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58 entries from March 2008

Three Keys to an Effective Unsubscribe Process

A quick, easy and reliable unsubscribe process is an essential element of your email marketing program. However, not everyone who clicks the unsubscribe link actually wants to end the relationship with your company. But, if you don't give them options, or if you make the ones you have hard to find, you will certainly lose them.

According to Loren McDonald there are three keys to an effective unsubscribe process:

1. Make it Easy to Opt Out
Purists will argue for a one-click unsubscribe, but the reality is that many subscribers might simply want to change the nature of the relationship, not end it.

If someone truly wants to leave your list, however, make it quick and easy. Don't hide the unsubscribe link in your email, and don't use some euphemism on the link that the subscriber wouldn't recognize immediately. Making the opt-out process difficult will result only in more spam complaints and potential delivery problems.

2. Provide Alternatives to Opting Out
When users do click on the unsubscribe link, direct them to a combination preference center/unsubscribe page. Again, don't obfuscate the unsubscribe language or process, but do make it clear that they can choose to do something besides opt out.

Your subscribers' needs and interests change over time. Maybe they don't have time to read your daily emails and would be happier with a weekly digest. Perhaps they just need to change their email address, prefer RSS feeds or a text version they can read on their BlackBerry or cell phones. If you don't offer them some choice in how to make your emails more relevant and valuable to them, you could lose the ability to communicate with them forever.

Here are reasons why subscribers might click your unsubscribe link, with alternatives you can offer to retain the relationship:

  • Email address change: Many subscribers simply want to change their email address. If you don't make this easy, they'll be forced to opt out and resubscribe. You could lose them entirely this way. For best practices on the email-address-change process, see last month's
    "Mistakes" column.
  • Frequency: The average consumer receives roughly 300 email messages a week. That might not seem like a lot to people who work in email, but it's a lot for the consumer. If you are a retailer, for example, and send two or three emails per week, consider offering subscribers alternative frequencies such as once per week or month.
  • Channel: Sure, we're all about email, but there are so many more channels available to marketers. As appropriate, offer alternatives to email communications such as an RSS feed or direct mail.
  • Interests/Preferences: Subscribers change. They might switch from downhill skiing to snowboarding, change jobs or need to shop for school clothes now instead of baby toys. If possible, pre-populate their existing profile or preferences and make it simple to modify.
  • Format: As more people adopt the BlackBerry and similar mobile devices, some of your subscribers might prefer to receive rich-text versions of your email rather than HTML. They'll get tired of looking at mangled HTML emails with lines of HTML code rather than text. Be sure to offer that option.
  • Alternative Emails: If you publish multiple newsletters, allow subscribers to uncheck the box next to the newsletter they no longer want and check another that now fits their needs.

3. Leave on Good Terms/Solicit Feedback
It is vital to give your subscribers a good opt-out experience. While they might no longer receive your emails, they might continue to patronize your business now or in the future. Thank them as they unsubscribe and tell them you are sorry to see them go. Most of all, make the entire process simple and pleasant.

Lastly, use the opportunity to uncover why they are unsubscribing. This allows them to be heard, but also it gives you data points about why people are leaving your list. A simple comments field will work, but better yet is a drop-down or check box of the most common reasons plus a comments field. This way, you can more easily aggregate common reasons, yet still capture individual feedback.

The key then is to act on this feedback so you can improve your program and minimize list churn.

Source: Silverpop

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10 B2B Email Marketing Best Practices

A B2B email campaign is very different from a B2C campaign. According to Simms Jenkins there are three major differences:

  1. Your tone should be much like it would be in a face-to-face meeting with your prospects: direct, professional and in a manner that makes your audience want to do business with you. Don't waste your time building up to the pitch -- state why you are sending this message and what's in it for the recipient.
  2. The message should clearly articulate the purpose and value to the subscribers while making it easy for them to identify and act on any call to action. Don't bog them down with too many cross promotional messages or secondary marketing messages. Allow them to scan the email and find out what's in it for them.
  3. Your main measurement analysis should not be based on opens and clicks but on how many leads are generated. Careful attention should be paid to forwards and any additional email subscriptions generated from the campaign. A high open and clickthrough rate but lack of leads could mean you put up too many barriers to capture the lead. Ensure your landing page and relevant gateway pages (for example, the white paper sign-up page) are easy to find and utilize. This may take some coordination that goes outside the realm of a typical email manager.

