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61 entries from August 2007

Ask and You Shall Receive

I was thinking about the transactional type email messages that are sent through LinkedIn when a connection is asking a question, requesting an introduction or requesting an endorsement.

These requests are coming from your connections, and therefore you trust them.  You read the message and then act on it, by either answering the question, coordinating the introduction or endorsing your connections work.

A friend of mine is moving on to a new job. Last week he verbally asked me to endorse his work at his current company.  I told him I would.  And seriously, I was meaning to do it.  However, I got distracted and there always seemed to be a million things for me to do.  It’s not that I wasn't going to endorse him, I just hadn't done it yet. 

This morning, I received a transactional type message sent through LinkedIn by my friend, asking for an endorsement.  I immediately clicked the link and wrote an endorsement for him.

What does this have to do with email marketing?

I think the same principles apply.  If you want your subscribers to do something, simply ask them to do it.  In addition, make it easy for them to accomplish.  A link that takes them where you need them to be with minimal effort on their part will make it easier for you to get the results you desire.

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

Targeting Tips For the Retail World

Kevin Hillstrom is offering some targeting tips in his blog post "E-mail Campaign Management and Data". In this post he talks about how you can improve the performance of your retail email campaign by creating many targeted versions of an email to different customers during one campaign.

To do this you can use attributes such as lifetime purchase history, most recent purchase, clickstream data, user preferences and demographics and lifestyle.

He explains how to do this and which people in your organization you can leverage to do it.

However, he says, "don't expect miracles from targeted email versions. In reality, you have limited data for eighty percent of your e-mail file, so you won't do a great job of targeting to these folks. Among the top twenty percent of your e-mail file, these folks are so productive that many different versions of an e-mail campaign can work. If you can get a fifteen to thirty-five percent improvement in total campaign performance by targeting, you're well on your way to success."

Source: The MineThatData Blog

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Best of Blue :: Compelling Enough to Click

Best_of_blueThe latest email from Kmart has an interesting feature that encourages clicks from curious subscribers like me. 

Although the main body of the message, which was focused on dorm needs (and camping), may lose some subscribers before they scroll to the bottom - I almost didn’t make it down that far.  With the elementary school set in my house, it’ll be long enough before we’re searching for dorm essentials.

The bottom of the message features the Best of Blue, which Chad White wrote about earlier this month.  “Shedding light on the great products Kmart has to offer.”  The links on the first question mark brought me to a page of jeans and the second link brought me to  a page bras. 

While I’m not in love with the placement of this feature in the message, it was interesting enough for me to click.  What if it was something I didn’t know I had to have?  Kmart has a great opportunity to get those clicks and keep subscribers engaged by providing relevant clicks.  It will be interesting to see how these links will play out over time.

I am curious to know what other links were possibilities.  Chad,  and others, care to weigh in?

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

links for 2007-08-17

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

Tips for Introducing Your Subscribers to Your Sister Brands and Partners

In his Email Insider column, Chad White tells us to keep our subscribers' email addresses out of the hands of partners and even sister brands. Why? Because you don't want to abuse your subscribers' permission -- once you lose it it's nearly impossible to get back.

Here are some ways to introduce your subscribers to your sister brands and partners:

  • During the sign-up process, present customers with the opportunity to subscribe to sister brands.

  • Send an email of introduction from your domain and give your subscribers an opportunity to sign up for the sister brand or partners' email program.

  • Highlight the sister brand or partner in your regular emails, preferably in a way that relates it to your offerings. For instance, in a March 6 email from Banana Republic, there was a secondary banner about some shoes from Piperlime, the shoe store brand that Gap Inc. launched late last year, that coordinated with the pants that Banana Republic was promoting in that email. That's a highly relevant way of incorporating a reference.

  • Include links to sister brands and partners as part of your email template, but only if the brands are complementary. Also avoid this tactic if there's a risk of blurring the lines between two brands. RitzCamera is one retailer that includes links to its sister brands, which include BoatersWorld.com and FishingOnly.com. While I question the synergies between RitzCamera and BoatersWorld, there are presumably much stronger synergies between BoatersWorld and FishingOnly so those two brands' emails could have links to each other.

One of the methods that Chad doesn't recommend is repeatedly sending email on behalf of the other brand using your domain. When Gap Inc. was introducing their Piperlime shoe store brand, for months and months on end they sent what were essentially Piperlime emails to the subscribers of the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic newsletters. While on a few occasions, the emails would try to recruit subscribers for Piperlime's email program, usually they would just promote Piperlime's products. That tactic hurts the relevancy of your email program because you're no longer sending the content your subscribers signed up for and expect.

