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February 2008

42 entries from January 2008

Return Path's 4th Annual Holiday Email Survey

Subscribers report a general love of email as a channel and say they find value in many email messages. Yet, respondents in Return Path's fourth annual Holiday Email Survey also report that overall, email marketing connections are fatigued, and many are just plain weak.

For the fourth year, subscribers said that relevance is in their eyes, not the eyes of the marketer.

  • More than half (56.4%) of respondents say they receive high volumes of "junk" from marketers - defined as "email from companies I know but that is just not interesting to me." "Junk" is second only to "spam" ("email I never asked to receive") which 65.7% of respondents say they receive in high volumes.
  • One-third say that marketers email them more frequently than promised. Most of this email is simply deleted unread, but subscribers do not hesitate to complain about unwanted messages (reporting the email as spam).
  • Many respondents say they determine the value of each email message by using the subject line (58.6%).
  • Most respondents simply delete messages they don't recognize (52.3%) or that they feel come too frequently (29.1%). Knowing and trusting the sender is key to that "open or delete" decision.
  • Slightly less than a third (30%) of subscribers say they only open messages from brands they know. This is likely from the increased education about phishing and spoofing and spam tactics.
  • However, another 14.4% said that regardless of brand, they only open the email if they requested the particular message type.

With most subscribers claiming they get more email than they expected at sign up, marketers must be cautious when sharing internal files or adding new message streams to existing subscriptions.

Download the survey here and/or sign up for the "Holiday Findings 2008: What is the View from the Other Side of the Send Button" webinar on January 31st.

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

9-Step Checklist for Your Email Sign-up Process

In this article, Simms Jenkins share a couple of questions to ask yourself to ensure you treat your email sign-up form/preference center like a binding contract:

What did you say you do?
Offer up the benefits and a general overview of what they would be receiving.

Can you show me what you are talking about?
Samples can help seal the subscription deal or alleviate any fears of potential subscribers that they may just be receiving "a bunch of emails" with little value.

How often will we be talking?
Spell out how often a subscriber will receive your emails. Don't mislead users.

What's in it for me?
An enticing reward can often help create the email relationship and convert many would-be email subscribers.

May I make a suggestion?
Let your new email subscribers choose some content and have some control over their subscription, whether it is HTML vs. text, the frequency, the language or just a nice menu of newsletter and email offerings.

How well do you want to get to know me?
The general rule is that with more than four to five fields of information you may start to lose potential subscribers. If you are not using the information for segmenting, than just ask for a first name and email address.

Why should I trust you?
Make your privacy policy accessible for your future subscribers with just a simple link.

How easy is it for me?
Ensure your sign up form can be found (and completed for most) on the home page.

Can you please confirm that with me?
Tying in with the incentive aspect, your confirmation email/page is a great spot to receive the actual coupon/white paper and engage the new subscriber right away.

Source: iMedia Connection

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

links for 2008-01-12

  • Consumers receive on average 20-60 emails daily. Nearly 80% say they receive too many. Almost 70% delete most of their email without reading them. What consumers think about email matters. How it affects your brand has an impact on your bottom line.
    (tags: events)
  • Listrak takes you step by step through the dynamic content process of an actual email campaign – including capturing the right information, profiling and segmenting lists, developing content blocks, creating the emails, tracking the results
    (tags: events)
  • The send speeds of ESPs are increasingly being looked at as a key selling point. Being able to pump out over a million emails per month is regarded as a benefit by many clients. But is this important?
    (tags: esp)
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Reactivating Inactive Subscribers

A reactivation campaign will identify which addresses you can safely drop from your list without killing off live ones and re-establish connections with past customers.

How do you identify inative subscribers? Wendy Roth suggests to create a separate mailing list, and add anyone who hasn't opened or clicked on a message in, say, six months or longer, to it. Send a message with a pleading subject line, such as "We miss you! Please come back!" and include a special offer or invitation to fill out a new profile or encourage them to unsubscribe once and for all.

Move any responding addresses back to your active list. Send the message again, this time saying you'll take them off your list if they don't respond in, say, a week. Then, scratch them from your list if they don't respond. It might kill you to do that, but a smaller, more vital list will do you more good than one where nobody's home anymore.