Simms lists these 10 best practices in B2B email marketing:

  • Know your audience: If you are mailing to IT network administrators, an image-heavy newsletter probably will not be well received. Instead, send a text-only message. Follow the cues of what your audience is like and don't take a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Mobile email triage is real: An increasing number of business executives use their mobile devices/PDAs to perform email triage. This means that if you have a weak message or lack something compelling or of immediate value to your email, you may have the busy exec delete your email while in a meeting. On the flip side, a unique email with a relevant purpose may get saved for the executive to read in the office.
  • Make it easy for the mobile audience: Click here to read on your mobile phone is becoming more commonplace on B2B emails and may help you escape mobile email rendering snafus.
  • From & Subject lines: Emails from a CEO to a fellow executive tend to resonate. Ensure your From line is from someone who matters. Combine this with a short Subject line that can break through the clutter while demonstrating a reason for the user to read this email.
  • Short and sweet: Whether read on an iPhone or laptop, make your message count. That means make sure it gets read. Long emails without clear calls to action will get skimmed and deleted. Make your value proposition above the fold and obvious to the people that will browse over your email looking for a reason to read (or delete).
  • Don't oversell: Too many promises, customer raves or pricing information may overwhelm your audience and diminish your opportunity to have people click on a link where they can find the details of the service or product being offered.
  • Respect the audience's time: Frequency is a significant issue for all mailings, but if a business subscriber doesn't respond to the first two messages, it doesn't mean you should send to him even more frequently.
  • Test: I received seven different emails from a lead generation company in the span of five minutes this morning. The emails actually contained decent messaging and links to at least one relevant case study. They had me until hello occurred seven times. Someone was asleep at the wheel when the campaigns were segmented and set. Do your due diligence before an email is sent as these campaigns did more damage than good.
  • Offer something unique: A white paper can often work, but they are everywhere, aren't they? Provide access and perks that are gold to the C-suite audience. For example, one client attempting to register business executives for an annual event tested pricing breaks versus admission to a VIP event. Remember, the B2B audience usually isn't spending its own money so you can guess which offer performed better.
  • Remarket: Create a follow-up campaigns based on how each user responded (or didn't) to the initial campaign. Using your metrics can guide you to a better and more relevant strategy.

Source: iMedia Connection

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Reaching Out to Yahoo's Postmaster Team

The MindComet blog reports:

If you manage your own email campaigns and you've noticed your Yahoo! bounces rates to be higher than usual, then there's good news coming your way. First off, reach out to their Postmaster team and explain your current issues. There are 3 different forms to fill out, depending on your persisting problems... There's the Delivery Issues Form, the ISP Issues Form, and the Bulk Senders Form.

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Follow Me or this Blog on Twitter

Are you using Twitter already? I've become hooked since Dylan Boyd re-introduced me to it. I had signed up for a Twitter account months ago, but couldn't really see the value. But once you start following people that you know and whose opinion you value, Twitter quickly becomes your best friend.

No idea what Twitter is about? View a short video here.

If you're interested in what I have to say on Twitter, you can follow me here. If you just want to receive my lastest blog posts on Twitter, follow this blog's Twitter account here.

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Introducing Kath Pay

I would like to officially welcome Kath Pay as a co-blogger on this blog. Here's her bio:

Kath Pay founded Ezemail, a global Email Service Provider, in 2001. She is Managing Director of both their UK and Australian entities and they have offices in Sydney, Australia and Canterbury, England.

She's an Aussie but has been living in England for the past 4 years. With having over 7 years experience in the Email Marketing Industry she has seen many changes and has participated in the evolvement of email marketing so that it is now, not just an accepted channel for marketing, but a necessary channel for integrated online marketing.

She is on the UK DMA's Email Marketing Council. She sits on the Events and Communications Hub and is editor of the council's monthly newsletter, Infobox. Infobox is available for both members and non-members of the UK DMA and contains insightful articles from industry thought leaders as well as news, events and blog items.

