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42 entries from January 2008

links for 2008-01-31

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How Eye-Tracking Can Help Improve the ROI of Email Campaigns

Basically, eye-tracking technology is a neat way to figure out how your customers want your page to look like.

At least theoretically, such technology can increase both company profits and customer satisfaction. Costs must be reasonable, data reliable and interpretation correct, but the potential for tasty ROI is clearly out there.

People can only click on things that they actually see i.e., find with their eyes. It can be a costly mistake to assume your important call to action or message is there for users' eyes without actually testing it.

Or to put in positive terms - there’s a lot to be gained by allocating your priority content to visually most valuable areas.

A useful real life example to illustrate and verify that point is a study Realeyes and Communicator Corp did on one Christmas campaign email.

The study (pdf) concluded that eye-tracking data could predict where people are going to click in the actual email campaign with over 95% accuracy.

A much tougher question than whether eye-tracking data has any value is how to actually extract value from this data.

Eye-tracking by itself, most often, does not automatically give solutions. It will take a skillful person to interpret the data and draw the right conclusions. Whether that person is an outsourced consultant or an in-house designer does not really matter. What does is that eye-tracking brings objective reality to debates often based only on opinions.

Quantitative results can be delivered in intuitive format and quickly understood by different stakeholders in front-end design. Consequent faster and more rational design decisions can yield a very hefty return for the cost that eye-tracking studies go for these days.

Eye-tracking is clearly breaking out of the labs and will soon overcome the sort of mysticism that still surrounds it.

The bottom line is that eye-tracking is just a good tool to make sure real user needs are served by front-end design and aligned with business goals of any online organisation.


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Eight Steps to More Effective Welcome E-mails

Brand and subject lines are key factors in getting your e-mails opened, but so is your recipients’ prior experiences with your e-mail efforts. According to a study conducted last year by Return Path, 51.2 percent of survey respondents indicated prior value influences their decisions to open e-mail. What’s more, prior value was the only factor to exhibit year-over-year growth.

What this means is the value clock starts ticking with the very first e-mail contact you make. And for many marketers, that’s the welcome e-mail. To ensure your welcome message sets the proper stage for e-mails to come, check out these eight best practices offered by Margaret Farmakis, Return Path’s director of strategic services, in her whitepaper A Welcome Message Study: Marketers Are Missing Opportunities to Pave the Road to Relevancy:

  1. Send your welcome message within 24 hours to people who sign up for your e-mail program.
  2. Provide a link to your preference center so subscribers can manage their subscriptions.
  3. Include a welcome offer or other incentive to make a purchase; be creative about incorporating this offer into the subject line without making it too long to display in subscribers’ inboxes.
  4. Provide subscribers with information on the types of content they can expect to receive from you and how frequently.
  5. Include whitelisting instructions so subscribers can keep your e-mails out of their junk folders.
  6. Although welcome messages likely are considered transactional under the CAN-SPAM Act, it’s still smart to include an opt-out link in case people change their minds about subscribing.
  7. Try to personalize the content for maximum relevancy and subscriber retention.
  8. Tell subscribers how you intend to use their e-mail addresses or provide a link to your privacy policy.

Source: Target Marketing

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A Panel of Humans Tell Microsoft Which Emails are Spam

In his latest column on ClickZ, Stefan Pollard explains how a panel of humans tell Microsoft whether they believe an email is spam or not:

We usually think of spam filtering as a highly automated function that fends off the millions of spam messages trying to force their way into inboxes. Yet even the most sophisticated spam filters have a human component, often a network of e-mail users who click the "this is spam" button in their e-mail interfaces or vote on a message's spamminess through services such as Cloudmark

Microsoft's Hotmail takes the people factor one step further with a little-known but highly valued panel of humans who tell Microsoft whether they believe an e-mail message is spam or not.

This panel's aggregated responses make up a data pool called the Windows Live Sender Reputation Data, which is folded into the decision-making process to better classify more e-mail messages correctly.

A bit more information about the panel:

  1. Members are active MSN Premium and Windows Live/MSN Hotmail customers who agreed to participate in the Feedback Loop Program after being contacted by the e-mail service.
  2. The program asks participants to rank a random piece of e-mail as "junk" or "not junk." This e-mail is a message that was addressed to them but that Microsoft plucked out of the stream and reassigned with subject line "Junk E-mail Classification." It could be spam, permission commercial e-mail, or personal e-mail.
  3. The users' feedback is aggregated into a giant pool of data and fed to reputation or spam-filter programs, such as Hotmail's SmartScreen and Return Path's Sender Score Certified program. It's then applied to automated e-mail programs to improve the application's ability to properly classify e-mail.