Source: 6 tips to win back inactive subscribers (iMedia Connection)

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

links for 2008-01-11

  • With so much at stake, the most innovative use of e-mail in 2008 will likely come out of the political arena. Karen Gedney is watching these e-mails closely -- and you also might want to sign up for a few candidates' e-mails to follow along.
    (tags: cases)
  • When it comes to email marketing, the initial goal is simple: ”No one who hits your web site should leave without at least dropping an email address.”
    (tags: list_growth)
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

B-to-B Marketing Emails Likely to Be Filtered By Mistake

A new study entitled, 'Email Filters & Blacklists in Corporate America: B-to-B Marketing Email Deliverability' features survey answers from 513 executives working at corporations with 500 or more employees concerning their use of whitelists, filters and email list-joining habits. Respondents were asked detailed questions concerning their use of whitelists, company spam filters, junk mail filters, and email receipt at work. The goal - to determine if corporations' use of blacklists and spam filters is stopping 'wanted email' (defined as email the executive has sign up for).

Results revealed that 100% of respondents' IT departments have put filters in place to stop spam from entering the workplace. However, many of these filters place too much reliance on unregulated blacklists and content-based filtering to be able to do a good job of discerning spam email from desired email.

ISPs and online email services such as Hotmail, Yahoo email and Earthlink have enabled users to easily whitelist email from desired senders so mail gets through. However, according to the MarketingSherpa study, only a few corporations allow internal email users to whitelist senders easily. In fact, many executives in corporate America have no idea how to make sure the email they want to receive gets through.

"We've known for three years now that the false positive rate for corporate America is roughly double the rate of consumer email. It's doubly hard for a business-to-business marketer to conduct effective email campaigns. This study begins to point to reasons why, and gives some hope for the future," notes MarketingSherpa President Anne Holland.

The study was published as part of MarketingSherpa's Email Marketing Benchmark Guide.

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

Several Domains Disabled on the Road Runner Network effective Jan 7

Matt Vernhout reports that he's received several notices today stating that the following domains have been disabled on the Road Runner network effective 1/7/2008, as part of their planned migration announced in 2007:

  • jam.rr.com
  • midsouth.rr.com
  • mn.rr.com
  • se.rr.com
  • sport.rr.com
  • swfla.rr.com
  • ucwphilly.rr.com
  • houston.rr.com

Mail that is being sent to these domain is bouncing as "User Unknown". For the last several months these domains have been forwarding to the users new Comcast address and the users have been reminded by their service provider to give senders their new Comcast address.

Continue reading on Matt's blog to find out what this means for you and what you could/should do and what you should NOT do.

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

links for 2008-01-08

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

links for 2008-01-05

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

Join Me at the EEC Email Marketing Conference in San Diego

Four good reasons why you should go to the EEC's Email Evolution Conference in San Diego on February 12-13, 2008:

  • Dylan Boyd is offering $200 dollars off the registration fee. Get the secret discount code here.
  • You get to hang out with all the cool kids from the email marketing industry, including myself ;-)
  • The weather is going to be fantastic!
  • You want to find out why I can't stop blogging about email marketing. Me and a couple of other bloggers (Chad White, Dylan Boyd & Madeline Hubbard) will telling you all about it.

If you're convinced but you still need to convince "the boss", here are some more arguments:

  • The event offers a 3-tiered track. One for beginners, one for advanced and one for C-level conversations. So if you are a bit weaker on one area but stronger in another you can customize your track.
  • You'll hear experienced email marketers and industry leaders openly and honestly share their successes, challenges and outlook for the future.
  • Companies that will be speaking include: JupiterResearch, Microsoft, Sonoma, American Express, National Geographic, Allstate, Cisco, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard, Continental Airlines,  The Motley Fool, Network Direct, Wells Fargo, IBM, Keybank, Trek Bicycle, Daily Candy, WebEx, Merkle and lots of others.

If you are serious about email marketing, you seriously do not want to miss this event! Sign up now (and don't forget to enter your secret discount code that you can find here).

If you're coming, let me know, I'd love to meet you!

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

links for 2008-01-04

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

Things to Check Before You Launch Your Email Campaign

I just added the following checklist to the Email Marketer's Club Wiki. It contains the things you should check before you send out your email campaigns. I'm sure I've missed stuff, so feel free to help build a thorough checklist here.

The list

  • Are you sending it to the correct list? Particularly important if you're an agency sending on behalf of multiple clients. Or, if you just want to send to your test list, make sure that it's selected here (and not your "real" list).
  • Do you have permission to send emails to the people on your list?

Header
  • Does your brand appear in the “from” line?
  • Is the subject benefit-oriented instead of "selling"? Make the first 45 characters or so count. Ask yourself, "What will make a reader immediately open this message?" Rewrite the subject line at least 10 to 20 different ways to come up with the best approach. Test subject lines.
  • Are you sending the email at a time when the recipient is most likely to read it?

Top of Email or Preview Pane
  • Did you includes a link to view the email online?
  • Are you featuring your brand or logo prominently?
  • Does the email include the newsletter title or strong headline?