She also write articles for Ezemail's monthly newsletter EzeNews, and maintains the company blog; http://blog.ezemail.com. In addition to all of the above she also speaks at conferences and seminars including the IDMF and DMA email marketing events.

She's already posted a couple of posts and I look forward to many more great contributions:

Please join me in welcoming her!

Are you interested in becoming a regular blogger on BeRelevant as well? Let me know!

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4 Ideas for Triggered Campaigns

Increasingly, marketers are turning to triggered campaigns to achieve the level of relevancy needed to compete in today’s marketplace. Part timing and part content, trigger campaigns aim to deliver the information and offers customers want at the precise time in the buying cycle.
To produce quick wins when implementing a trigger program, consider the following ideas:

  1. Welcome programs. Companies can get more bang for their buck with dynamic, multistage and multichannel messaging.
  2. Abandonment programs. Trigger campaigns work for both shopping cart and application abandonment activities. And it’s still viable if the company has a small audience size but high-value sale value.
  3. Winback program. If customers will buy replenishments or second purchases within a specific time frame, then triggered efforts can drive this action and reduce attrition.
  4. Transactional-based contact. Any kind of contact that can be automated but still offer additional sales or customer relationship opportunities works on a triggered basis.

Source: Target Marketing

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Are we conditioning our non responders?

I attended the list attrition presentation at the EEC Conference in February and as expected, the subject of non responders arose.

I guess my concern is similar to Stephanie Miller's in her recent blog about subscribers becoming hooked on discounts, so much so, that they don't respond to regular emails. Albeit a different subject matter - the principle is the same.

As marketers, we need to use re-activating campaigns wisely so that we don't condition our subscribers to tuning out from our regular email campaigns unless they are immediately 'rewarded'.

Ideally we need to encourage long term re-activation of the subscriber, rather than rewarding those who are in it for the 'goodies' and then sit dormant until another reward is offered. In this recent interview for the DMA UK's newsletter, Stefan Pollard has some suggestions for long term subscriber reactivation and better still, just plain keeping them interested.

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links for 2008-03-14

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

Tips for Using Email to Send Press Releases

If you want your important news to get opened—and, more important, get covered—follow these best practices:

  • Stop including the entire press release in the body of the e-mail. Research reports you have less than six seconds to capture attention in the preview pane. Press releases can average five or more paragraphs. Instead, include a teaser of the release and a click-through to a hosted version on your Web site.
  • Don’t include attachments. They can be deliverability killers. Corporate e-mail filtering systems are often more stringent in their rules than even the largest ISPs. Attachments from outside sources are often confused with viruses or attacks. Leave data sheets, photos and other release-related attachments to an expected, person-to-person e-mail so you’ll be ensured they get delivered.    
  • Think carefully about “from” and subject lines. Remember the rule: The “from” line tells the recipient whether or not to delete the e-mail and the subject line tells the recipient whether or not to open the e-mail. If an individual at your company has a relationship with the media, test using that person’s name in the “from” line instead of the company name alone. Write an engaging subject line and include first name personalization. Recipient first name personalization has fallen out of widespread favor in the b-to-c e-mail world, but in b-to-b, it’s still another way to catch the recipients’ attention.

Once the e-mail gets opened, the relevance of your message takes over. Just because the media recipient list may be smaller than your customer retention or acquisition lists doesn’t mean relevancy rules don’t apply. If your message isn’t important to the recipient, you’ve lost their attention today and maybe in the future as well.

Source: BtoB Magazine.

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links for 2008-03-12

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

Five Levels of Permission

There are essentially five levels of permission you need to consider when designing your email programs. Each has their pros and cons and its usage depends on the type of program you are developing and the subscriber experience you want to provide. When trying to decide which one to implement, it might be helpful to assess the amount of risk that is associated with your opt-in program and take into account the relationship you want to build with your subscriber.

1. Opt-out
You obtain an email address for a subscriber (it doesn't matter how) and begin emailing that person. In order to get off of the list, the subscriber must email or click to opt-out of future mailings. While you may end up with a lot of subscribers on your list, opt-out mailing is the lowest form of permission and is too close to spam to be advisable.

