it right.

  • Regularly scheduled mailings: when you need to upsell your current subscribers, always start by promoting the spotlighted mailing in messages they already receive. For example, a limited-run newsletter focused around an event or season that you promote within your main newsletter and which readers are given a separate link to sign up.

  • Transactional messages: many marketers fail to mine gold from these messages, which come as close to guaranteed opens as anything you'll get in email. If buyers don't sign up for your email program during the buying or registration process, you get another shot in the transactional email you send out to confirm the purchase. Just remember: No pre-checked boxes on the sign-up form! It still has to be their decision.

  • Welcome emails: because new subscribers are usually your most enthusiastic, capitalize on them by promoting your other email offerings in this message, which goes out to new subscribers as soon as they confirm their requests. Keep it brief, focus on the benefit, and link directly to the subscriber's preference page. Once again: No pre-checked boxes! Of course, I'm assuming you do send out an automated welcome email as part of your subscription program. If you don't, you're missing a huge opportunity here to engage your new subscribers without trampling on their permission grant.

  • One-off sample issues: this is where upselling can get tricky. Food marketers know that sampling a new product in the supermarket is the best way to drive sales. Email is different, though. If you think sending a sample issue will get you the most attention, go for it. But, follow these guidelines to avoid even a whiff of in-house spamming. Test the sample first on a relevant segment of your list, such as recent buyers, new subscribers, or subscribers who have not responded to mailings in a certain time period. State clearly near the top that the mailing is a sample only, that subscribers will continue to receive it only if they sign up for it, and link to the preference page.

Source: iMedia Connection

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