Source: Email Insider

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Don't Misuse Send to a Friend to Build Your Database

"Send to a Friend (STAF)" or "Forward to a Friend (FTAF)" are very good ways to get your message across to readers that are not on your list. However, you should not add these email addresses to your list! It's just not good email practice and in some countries it's even illegal to do so. These people have never opted-in or gave you permission to email them. If you do add them to your list, you'll be hurting both your brand (you'll be perceived as a spammer) and your deliverability rate (you'll see a spike in spam complaints).

Chad White was recently hit with such an email from Sony at an address where he’d never been a subscriber but had received a Sony email from a friend who used Sony’s send-to-a-friend (STAF) functionality. That forwarded email arrived more than 6 months ago. Read what he has to say about the subject.

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

Tips for Sending Multi-Language Emails to Clients Around the World

Localized e-mails are a key part of an effective customer communications strategy, driving immediate revenue and opening the doors to future branding and sales opportunities. However, you need to be prepared to address critical technical and creative issues as you create your communications strategy.

Email clients
Many of the same browsers (Explorer, FireFox, Netscape, etc.) and e-mail programs (Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Google, etc.) that dominate the U.S. marketplace are also commonly used by the rest of the world. If you are adhering to standard, recommended best practices for e-mail coding, you should be fine in most cases. However it is important to research regional options that exist and determine what share of the marketplace they have in relation to your list for that country. If significant, include that option in your regular quality assurance processes for e-mail deployment.

Special characters
There is no easy way around consistently rendering ASCII or “special” characters. Cutting and pasting from a program such as Microsoft Word will create ASCII characters, which some e-mail clients will not be able to read, even if the .doc file is exported as HTML. For example, “é” may display incorrectly or not at all so you should use the HTML equivalents instead. The downside to this is production time is likely to increase. One option is to copy and paste content into the design panel of Macromedia Dreamweaver. The application will automatically convert special characters to their HTML equivalents.

Creative aspects
It is essential to find a translation provider that is familiar with the language and has a broad understanding of cultural preferences. With the nature of the global workforce, it should be relatively easy to find a copywriter and translator, but most agencies have dedicated partners as well that can help you out.

Be careful to avoid expressions or slang that may not translate well into another language. The worst thing that can happen is you send an e-mail that unintentionally offends the recipient or is unclear.

Aside from the e-mail copy, you should take into account potential cultural differences around images. Be sure to consider whether images of different genders, certain colors, regional holidays or hand gestures might be offensive to a recipient.

Spam regulations
Though the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act is generally broad enough to ensure compliance for most countries, you are still responsible for complying with all the laws for each country to which you intend to send e-mail. Be sure to check with your legal resources as well as your e-mail deployment provider to determine the best approach before sending anything.

Source: btobonline.com

I deal with multi-language emails and special characters all the time, so here are some more tips:

  • If you do a simple copy-paste from Word to Dreamweaver you will get in trouble. Not only with special characters, but even with the ' character. I always choose the "Paste Text" option in the Edit menu to paste text in the Dreamweaver Design view.
  • To have Dreamweaver automatically convert special characters to hexidecimal values you need to set the URL encoding to "Encode special characters in URLs using &#" in the Edit > Preferences > Code Rewriting tab.
  • It is not enough to find "a translation provider that is familiar with the language", the copywriter has to be a native speaker.
  • If you're living in Europe, you'll know that Dutch Dutch and Belgian Dutch (Flemish), German German and Austrian or Swiss German, French French and Belgian French are in fact all different. If you would send Belgian Dutch copy to a Dutch reader from The Netherlands, he will mock you. Believe me, I've been there! The language is the same, but the words that are used to say something are different.
  • Never just "translate" email copy from one language to another. You need to "localize" the content.
  • ALWAYS have an in-country person that is a native speaker validate the content of the email before you send it out.
  • Send out your messages in UTF-8 encoding.
  • Make sure your email service provider supports special characters.
  • Test, test, test: some errors you won't see until you have sent out test emails to various email accounts. Characters that don't render correctly will show up as a question mark.

Check out also these tips from Ken Takahashi.

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

links for 2007-08-16

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

Overwhelming Subscribers with Too Much Copy

I love the Disney brand from a many different angles.  I live near Orlando, and several times a month, my family and I enjoy spending an afternoon at Walt Disney World.  I'm also a big fan of the Disney Channel, because it's decent entertainment for my kids.  I could go on and on...

Quite honestly, they are a marketing juggernaut.  From a masterful plan surrounding Hannah Montana to the superb job they have done with  vacation planning to the most magical place on earth.