2. Negative Opt-in
You offer subscribers an email subscription form - usually as part of an order form - with a check box that has already been selected for an agreement to receive emails. This person must uncheck the box in order not to receive emails from your company. Again, while you may rapidly build your email file, you could also end up with a lot of angry customers who did not realize that they had agreed to receive your emails. As a result, your mailings may be received as spam.

3. Opt-in
A subscriber must proactively select a box in order to receive your email communications. Opt-in is the most common form of subscription because it is voluntary on the part of the subscriber and keeps things simple.

4. Confirmed Opt-in
A subscriber opts in for your emails and then receives an email message confirming their subscription and offers them the option to immediately unsubscribe if the subscription was a mistake in any way. This level of permission increases the value of your list, and on some level, protects you against charges of spamming. Moreover, you can use this first email to establish a connection with your new subscriber and showcase the value that they will continue to receive from your mailings.

5. Double-Opt-in
A subscriber opts in to your email list and then receives an email message from you that requires them to reply to your email in order to be added to the list. This is the gold standard for permission because consumers must essentially subscribe to your list twice indicating that they really want to receive your emails. However, some subscribers may not realize that they need respond to the confirmation email causing you to lose them after the initial opt-in.

Source: Return Path

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How To Combat "Inbox Triage"

What do you think your subscribers are doing with your e-mail right this minute?

Most likely, they aren't sitting at a desk scrolling patiently through their inboxes, looking for your message.

Instead, they're doing what David Daniels, Jupiter Research VP, calls "inbox triage" -- wading through their increasingly cluttered inboxes quickly to remove the junk (permission e-mail as well as spam) before they start reading and responding.

They're multitasking like crazy, too: watching TV, talking on the phone, instant-messaging, listening to their iPods, downloading, taking a break from an online game, or even all of these at once.

They're also getting sidetracked by their e-mail clients, which keep squeezing the inbox into a smaller space to make room for RSS feeds, social-networking tabs, instant messaging clients, calendars, contact lists, notepads, and display ads.

Here's a snapshot of your subscribers' inbox behavior, according to Daniels' research:

  • The average person gets 274 personal e-mail messages a week and 304 work e-mails.
  • 74 percent have at least two e-mail accounts (either personal and work, or shared and personal, or public and private accounts)
  • The average reader takes two to five seconds to decide whether to read or delete an e-mail.

Studies of how people manage their cluttered inboxes vary, but the results are the same: They hit the "report as spam" button when they don't recognize the sender, often without opening the e-mail.

Continue reading here to find out what you should do to get your messages recognized and read.

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

links for 2008-03-11

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

Half UK retailers 'fall short in email strategy' — Netimperative

          

A new retail benchmark study, Hitting the Mark by dotMailer, reveals that some of the UK’s largest online and offline retailers are neglecting key areas of the email marketing process and failing to comply with Best Practice Guidelines.

Almost half of the retailers (46%) failed to comply with basic legal requirements, according to the study, which evaluates 46 retailers’ email campaigns against 20 criteria, awarding each email campaign an Email Effectiveness rating out of 100.

Topshop heads the index of UK retailers with a score of 86.5 but is one of only eight to score over 80%. STA Travel, ASDA and M&S were close behind with 85.5, 84.5 and 83.5 respectively. At the other end, shoe retailer Office came in last place (54) just behind Lidl and H&M (both 57).  Overall an alarming 35% failed to score more than 70.

Key failings identified by the study included minimal or ineffective design, inappropriate landing pages and non-existent targeting. Alarmingly the average score for effective targeting was a lowly 16%, with only five brands in the study using information about customer preferences to tailor email content and just 15% asked for any information about customer preferences during the sign-up process.

The study also revealed that retailers are not investing in email specific design skills. By failing to understand the unique technical requirements of email design, communications are failing to render correctly across inboxes leading to a less than satisfactory customer experience.

Only 30% of retailers invested in campaign specific designs and 40% of retailers failed to design relevant landing pages with consistent branding and a clearly visible offer or call to action. 