Body Content
  • Is it personalized with the recipient’s name? Do all the merge fields work properly?
  • Did you include an opening paragraph that pulls readers in?
  • Does the copy read like it comes from a person?
  • Does the email includes benefit-oriented information that is also engaging?
  • Are you making it clear to the reader what you want him to do? Make the call-to-action link prominent, not only on top of the message, but in several additional places in the email as well.
  • Do you have multiple calls to action? Both as text links and images? 
  • Can the email be easily skimmed? Did you use short paragraphs and bullet points?
  • Is it a manageable length to read online?
  • Did you not include too many topics in the email? Maybe it would be better to split the content over two emails?
  • Did you check the copy one last time for spelling mistakes?

Design
  • Are you using images sparingly? (only when they advance the goals of the email)
  • Are your all your images loading and do they load quickly?
  • Do all the links work? Don't forget to check the links in the text version!
  • Are all the images linked?
  • Did you check what the email looks like in different email clients such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird, Entourage, Lotus Notes...
  • Are you using the correct email template for the campaign?
  • Did you remember to create a plain-text version of the email?

Footer
  • Do you have a working unsubscribe link?
  • Did you include your physical (USPS) address?
  • Are you protecting your content with a copyright notice?

Landing page
  • Is the landing page live?
  • Is the content and the design on the landing page consistent?
  • Is the content not too long?
  • Is the call to action obvious?
  • Is the landing page copy not too long?
  • Is the registration form not too long? Ask only for the basic information you need. Long forms have a higher exit rate. You can always ask more questions later.

Other
  • Are you asking recipient to whitelist the “from” address so future e-mails get delivered to their inbox?
  • Are you including a viral call to action, encouraging the reader to share your email with friends or colleagues?
  • Did you include a subscription mechanism for people it is forwarded to?
  • Are you sending the email in multi-part MIME format?
  • Did you incorporate tracking and reporting?

Do you think something's missing? Add it to the checklist here.

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

4 Tips to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaigns in 2008

The Messaging Times offers 3 great tips to improve your email marketing campaigns in 2008. Here they are:

  1. Create a calendar for your email marketing campaigns so that you have a visual representation of your recipients, content and frequency (Who, What, When). Paste it on the wall in front of your desk or save it as your computer’s background image.
  2. Design an email marketing checklist and use it every time you send a campaign. It’s even more important to use a checklist after you’ve been doing it for a long time. Attention to detail is the cornerstone of successful email marketing.
  3. Test your campaigns against as many email clients as you can prior to sending (include testing on your email marketing calendar). You can either establish accounts yourself with Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, etc. or you can use an email design testing service and have them test your message for you.

I'd like to add a fourth one:

4. Create an editorial calendar that contains an overview of the content for each email that you will send this quarter/year. That way you will not be searching for content at the very last minute.

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

links for 2008-01-03

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

Preference Centers And Targeting

David Baker wrote an excellent article about preference centers and targeting a couple of weeks ago which I didn't get round to reading until this morning. Here's what he says:

While the concept of an online consumer preference center is a great idea, does it really add value to an email program or consumer experience?  In theory it works. You ask your customers to profile themselves, manage their subscriptions and hope they'll manage this over time.  In theory, this would help with customer targeting, timing and overall customer management. 

While I've seen some really great approaches to preference centers, consumer adoption and interaction is a product of the consumer brand involvement with the product and service (how frequently and how often), the perceived value in contributing to this enhanced profile (what's in it for me), and your ability as a marketer to continue to motivate your customer to contribute to this profile over time. 

Many preference centers are great ideas that are poorly executed -- not because the registration page isn't functional or the users can't update their profiles, but because of  mismatched expectations.  When many marketers are still grappling with permission management practices (opt-in vs. opt-out), why add another layer of consumer management to the problem? 

Many in the email space propose preference centers to help with subscription practices. Some do it for depth of profile, some do it thinking this level of management will help you understand what percentage of your audience will get that involved in your brand.  Which are you? 

If you decide to develop a preference center, which I personally think has value for the marketer -- and, if done creatively, for the consumer -- there must be a connection between a consumer, the appropriate depth of content and value in a program, and a commitment from the marketer to continue to build value in keeping profiles updated.  Remember, a bad or outdated profile is potentially riskier to a customer relationship than little-to-no profile.  Would you rather market broadly to your customers with a common voice -- or show them you still have their old address from 10 years ago?  I have several profiles I set up in 2001, and I continue to get local marketing ads for Texas with poor use of personalization that is designed to show how smart the marketers are.  They simply showed me how inept they are in carrying a profile for 10 years without first attempting to get it updated.

