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58 entries from March 2008

links for 2008-03-31

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Testing Your Copy: What You Should Test

To reach optimum returns on your emails, invest some time in filtering your email strategy through your brand standards and your marketing goals to arrive at a selection of possible messaging approaches. Then test the variables, using a basic A/B split or any other segmentation that is important you.

Here are a few things you can test:

1. Offer
What offer will move your audience closer to a purchase? You may intuit the answer, or have to follow a business directive to make a particular offer, but by all means test themes and variations to create an offer the audience can't refuse. (Be careful of too much product discounting unless you want your brand to be associated with "cheap.")

  • Financial incentives: money off, free shipping, two for the price of one, discounted service contract or installation.
  • Non-monetary value: perks, quality upgrades, valuable information packet, accumulated rewards.
  • Time-based incentives: 3-day sale, offer ends Saturday, for the month of May only.

2. Audience empathy
Test ways of connecting on an emotional or intellectual level with your prospects.

  • Exclusivity: be the first to own, leave the crowds behind, apply for exclusive entry.
  • Problem-solving: a better way to ___, take the back-break out of ___, get results faster, smarter, more reliably.
  • Emotion: because you love your children / pet / garden / beer, because you care about this issue / institution / group.

3. Tone and manner
While these must follow your brand standards, email is inherently a more personal medium than many other channels, so you can test some variables here.

  • Timbre: taking a warm, personal approach versus a more clinical exposition of facts.
  • Length of copy: test long, medium and short copy (depending on the product or service).
  • Persuasion versus urgency: test to see if some of your audience wants to be schmoozed with reasons to buy (product attributes and excellence) versus receiving nonstop promotions.

4. Structure
Where the offer appears may make a difference in how it is understood and acted on.

  • Placement: try placing offers in the subject line, the headline, the call to action, a sidebar, and in image captions and call-outs. Make each instance a link and then track opens and where users click.
  • Graphics  -- be careful with presenting headlines and key offers in graphics, which may well get blocked from view in the inbox. Simpler is often better.

You can test which copy approach yields the best results simply by tracking click-throughs and conversions on sent emails. To dive deeper, you can also perform other types of research. Use focus groups or surveys to test the impact and takeaway of your offers and the way they are worded. You can also do eye-tracking studies to find out how readers scan your emails. When you learn what path their eyes follow, you can maximize the effect by placing your key inducements, either copy points or visuals, along the same path, in order of importance.

There are almost always several good ways of writing and designing any advertising message. If you try to test every possible combination of variables, you'll go cross-eyed. Apply lessons learned from your marketing in other channels to your email advertising, and vice-versa, and you will find the options narrowing nicely into a powerful set of guidelines you can use creatively again and again.

Source: Email Insider

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How To Make Your Email Campaigns Mobile-Friendly

In this article, Stefan Pollard explains how to make your email campaigns mobile-friendly:

1. Reformat text

You should always offer a text option as an alternative to HTML for all readers. You can send this version to your mobile readers, but you might also have to reformat it to make it show up better on the smaller screen.

Most text messages have 60 to 80 characters per line. Mobile platforms will show 20 to 40 characters in 12 to 15 lines per screen, depending on screen width and type style.

Desktop-friendly line lengths can create long paragraphs in the mobile reader. If you use typographic devices as copy separators that also run 60 characters, for example, you'll give up four to five lines on the screen for something that adds no value.

2. Rethink tracking URLs

Same goes for URLs. Tracking URLs can also consume four to five lines per screen. If you can, use a simpler URL even if it means sacrificing some tracking ability. These long URLs can result from automatically reformatting HTML copy into text, so your text version may need some hand-tweaking in order to render better on all platforms.

3. Be brief.

Message size must come down whether you send in text or HTML. Messages over a certain size -- even as small as 12KB -- risk being cut off halfway through. In many clients, your reader can opt to click a button that will call up the rest of the message, but do you want to throw up that obstacle?

Personally, I hate it when I open a message and find "message truncated" right at the top. I need more to make me want to click the button that will deliver the rest of the message.

Another message I get that frustrates me to no end is "This message contains a rich-text HTML portion. Consult your mail client's documentation for information on how to view it." Uh, I don't think so. Delete! That means it won't be there when I get to my desk.

Also, rethink the content itself. Long sentences in long paragraphs force more and more scrolling. This also can be a barrier to conversion or another source of frustration for readers.