The 20 criteria in the report were used to evaluate the key factors that need to be addressed by any email marketing campaign to be effective across the four key areas that determine success: deliverability, renderability, open rates and response rates. A range of aspects were considered, including sign-up, unsubscribing, the HTML code used, effectiveness of the design, targeting and time of sending.

Some of the most critical problems found were:

  • Good practice legal requirements were not included – Following the Companies Regulations of 2006, marketers have adopted as best practice the requirement that every marketing email should now include the company registration number, country of registration and a registered office address. Incredibly, 46% of the emails studied did not contain this vital information
  • The website landing page was not consistent with the look and feel of the email
    – An email marketing message acts as a vehicle to direct recipients to
    a website. However, too often either the wrong link was used or a
    website page no longer existed. Many landing pages looked different to
    the email itself and lacked clear navigation that would allow
    calls-to-action to be followed through to a measurable conversion. 40%
    of the retailers assessed scored under half in this category
  • Emails did not render across popular email clients
    – Very few emails managed to display properly across the most common UK
    email clients. This suggests that designers are not aware of the way
    certain inboxes render emails and have not tested the message prior to
    sending.
  • No viral element or links were hidden
    – Only 20% of the emails examined contained a forward to a friend link
    or viral element and of these, many were hidden at the bottom of the
    email out of sight
  • Design was not appropriate to email or specific campaign – The survey revealed that only 30% of retailers had invested in a campaign-specific design
  • The email showed no evidence of targeting
    – Only 15% of retailers asked for any information about interests
    during signup. Targeting is crucial to ensuring that the right message
    is sent to the right person at the right time. Retailers scored 16% on
    average in this section

The full report and whitepaper can be downloaded from http://www.dotmailer.co.uk/hittingthemark

Source: Netimperative.

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Unsubscribe Best Practices

To summarize: Make it easy for people to unsubscribe instantly using whatever method they want, and tell them where to go if they just can’t unsubscribe. Doing that will help you with the law, as well as help you build your brand’s credibility with your users.

  • Marketers should make it clear and easy for people to unsubscribe. The only truly acceptable method for unsubscribing is to offer a link to a Web page with this text: “Click Here to Unsubscribe.”
  • Process the unsubscribe request instantly.
  • Offer options.
  • Link to your privacy policy in your email.

Read the full article here: Email Insider » Blog Archive » Best Practices For Unsubscribing.

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Why Birthdays Are Important for Email Marketers

Most people, even those who claim otherwise, like birthdays. They provide an opportunity to take stock of one's life, pat oneself on the back for accomplishments, and give thanks for years past.

For marketers birthdays are an opportunity to reach out to current, former, and prospective consumers. The message might be one of congratulations and best wishes, but it's also part of a personalization program. It reminds the customer that you (and your products) are there.

Birthdays are the interactive media equivalent of celebrating an anniversary or holiday by tucking a catalog clipping of the object of your desire inside a card.

Birthdays are perhaps most evident in e-mail marketing, as we often have access to birthdates through subscriber profile data. Given the challenge in e-mail campaigns of delivering a subject line and message that escape the delete button, birthdays open the door to a friendly, and usually welcome, correspondence.

Consumer birthdays are also an excuse to offer a one-time promotion, free trial, or product coupon designed to encourage brand loyalty or later transactions. Your local bar will pour you a free drink on your special day. Ice cream seller Baskin-Robbins will serve up a free scoop, and Applebee's will give you a free dessert.

Through e-mail or a mobile message, hair stylists can offer a free bottle of conditioner on a customer's next salon visit. An epicurean property might send a link to a recipe for a sumptuous birthday cake to prompt a site visit, while a lifestyle site might do the same by delivering a few teaser tips for planning the party. This sort of approach is popular among parenting sites as well. Consumers provide their children's' birth dates when opting in to receive age-specific baby and child development reports, and publishers like BabyCenter mark little ones' birthdays with tips for pulling off a smooth celebration.

Regardless of the offer, companies make a point of making it relevant, particularly to the consumer's special day, individual product or service interests, and time of year. Consumers love to be treated to something exceptional, and recognizing their birthday reminds them that you, as a company, care about them enough to gift them with something timely and appropriate.

Continue reading here: Happy Birthday, Mr. Consumer - ClickZ.

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