Sound like a panel you'd like to serve on? Unfortunately, you can't volunteer. You might get invited if you have a qualifying account for at least six months and respond to Microsoft's random invitation.

The feedback loop includes users in 200 countries, 60 percent of whom use a Hotmail interface in a language other than English. This diverse background, coupled with an invitation structure rather than a volunteer program, helps reduce pro- and anti-spam bias in the decision making. It's the same methodology pollsters use to find survey participants who represent the polling population as closely as possible, rather than rely on volunteers who may have a bias one way or another.

This human factor adds an important element to Hotmail's spam-scoring systems, which already include Sender ID for reputation scoring and IP reputation scoring, among other tactics.

Here's the impact Microsoft's panel could have on your own e-mail:

  • How likely is it someone in this feedback loop ruled on a message you sent? Fairly likely, if you're a large-scale sender who sends regular e-mail.
  • Remember, too, these are Hotmail's own customers reporting which e-mail messages they feel are spam and which aren't. If your permission e-mail message doesn't clearly convey that it belongs in their inboxes, they'll more likely classify it as junk mail. Are you doing all you can to demonstrate your trustworthiness and value by sending relevant, identifiable e-mail?

If you'd like to know more about Windows Live Sender Reputation Data or the feedback loop that generates it, see the Sender Score Certified Web site. This service, through Return Path, incorporates the data into its own reputation-scoring program.

Source: ClickZ

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UK DMA Releases 2007 National Client Email Marketing Study

The UK DMA just released its 2007 National Client Email Marketing Study. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Regular newsletters are the most common type of email messages used by over 70% of UK email marketers but only 24% apply any purchase segmentation to their newsletters.
  • Tactical campaigns also seem to be popular with marketers – breaking news alerts (42%) and limited time offers (40%) suggest email is widely used for fast-turnaround, short-term activities.
  • Very few marketers are deploying action or event-triggered campaigns, which may deliver the highest ROI.
  • Marketers’ choice of provider is driven by 2 key needs - product functionality and delivery. Price comes out as being less important than product robustness, reputation and customer service.
  • Despite the significant development in the adoption of email marketing, it has not yet caught up with the reach of other direct marketing tools, with companies, on average, having email addresses for only 50% of their database.
  • One of the most surprising findings of this report is that almost a quarter of marketers do not engage in any segmentation or personalisation activity, and less than a fifth are using behaviour to trigger a message that could be timely and relevant.
  • Well over half of marketers surveyed are tracking their campaigns success, with 59% calculating the revenue generated and 52% tracking the customer journey from open to purchase. This will enable them to evaluate their ROI for each campaign and make informed decisions about how successful the channel is.
  • There is a difference in performance for acquisition and retention campaigns, as is seen in off-line direct marketing, with in-house customer lists generally performing better than rented external lists.
  • Eight out of ten marketers will be spending more on email marketing than they spent in the past year. Just over half of these will not be taking money from another channel to fund their email marketing, so we are seeing a net increase in client spend in these organisations.
  • For the 44% who will be re-allocating existing budget it will be coming from the budget previously allocated to direct mail. This equates to 33% of all marketers spending less on direct mail to fund their 2008 email marketing plans.
  • 39% of marketers have found that they have been very successful or successful combining email with direct mail and 34% have had similar success combining email with telemarketing.

Members of the UK DMA can download the study for free, non-members pay GBP 500

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links for 2008-01-30

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In the EU You Cannot Filter Email by Inspecting its Content - huh?

Just read this on Terry Zink's blog and thought it was worth re-posting here. Here's what he says:

Some of this stuff I couldn't make up if I tried...

With all the hoopla about the David Ritz case (which I will blog about in a future post), I thought I'd remark about a very strange legal requirement about filtering mail.  As usual, this unreasonable legal requirement only applies to the EU.

In the EU, you cannot filter mail by inspecting its content.

I am not making that up.  When I heard that, I said "Are you serious?  How are you supposed to filter mail?"  For goodness sakes, by definition, email filtering is based upon content inspection.  Apparently, you can only filter mail by doing IP blocking and other high level techniques without actually inspecting the content (I guess also doing SPF checks and whatnot, but I would think you would need some content, namely the MAIL FROM, on which to do that).  Now, spam filtering companies have a provision in that we are doing it on behalf of our customers, that is, we are doing it because they want us to do that.