4. Validate your Web site, too.

Is your Web site mobile-friendly too? Probably not, if you haven't had it redesigned specifically for mobile applications. If you have to send readers to your Web site to get the most value from your email marketing, better make sure it will also render on their devices. You can check it easily by using a new validator developed by the World Wide Web Consortium:

Source: EmailLabs

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How to Use Alt Text?

Found in EmailLabs' excellent newsletter Intevation Report:

Question: I understand about using alt text to get my message across if a reader blocks images from downloading, but is there a limit on the number of words I should put in the text?

Answer: For most images, you should need only a few words to describe the image ... four or five, likely no more than 10. Try to describe both the image and what you want readers to do.

Remember: Images should always support the message copy and never replace it. So, your reader who doesn't enable images should still get the point of your message, even without the images or alt text, from the message text.

As far as how many words to use, use this guide: The smaller the image, the fewer the words. And remember that some email clients, including Hotmail and Outlook, add text to the front of the alt text which can reduce the impact. Always test your message with images off before you hit "send" to make sure you're getting your message across.

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Unsubscribe Do's and Don'ts

Most marketers handle e-mail opt-outs very poorly because they generally think people opting out of their e-mail communications is a negative event and treat it as such. However, opt-outs create tremendous opportunities for marketers to hone their e-mail programs.

For example, offering the option of receiving e-mail less frequently can save a subscriber who would otherwise opt out because of the shear volume of mail. Also, an exit survey could shed light on an aspect of the program people find irritating.

Some opt-out do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t make people remember a password to opt out.
  • Don’t bury the opt out language in a large block of small type.
  • Do offer unsubscribers a preference center.
  • Do give people the option to receive less e-mail.
  • Do consider asking people why they opted out.

Source: ChiefMarketer's Special Report: The Opt-Out Opportunity

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Maximizing the 5 Key Elements of E-mail Design

Your customers and prospects view e-mails in five stages, according to a white paper released this week by ExactTarget. Those stages are: looking at the “from” line, the subject line, the preview pane, the opened but not-yet-scrolled message and the full e-mail.

How well you design for each stage will affect how many people read your message all the way through and how many simply hit delete or, even worse, report your message as spam.

These quick tips to help you maximize those five key elements:

1) Consistency is key.
B-to-b recipients expect instant recognition; if they signed up for “XYZ Newsletter”, they want to get “XYZ Newsletter". You can make sure they recognize your e-mails by standardizing messages with your company, or brand name or the name of someone they deal with often at your company. More than 73% of people will report spam based on the “from” field, so you have to remember that’s the critical first piece.

2) Optimize and test content in the preview pane.
More than half the people who open an e-mail do so because they like what they see in the preview pane. The key quadrant is definitely that four-by-four-inch square. Keep this area clean and to the point. Include your brand name and the call to action in this space; and weave in information that taps into both rational as well as emotional arguments, she said. This is an area where links can also be valuable so people can go directly to a more comfortable viewing paradigm.

Another point to remember: Keep designs at no more than 600 pixels wide so readers won’t have to scroll horizontally.

3) Design for common e-mail clients.
Your design is going to look different depending on which e-mail client your recipients are using. The most common b-to-b clients, according to the ExactTarget white paper, are Microsoft’s Outlook and IBM’s Lotus Notes; about 75% of all b-to-b recipients are using one or the other. However, many businesspeople use free mail services to receive marketing messages. The most common b-to-c clients are Yahoo, which garners 25% of e-mail recipients; Hotmail, which accounts for 20%; and AOL, which accounts for 18%.

4) Include just enough of a tease. Should you include a paragraph summary of an article along with a link or just a short sentence and a link? It depends on how much content you’re trying to get into your message. If you’ve only got a few stories, go with the synopsis and the link. But if you’re trying to get a lot in, a sentence or small teaser line is a better option since time spent on e-mail deteriorates as a reader moves through it. If you’re asking someone to scroll, you’re expecting a lot of someone.

5) Another tip: Include a screen grab of any video you’re linking to. A frame of the video with an arrow is the best way to go, so people see what they can expect when they click through.

Source: BtoBonline

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How to Make Sure Your Email Campaigns Are Relevant and Effective

In their whitepaper, The Retail Marketer’s Playbook: Your 180-Day Email Marketing Game Plan with Top 5 Plays, Responsys offers five “top plays” to make sure your e-mail marketing campaigns are relevant and effective:

1. Refine segmentation tactics.
Segmentation allows for more targeted e-mail messages. The white paper provides some tips on how to segment:

  • Segment based on consumer behavior, not just demographic information.
  • Use whatever data you have available, and send more relevant content to subsets of subscribers.
  • Create different versions of your messages.
  • Perform continual testing.