If you decide to bring this on, here are some things that you should consider:

  • How do you want to introduce it?  (At enrollment/membership, one-step or two, a condition of membership?)
  • How can you support this through alternative channels (offline? Television, radio, POS)?
  • Do you have a "big idea" that can carry this program message?
  • Is your organization behind it and the value it can add? (this means all channels committed to building and leveraging this information)
  • What level and type of data is actionable vs. nice to have? (the 4-Ps of Data, Personal, Profile, Preferential and Performance)
  • Do I try to build a profile in one sitting or build it in stages?
  • How will I entice the consumer to participate today and tomorrow?

As a professional marketer, I'm a bit skeptical of customer preference centers.  Yes, they make sense for transactional relationships and managing functional tasks.  But if your goal is one-sided (only value is to the marketer), your program and the perceived value by the consumer is likely that as well. 

Pull a comScore report and look at all the sites that your ideal customers visit regularly; look at their demographic traits, their interests and genres, and see how many of these sites and brand relationships they are willing to go to the next level. Then do a reality check and try to determine whether your idea of a preference center would really "hold water" with all these connections the consumer has today.  If your brand has this connection and persistence, then you have a chance.  If you have a preference center in place and have completed profiles of less than 15% of your base, then you need to rethink the value this serves.

Source: Email Insider

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

Email Marketing: What's Coming in 2008?

In this article, Jordan Ayan, president of SubscriberMail, and Joel Book, director of eMarketing Education at ExactTarget weigh in on what’s coming in 2008. Here’s a summary of what they said:

  1. More CRM integration, especially with software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. “E-mail can play a vital role in lead nurturing if you can track the many data points that can serve as triggers,” Book said. Having e-mail functionality built into CRM solutions such as Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics CRM makes this possible.

  2. Increased use of automated tools. Triggered messages, rendering tools and segmentation tools should be on your radar once the New Year kicks in—if they aren’t already, Ayan said. “You need the ability to preview messages across multiple clients, [see] how that message is going to look in the in-box,” he said.

  3. Closer alignment of marketing elements. E-mail can’t stand alone anymore, which is why we’re seeing e-mail move up the chain of command from a “siloed” departmental view into the hands of CMOs or directors of marketing. The reason, Ayan said: e-mail supports every other interactive marketing tactic.

    For example, people use search engines to identify suppliers with whom they are most likely to do business. Savvy e-mailers, Book said, are using landing pages that link from search engines to invite those prospects to opt in to additional communications. “Most marketers invite signup on the main home page, but the smartest ones figure out which pages are most heavily trafficked and invite opt in there as well,” he said.

  4. Using rich video with e-mail marketing. Although marketers learned that embedding video in e-mail can present difficulties, video does work—especially in the b-to-b market, Book said. The trick is to use e-mail to bring readers to a special landing page where they can view video on their own terms. “The viral effect of video also drives adoption of your e-mail and builds an audience,” he said. 

Source: btobonline.com

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

5 Segmentation Tips

In this article, Stefan Pollard shares 5 segmentation tips. Why should you care? That's easy: the more relevant your messages are to your subscribers' needs, wants, and expectations, the better the response and deliverability. Segmentation can help you with that.

The following list of ways to collect more information can be used to create segments and relevant messages:

1. Invite readers to fill out or update their profiles.
Don't ask too many questions on the sign-up form but use the welcome email or a survey instead to invite subscribers to tell you a bit more about themselves. Stefan suggests to "add a small incentive, such as a discount coupon or extra download, to sweeten the deal".  

2. Use the search engine optimization terms that drive the most traffic to your site.
Incorporate the search terms that are used into message content, subject lines, calls-to-action and other communications, such as the preference page invitation. Then, review the data manually. Tally key words and phrases used to find your brand. You'll quickly see a pattern you can use.

3. Target messages based on subscribers' past behavior.
Use behavior data to segment out inactive users (those who haven't opened or clicked in a set time period) to capture those who clicked on product links in earlier e-mails but didn't buy, or who bought from you once but never again.

4. Interview the people who talk directly with your customers.
These include your customer-service or call-center people who should be familiar enough with your Web site to offer feedback or pass along comments about the site's usability or what customers are looking for when they call. Again, you can turn this information around to create useful segments that speak to customers' needs or interests.

5. See where people click in your e-mail messages.
If I'm promoting men's shoes but a large portion of my audience clicks the links for women's shoes, I can use that data to promote woman's shoes in the next offer.

This is just a short summary of the 5 tips Stefan offers in his article. Read more here.

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