With all of the great work they have executed,  they still have a lot to learn when it comes to some of their email marketing campaigns. 

Disney_insider_2 I receive the Disney Insider each week and there are some elements I really like about the message.  The Fan Spotlight showcases user submitted stories about their favorite Disney moment. There is also a section titled "Ask Dave"  in which subscribers submit questions regarding all things Disney and they are answered by Dave. 

I like subscriber-submitted content in emails when it is appropriate.  In this case' I think it works really well.  However, it can get lost in the shuffle of so many other pieces of content in the email message. 

The weekly "Main Attraction"  is a necessary element.  This takes up the bulk of the space, as it should, and is the main focus of the subject line.  However it could almost be lost amidst all the other content surrounding it, including "Special Insider Offer", "In Next Week’s Issue",  "History and Trivia" and the countless links below.

Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with enough content for a weekly newsletter.  I think in this instance, Disney has the opposite problem. There are clear definitions for where each area starts and stops, which helps a great deal,  but the hefty volume of content could be too much for subscribers to read.  I almost find this message overwhelming.

I appreciate that Disney has links to finish reading the longer articles.  This actually serves a dual-purpose.  The email is kept shorter (yet still a bit unmanageable in my opinion).  And Disney can see what their subscribers’ are most interested in by tracking click-throughs.

With a weekly deployment, Disney might be better off trimming down the overall content and perhaps eliminating a few content blocks  to encourage subscribers to return each week to read the message. 

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

Some Less Obvious Spammy Words to Avoid

The folks at Blue Sky Factory provide a list of some of the less obvious “spammy” words and phrases to avoid in your emails in their article "Dirty Words in Disguise".

These is the list of words and phrases to avoid in both the subject line and the body copy:

  • Information you requested
  • Important information regarding
  • Guarantee, Guaranteed
  • Special Promotion
  • Great Offer/Deal
  • Visit our website
  • Opportunity
  • 50% Off
  • Click Here
  • Call Now
  • Subscribe
  • Bonus
  • Free
  • All New
  • One time
  • Order Now
  • Amazing
  • Discount
  • Save up to
  • One time
  • Winner
  • Prizes

Also, beware of using exclamation points, quotation marks, dollar signs, percentage signs and all capital letters (DON’T SCREAM AT YOUR RECIPIENTS!).  Do not put a toll free number in the subject, and avoid using a font larger than two point.

So what steps can you take to ensure “spammy” words and phrases aren’t flagged in your emails? Blue Sky Factory recommends the following:

  1. Keep the above “naughty” list in the back of your mind or taped to your monitor when creating emails.  Make sure none of these words or phrases are included in your subject lines or body copy, even when used with the best intentions.
  2. Test your emails to several different ISP’s to track where they land. If the email lands in any spam or junk folders, try making changes to the subject line and body copy and test again.
  3. Use a spam check tool.  It will catch things like “spammy” words and large fonts, as well as suspicious from addresses.
  4. When in doubt about a word or phrase, rewrite it!  If you’re doubting it, a spam filter probably is probably questioning it too.
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Email Overtakes Print for Marketing Offerings

The volume of marketing offers sent by e-mail has overtaken print direct mail in the UK for the first time as com­panies exploit the low cost and other benefits of electronic campaigns.The milestone highlights the challenge to Royal Mail and others with sizeable businesses charging for producing and delivering print direct mail when advertisers are reducing print volumes in the £14bn-a-year industry.

Latest figures from the Direct Marketing Association estimate that in the fourth quarter of 2006, commercial e-mail volumes increased by 50 per cent year on year. The electronic format was heavily adopted by retailers e-mailing vouchers in the run-up to Christmas and that is likely to be repeated this year.

Specialists questioned by the DMA predicted the volume of e-mail marketing would grow by another third.
E-mail campaigns are much cheaper and quicker to produce than print work, as well as being easier for advertisers to target and evaluate for customer response rates.

Most marketers however believe a combination of print and online is the most effective approach, particularly as campaigns can be confused with spam, which is estimated to account for up to 90 per cent of internet traffic.

A new study from Royal Mail found customers prefer to receive both mail and e-mail in different contexts, and spend more if communicated with by both methods. But researchers seem unable to answer a key question: when is the best time for marketing e-mails to be sent?

Skip Fidura, e-mail partner at Ogilvy One Worldwide, a direct marketing group owned by WPP said there was a widely held assumption that e-mail sent on a Wednesday was most likely to be successful. But it varied by brand, product and industry. Mr Fidura said: “We have had some campaigns where e-mails sent between Friday at 2pm and Sunday at 2pm generated the best response.”