2. Improve transactional messaging.
Transactional e-mails are highly relevant and very likely to be opened and read. Therefore, they should offer the customer something, furthering his or her relationship with you. Recommend additional products or services the customer might want or need; offer a subscription to your newsletter; and send transactional messages in HTML format to reinforce your brand.

3. Strengthen welcome messaging.
In e-mail, it’s imperative to make a good first impression: “The moment you acquire a consumer’s e-mail address is a key point of engagement—quite possibly the most relevant and defining moment in the relationship.” Suggestion: send new subscribers a series of well-timed and well-designed HTML e-mails that grab attention.

4. Reengage customers with a win-back program.
With the cost of attracting new customers so high, it’s important to keep existing customers coming back. Every e-mail marketing team should implement an automated win-back program. Let customers know you’ve noticed that they haven’t made a purchase in a while; send surveys to solicit feedback, and make an exclusive offer that’s too good to pass up. The more you engage your customers in a positive way, the more likely they’ll stick around.

5. Recover revenue with a cart abandonment program.
Shopping carts are great tools for e-mail marketers, but just because people put items in their cart doesn’t mean they’ll buy them. However, the interest is there, so Responsys suggests you help nudge these would-be consumers along with these tips:

  • Trigger the timely delivery of e-mail messages to potential purchaser who abandoned their shopping carts;
  • provide easy access to saved shopping carts;
  • include quick links to more information about shipping and return policies or alternative methods of ordering; and
  • offer a special discount to accelerate the buying cycle.

You can download this whitepaper here.

Source: Target Marketing

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AOL Is Looking for Input From ISPs and ESPs

Just read this on Laura's excellent Word to the Wise blog and thought I'd help spread the word:

AOL is looking for input from ISPs and ESPs to better understand how you handle data sent to you by AOL.

In regards to bounces - users unknown, specifically - could you please explain the following:

  • ESPs: When do you take action on clients because of bounces? What is your threshold for acceptable, and not? Do you have an escalating level of punishment for people who break your thresholds?
  • ISPs: What is your threshold for “acceptable” in regards to inbound mail streams and “users unknown”? What do you do when that threshold is breached?

Here's where you should submit your responses to. Do NOT answer them here because Laura won't read them here.

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

6 Inbox Management Tips From the EEC

The Email Experience Council has assembled this list of seven email management tips to help you reduce inbox congestion and frustration:

1. Take action when you receive an email.

  • Whenever you open an email, resolve to take one of the following four actions:
    • Delete/Archive: If the email requires no action, then either delete it or archive it for later reference.
    • Reply: If you can quickly respond to the email, do it so you can delete or archive the email.
    • Forward: If there's a more appropriate person to respond to the email, forward it on to them.
    • Set a Reminder/Add to Calendar: If the email requires action at a later date, set a reminder—or if the action has to occur at a specific time on a certain day, add the event to your calendar.
  • Use mobile email to handle deletions and quick replies and forwards when you're away from your computer.
  • If you're returning to your inbox after a few days away, try sorting your inbox by sender to identify chains of emails from the same people and to respond to the most current email in each chain.

2. Respect other people's inboxes.

  • Don't CC people unnecessarily.
  • Don’t reply to all if the reply is only relevant to one or two of the people on the email.
  • Unless confirmation of receipt is needed, try to avoid sending gratuitous “Thanks” replies.
  • Make it easy for recipients to act on your emails by using subject lines that are descriptive and specific. Consider beginning your subject lines with words like "FYI:," "Reminder:", "Urgent:" and "Action Needed:" to help recipients quickly understand if action is needed and if so, how quickly.
  • If you know that a coworker is out of town, don't send them email. Instead, save those emails as drafts and set a reminder to send them once the person returns.

3. Organize your inbox.

  • Set up rules in Outlook so that emails that you get regularly from a particular sender (such as newsletters and alerts) are automatically routed to a particular folder and kept separate from your normal flow of emails. Reserve your inbox for incoming messages and messages that you will act on in the near-term.
  • Set up multiple folders to help sort and archive the emails you want to keep.