Now you may say "We are using automated techniques to do spam filtering and there is no manual inspection."  That actually makes it worse.  Using automated techniques to inspect content makes regulators and privacy commissioners feel more uncomfortable about the data is being used, rather than more at ease.  Presumably, their point of view is that an automated technique can be more easily used to harvest and extract information.  They are really big about protecting PII (Personal Identifiable Information) over there.  Too bad they have no clue about the way the email world actually works.

Anyone care to comment on this or share some more insights? This is the first time I've heard about this...

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links for 2008-01-26

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Resisting the Temptation to Spam

Over at the Email Marketer's Club recently a member posted a question which resulted in 38 heated replies. The question was, is it OK to send a one-off email to people who have bought something from you but who have not opted in to receive email?

The person who asked the question said that out of 700,000 customers, only 200,000 had checked the box which said 'I am happy to receive marketing emails from you' (or words to that effect). So that meant they were sitting on half a million email addresses and it 'seemed a waste' not to market to them. He was thinking of sending them an email (just the one!), perhaps offering a free gift by way of appeasement. It was just too tempting. Surely worth a try?

There then followed a great deal of debate and opinion, ranging roughly from 'if you do so you will be a spammer' to 'you COULD try it, but it may reflect badly on you if people complain.'

The rules about what is and isn't permissible in email marketing, in the UK at least, are not black and white. The Information Commissioner's website has guidelines on the subject.

Nevertheless, in the above case there were no grey areas. Those 500,000 people had the chance to check the box and give their permission, and they did not. That means they don't want to get emails from this company, even 'one-offs'.

Rather than risk losing the trust and loyalty of customers, not to mention your company's reputation, why not focus on those 200,000 people who have actually given their permission? They are the real goldmine, after all. Use your loyal customer base to up-sell, cross-sell and refer their friends.

Source: Eggbox Marketing's eTips Newsletter

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links for 2008-01-25

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links for 2008-01-23

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Choosing An Email Service Provider: Some Useful Tips

Over on the E-Consultancy blog, Dela Quist offers some excellent tips to help you find the right email service provider:

  • Go for the larger companies. Their servers are going to be more robust, they’re likely to have more staff, including a big ISP relations or reputation management team and have the ear of companies such as AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo!.
  • In particular, ask how many people they have working on ISP relations and reputation management. Ask whether their reporting can give you a breakdown by domain so you can see which ISPs are causing you problems.
  • For those that prefer it, there are some very good European ESPs to choose from, but don’t be afraid to work with an American company as they dominate the email delivery space. This truly is a global business and experienced companies of scale are often US-based.
  • Establish how familiar they are with your needs. It makes sense to try to find out what percentage of their clients are of a similar industry, size and have similar needs to you. You can then select the provider with the most clients matching your scale and requirements.
  • Don’t be seduced by functionality.Focus on the functionality you need now or in the very near future. What you’re really looking for is ease of use and interface speed. The delivery service you choose should have a user-friendly, intuitive interface that makes setting up and automating repetitive tasks straightforward.
  • Support is also very important, particularly if you’re going for a self-service solution. So ask how quickly they turn around queries, whether they offer telephone support or just email.
  • Email marketing is all about understanding how your customers are interacting with your communications. So the reporting interface is absolutely critical and there are significant differences between products. For example, not all technologies allow you to group your mailings by campaign. In some ways, it’s more important to look at the reporting interface than at deployment functionality. Good email marketing is a constant learning and feedback loop, which requires detailed reports.


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links for 2008-01-21

  • A spamtrap is an email address designed only to receive spam. The owner of such an email address will never use it to solicit email communications, and thus any email received by that spamtrap will be immediately be considered unsolicited.
  • Nearly three-quarters of e-mail marketers said in a recent survey that they plan to spend either the same amount or more on e-mail marketing in 2008 as they did last year.
    (tags: study)
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links for 2008-01-18

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links for 2008-01-17

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links for 2008-01-16

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If There's One Thing You Wanted To Know About Me, What Would It Be?

Okay, I admit: that's a dangerous question to ask so I will commit only to answer questions that are related to blogging about email marketing ;-) But let me give you some context as to why I'm inviting you to ask questions:

At the eec's Email Evolution Conference in San Diego next month, I'll be sitting on a panel with fellow email marketing bloggers Dylan Boyd (The Email Wars), Chad White (Retail Email Blog/EEC Blog) and Maddy Hubbard of Blue Hornet.

We'll be talking about why we blog, how we keep up with it, and lots of other aspects of our blogging. In this session we'll be answering questions from the moderator and the audience -- but we also wanted to give our readers a chance to chime in and ask us questions. So if you have burning questions for me or any of my co-panelists, please let me know via email or by commenting on this post.

Continue reading "If There's One Thing You Wanted To Know About Me, What Would It Be?" »

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