All the e-mail measured by the DMA was from “opt-in” schemes where consumers had requested e-mail.
The rates at which people opened e-mail and clicked on any embedded link were both lower during the quarter, and there has been an upward trend in people opting out of schemes.

Source: Financial Times

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

Why You Should Take a Strategic Approach to Email Marketing

On the Persuasive e-Marketing blog, Kelly Rusk explains why you should take a strategic approach to email marketing, rather than a tactical one to achieve the best results with your program.

You are taking the strategic approach if you have a content plan, an editorial calendar, a mailing schedule, a segmentation strategy. You research who your audience is and give them what they want. Your email plan revolves around other company marketing initiatives. You carefully examine results and constantly work to improve. When needed, you consult experts and stay up-to-date on industry best practices.

You are taking a tactical approach if you fire out emails to your list. Your content for each email is hastily planned just before sending. Although the finished product may look professional and complete, behind the scenes is a fury of disorganization and chaos. You occasionally look at results, but don't analyze.

It's obvious why the strategic approach is the way to go :-)

Read Kelly's post here, she provides a great example of her own on  how you can slip from a strategic approach to a tactical.

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

How to Fix a Failing Email Marketing Program?

In this article, Stefan Pollard offers a list of things to start with when you are called in to fix a failing email marketing program:

  1. Authentication. This is your first stop. Check your SPF, SenderID, and DomainKeys records to make sure they're accurate and up to date. Can ISPs verify you are who you claim to be and have the right to send messages from your IP address? While you're at it, check the rest of your basic DNS entries for accuracy and completeness. Even something as simple as a failed rDNS check can cause delivery challenges.

  2. Delivery challenges. Look for blocks, bottlenecks, and other issues related to sending messages and receiving them correctly. Get on ISP whitelists, and join their feedback loops to hear about and resolve spam complaints.

  3. List hygiene. Your list software should automatically remove any invalid addresses. Ensure this function works correctly and keep your list clean. Look for inactive accounts (those that haven't opened or clicked in over three to six months), and use reactivation and purge strategies to keep your list small and highly responsive.

  4. Address collection. Find out all you can about how your predecessors acquired the addresses in your database, especially if anyone bought or rented lists with murky permission histories. If you can't verify permission for an address, you might have to ask the owner to verify permission or, in the worst case, scrap it to avoid any chance it's a spam trap address that could cause blocking problems. Upgrade your permission level to confirm opt-ins.

  5. Expectation setting. Look at what your program promises to e-mail: content, frequency, format, and the like, then see what it delivers. Is there a difference? Be specific about what you'll send and how often. Use a preference page to let subscribers tailor a program that meets their own content, format, and frequency needs. If you have to repermission addresses on your list, you can make it a more valuable prospect by inviting subscribers to do this or to unsubscribe.

  6. Reputation management. If the e-mail program you inherited is pretty much in tatters, you'll have to spend time repairing your sender reputation, both with your own recipients and the ISPs you send to. You took the first steps when you authenticated. Now, you have to patrol every mailbox associated with your e-mail program where someone could reply with a comment, request, or complaint and deal with those immediately. Your goal is to reduce spam complaints to a level below 0.1 percent per domain.

  7. Design and rendering. Assuming you resolved technical issues, you can now attack how messages appear to the recipient. Clear up bad or incompatible HTML code, end the reliance on a single large image, and see how the message appears when images are blocked or the message is viewed in different browsers and on different equipment, such as a PDA or cell phone.

  8. Segmentation and relevance. Here's where you deliver on the expectations set at opt-in. Honor those expectations and avoid cross-promoting unless the material warrants it.

  9. Landing pages. Yes, these are part of an e-mail campaign and require as much thought and testing as the message itself. E-mail gets subscribers back to your site. Make sure the page where they land puts them right where they need to be. Don't force them to hunt around.

Source: ClickZ

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Full Text in RSS Feed

If you are reading this post in your RSS reader you have noticed already: I've switched from publishing only partial text in my RSS feed to publishing the full text of the post. Many of you have asked me to do this for a long time but I was always very hesitant about it. I was afraid I would see a drop in actual visits to my blog.

But it seems that I should not be too worried about that. Early data shows that traffic is actually increasing rather than dropping. And this is being confirmed by an article I read this morning (found it via Kris Hoet's del.icio.us feed on Facebook - I know, I know, I'm an infojunkie!): Why Full Text Feeds Actually Increase Page Views (The Freakonomics Explanation)

So I humbly apologize for not doing it much sooner!