4. Actively manage your email newsletter subscriptions.

  • Ensure that your newsletters are delivered to you by adding the "from" address to your address book or safe sender list.
  • Update your preferences to ensure that you're getting the most out of your email subscriptions. Many marketers offer preference or subscription centers that allow you to manage your subscriptions, select topic preferences and even control how frequently you receive emails from them.

5. Moderate your inbox exposure.

  • Set your email program to check for new messages once every half-hour (or whatever time interval works for you). Email can be interruptive, so give yourself time to focus on other tasks.
  • Turn your email off sometimes to give yourself uninterrupted time to work on projects.
  • Check your RSS feeds once a day or even once a week, depending on how crucial they are to your job.

6. Help fight spam.

  • Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date to avoid becoming part of a botnet. The vast majority of spam today is created by botnets, which are networks of computers that have been taken over by hackers for a period of time and used to send spam.
  • Never reply to a spam message or click on the links in them, which could load viruses, malware and other harmful software onto your computer. Spam exists because a small percentage of people ignore the dangers and respond to spam messages. Don't do it—EVER.

Personally I use the "Getting Things Done" method to keep my inbox as empty as possible. I answer those emails that I can answer is less than 2 minutes immediately and I add the ones that need more time to my to-do list. The rest I archive or delete.

Tip: when you have a tendancy to archive each and every email, try to set up different PST files per topic rather than 1 PST file for all. Why? A PST file that is bigger than 1GB is very likely to become corrupt after a while and then you loose everything.

Do you have some tips of your own? Share them in the comments!

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A Simple Formula to Testing Email Creative

In this article, David Baker provides a simple formula to testing email creative:

1. Draw a wireframes of several templates (they vary by purpose). These are simply boxes designed for the optimal width and length. Rule of thumb is, keep promotional messages and email that is designed for early lifecycle simple and straightforward and minimize the length. Newsletters and community publications can support longer-form wireframes.

2. Assign a description to each box and bullet the things that you can potentially test within those guides. For example, if your top box of 50x 700 is for “Click to add your email address to the address book,” think about what else you could test in this area. (User Name, Promotional Message, site reminder message, or leave it out altogether). If it’s a header image or text block, then think about testing typographic treatments, background colors, blending with imagery and replacing with imagery.

3. Sit down with your designer and walk her through the wireframes and what options she has for each section. Ask her, if she had two things to test in each box, what would she test — and if you tested them and they worked, what would that do to help streamline creative next time?

4. Lastly, show her past results of emails that performed, which links performed best (in a visual format). Most email systems will give you a click map overlay report to show clicks by popularity and color code.

Do remember, you aren’t limited to the email only. The email is designed to get the receiver from the email to the landing page, so test the exchange between the two. You may be surprised at what can be left out and provide better value at the point of conversion.

Source: Email Insider

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Linking to Video's Can Have a Positive Impact on Email Performance

Although it’s still as good as technically impossible to embed actual videos into email messages with reliable success, linking out to hosted videos can have a positive impact on email performance.

In this blog post on the EEC blog, Lisa Harmon provides these 3 tips:

  1. Reference Video in Your Subject Line. Including the word “video” in your subject line can help inspire opens.
  2. Use Strong Visual Cues to Indicate a Link to Video. Recipients respond best to obvious treatments like play buttons, and frames that look like Windows Media or Quicktime video players.
  3. Match Your Video Content to Your Message. Video needs to support your ultimate goal, whether that’s to build your brand or inspire a direct response.

Read the full post here.

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Spam Definition Changes from Unsolicited to Unwanted

The definition of spam has effectively changed from “unsolicited commercial email,” an idea based on permission, to a perception-based definition - i.e., it’s unwanted - according to the “Spam Complainers Survey” by Q Interactive and MarketingSherpa.

The survey sought to determine consumers’ perceptions of what spam is, why they report emails as spam and what they think happens when the “report spam” button is clicked.

Below, some of the survey findings.

From Unsolicited to Unwanted

Most consumers don’t accurately comprehend the term “spam”:

  • Over half of survey participants - 56% - consider marketing messages from known senders to be spam if the message is “just not interesting to me.”
  • 50% of respondents consider “too frequent emails from companies I know” to be spam.
  • 31% cite “emails that were once useful but aren’t relevant anymore.”

Regarding the use of the “report spam” button - the primary tool that internet service providers (ISPs) provide consumers to counter spam - nearly half of respondents (48%) provided a reason other than “did not sign up for email” for reporting an email as spam.

Respondents cited various non-permission-based reasons for hitting the spam button:

  • “The email was not of interest to me” (41%).
  • “I receive too much email from the sender” (25%).
  • “I receive too much email from all senders” (20%).

Consequences of Reporting Spam Unclear

Confusion is pervasive among consumers regarding what they believe will happen as a result of clicking the “report spam” button:

  • Over half of respondents, 56%, reported that it will “filter all email from that sender.”
  • 21% said it will notify the sender that the recipient did not find that specific email useful so the sender will “do a better job of mailing me” in the future.
  • 47% said they would be unsubscribed from the list by clicking “report spam,” whereas 53% do not think that’s the case.

Not surprisingly, accompanying such confusion is the frequent misuse of the “report spam” button:

  • A large number of consumers, 43%, forgo advertiser-supplied unsubscribe links in email and simply use the ISP’s “report spam” button to unsubscribe from an advertiser’s list - regardless of whether the email fits the consumer’s definition of spam.
  • A full one in five consumers (21%) use the “report spam” button to unsubscribe from email that they specifically do not consider spam.

Broken System

“What this survey uncovered is a major disconnect in consumers’ understanding and use of the ‘report spam’ button, as well as consumers’ definition of spam from ‘I didn’t sign up for it’ to ‘I don’t like it’—all of which signal that the current system of email spam filtering is a broken process,” said Matt Wise, president and chief executive officer of Q Interactive.

“Spam complaints are the primary metric that ISPs use to determine email delivery. This study shows that consumers don’t really understand how the complaint system works and that emailers don’t understand how consumers define spam,” said Stefan Tornquist, research director, MarketingSherpa.

Q Interactive suggests that ISPs’ “report spam” button be replaced with those that more clearly indicate consumers’ intentions, such as an “unsubscribe” button and an “undesired” button.

Source: Marketing Charts

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links for 2008-03-25

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

links for 2008-03-24

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

Complete eROI's Survey and Win an iPod Shuffle!

Our friends over at eROI are conducting a survey and asked me to help spread the word:

We would like your help to better understand our customers current subscribe/unsubscribe processes. This survey should take just a couple minutes of your time, and we will share the results with you upon request.

To show our appreciation, all survey participants will be automatically entered to win one of a handful of iPod Shuffle mp3 players!

Take the Survey Now »

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Are You Doing Email Sales or Email Marketing?

Jeanne Jennings makes a good point in her ClickZ column today:

In many companies the marketing team is tasked with driving leads to the sales team. This isn't a trivial thing; businesses must sign on new customers to grow. But sometimes, especially in e-mail marketing, the broader responsibilities and goals of marketing, over and above immediate sales and lead generation, seem to get lost.

Case in point: e-mail messages that are strictly promotional. Don't get me wrong; I'm not against sending these types of e-mail. But if the only thing you send your prospects is a "buy from us now" or "take a demo now" message, you aren't doing true e-mail marketing. You're doing e-mail sales or e-mail lead generation.

Why Do True E-mail Marketing?

True e-mail marketing, which would include branding, relationship-building, sales/lead generation and other efforts, will not only deliver sales or leads today, but also make it easier for you to deliver sales or leads in the future. These other efforts can be used to:

  • Position your company as one that understands your prospects and their needs
  • Keep your brand name top of mind so when prospects are ready to buy, they think of you
  • Address common objections prospects have to taking a demo or buying your product, moving the sales process forward
  • Build a relationship with prospects, increasing their comfort level about doing business with you

Could you use direct mail or an ongoing telephone campaign to your house list to accomplish these goals? Maybe. But it would be more expensive. E-mail is an affordable way to provide targeted content to a large group.

Continue reading this article on ClickZ.

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links for 2008-03-19

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

Adding More Images to Increase Open Rates?

One of the members of the Email Marketer's Club posted an interesting question on our forum yesterday:

Hello everyone,

One of my managers asked me recently about adding more images in hopes of getting our open rate increased. The thought behind adding some more images is that you may force the person receiving the email to download images and thus be able to track it.

I orginally designed the HTML email with very few images so if the person does not download images or have us added to thier safe list, they can still easily view the email and click on links.

Has anyone else thought of adding more images to increase open rates and does it work?


The best way to find out is of course to test it, especially is the manager is very persistent. Common sense and best practices tell us though that adding more images will do you more bad than good. What's your opinion on this? Let us know!

The Email Marketer's Club is members only. To become a member, the only thing you need to do is request an invitation to join. Looking forward to seeing your responses!

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