If there's anything else I can do to make reading this blog easier for you or if you have any suggestions to enhance the user experience on this blog, please let me know!

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Does Your Subject Match Your Message?

Earlier this month, our friend Mark Brownlow at No Man is an Iland referenced Kelly Mooney’s blog post  about the Gap maybe being too clever with a subject line about Men’s Wear referring to Women’s Fashions.  While not exactly along the same lines, the message I received from Banana Republic, one of the Gap family brands, made me think of the message that particular message.

Banana_republic_2The subject line of today’s message read, "Men's Fall 2007 has arrived..."

But when I opened the message there was nothing at all related to the new men's clothing line.

I actually had to do a double take.  I was captivated by the message that was about the Fall Collection and the banner at the bottom caught my eye.  Letting me know that even more stores are carrying their petite line.  I sat wondering if everyone received the same banner or if I had made that a preference choice.  That train of thought brought me back to the subject line. It didn't match, although I remember specifying Men's fashion as a preference when I registered.  The subject line referenced men's clothing.

Was this is mistake by Banana Republic?  Did they select the incorrect subject line?  I have to think yes.  The subject line just doesn't match the imagery of the message.  With proper testing and greater care, these types of situations can reduce confusion subscribers may feel. 

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

Samples of How to Use Email to Reach, Delight and Build Relationships with Your Customers

Melinda Krueger shares some great examples of how some email marketers use email to reach, delight and build relationships with your customers:

Michelle Novak, Saga Communications: "we look for ways to [provide lagniappe] in every email we send to our radio station listeners. When we gather our listeners’ emails to join our clubs, we always get their birth date. Several stations have worked with clients to provide a “birthday present” for the listeners. WSNY, in Columbus,Ohio, worked with the local ice cream parlor. On a member’s birthday, they receive a Happy Birthday email from the radio station which includes a coupon for a free ice cream cone from Maggie Moos. At Star 102.5, in Des Moines, IA, the station sends a birthday greeting with a free lunch at a local restaurant. Clients indicate the redemption rates have not been significant, but it’s very customized and personal and a warm-fuzzy for both the radio station and the client sponsor. We get many “thank you” emails from the listeners who are flattered we remembered their birthday."

Valerie Warner, Brushfire, Inc.: "for our humble bathroom cleaning product, we did a viral email campaign featuring a standup routine on the pain of cleaning, by a comedian featured on “Last Comic Standing.” It had a link to the product Web site to view outtakes and get a discount coupon. It worked!"

   
Carrie Andersen, Schneiderman’s Furniture: "for our Web site Grand Opening, we let our email list know that we’d be sending emails every Wednesday until Labor Day with special offers, discounts and prizes. Our first email was to promote an auction to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. The highest bidder would receive 10K in furniture as well as design consultations from some HGTV celebrities. This was in conjunction with a local radio station, and we had a positive response. Our second email was a bit of a nail-biter, as this was the first test of how well our “weekly” emails would go. We were happy to see that our unsubscribes were not any higher than average, though our open and click rates were slightly lower. With this email, we gave away $100 gift cards by hiding them under the cushions at our stores. We had a fairly tepid response and were a bit discouraged. However, our third email was a scavenger hunt on our website asking customers to decipher the clues then go to our site and find the answers and win a free item of furniture. Well, the response was overwhelming — so much so that all prizes were won within the first two hours."

Source: Email Insider

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The Big Book of Email Marketing

Yesterday I came across "The Big Book of Email Marketing", a series of pdfs published by an organization called IPT.

Topics that are covered are:

  • The Basics of Campaign Planning
  • Intelligent Data Management for Email Marketing
  • Writing and Creating Emails that Get Results
  • Understanding the Art of Email Broadcasting
  • Measuring Email Marketing Effectiveness

Download it here.

Check out also the document called "Questions to ask an email managed solutions provider".

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

Top 10 Most Read Articles This Year

The homepage of this blog is clearly the most visited page by far. But after the Design & Layout and Deliverability category pages, these are the most visited pages on my blog in the first half of this year:

  1. Tips for your goodbye email
  2. Improve Email Deliverability: 15 Tips
  3. Guide for Creating HTML Emails: Technical and Design Best Practices
  4. 20 HTML Email Design Tips
  5. Lousy Support For HTML And CSS In Outlook 2007
  6. Free HTML Email Templates & Email Design Guide
  7. 20 Questions to Ask When Evaluating an Email Marketing Agency
  8. Basic Email Marketing Metrics Explained
  9. 5 Tips for Designing the Ultimate Landing Page
  10. New Email Testing Service
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!