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43 entries from May 2008

User Experience Testing: Best Practices

User experience testing is a powerful e-mail optimization technique. Unlike multivariate and A/B testing, it tells you more than what users do with your e-mail. It tells you why they do it. But there are essential best practices to consider if you want to get the most out of testing. Here are a few.

  • Begin testing by giving participants context. If the e-mail is triggered from a Web site, make sure participants first interact with that Web site. If the e-mail is one piece of a multipart series, show participants all preceding e-mails. If it’s generated after users interact with print collateral, show participants that collateral. These measures will prevent you from being sidetracked by context-dependent problems that will resolve themselves in the real-world experience.

  • During testing, use true-to-life viewing and interaction methods. If the e-mail will be viewed on a computer screen, test it there instead of on paper. Paper-based testing doesn’t assess text tolerances and doesn’t show how content can fall below the fold. Similarly, if users will interact with the e-mail on mobile devices, be sure to test it on these devices to understand interaction challenges—like those caused by scrolling and stylus pens. Also, be sure to test shorter e-mail exposures to understand the effect of time-limited viewing. Short-term user perceptions are often much different than long-term designer perceptions.

  • After testing the e-mail, show participants what happens next to determine whether the larger system of communications makes sense. If the e-mail leads to a Web page when clicked, show participants that Web page. If a subsequent e-mail will follow after a delay, use a distracter task so that participants forget some of what they just saw and then show that e-mail. These measures will tell you whether the test e-mail needs modification to work within the larger communication context.


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Email Marketers Report Improved Results

In March of 2008, SubscriberMail surveyed marketing professionals around the world to gain insight into the way email marketing was being used, the level of success they achieved and the challenges and opportunities they have faced for their email marketing efforts over the past 12 months.

Here are some of the results:

  • Email marketers report improved results over last 12 months
  • Conversion rate the top metric used for assessing email marketing effectiveness
  • Majority of marketers integrate email marketing with other channels, most often with sales force and print
  • Swamped inboxes and delivery cited as greatest challenges to email marketing success with marketer time and resources not far behind
  • More than two-thirds of email marketers fail to send a welcome message to new subscribers
Read the full article and view the charts here.
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links for 2008-05-14

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

links for 2008-05-13

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

Email is Not A Viable Acquisition Tool in the Way Direct Mail is

In this article, Chris Marriott says that email is not a viable acquisition tool in the way direct mail is for a couple of reasons:

  • anti-spam legislation
  • it's not as easy to get your email address as it is your postal address.
  • even if a business has your email address, you can opt-out of that first prospecting email and be free forever from further offers.

According to Chris:

"email is the most cost-effective retention, cross-sell and loyalty tactic in the universe, but it is not a viable acquisition tool in the way that direct mail is."

So how do you generate demand through digital channels, and at the same time incorporate the targeting of direct mail?

"The real workhorse of demand generation on the web is targeted display advertising. For the time being, this is the digital successor to targeted direct mail. And in today's world there are many different approaches being applied to targeted display ads -- behavioral and contextual being the two with the most promise. In both instances, marketers deliver ads based on knowledge gleaned from either the actions of the user -- a visit to one website can be the basis for serving ads to that person on another site -- or the content consumed at that particular moment -- an article on the latest tech gadgets brings up an ad for a new smart phone."

There's lots more to say about the many improvements in display ad targeting, but the point I'm making is that the next time you hear someone at your company suggest replacing direct mail demand generation with an email program, make sure he or she understands that targeted display advertising is the better road to travel for demand generation on the web.

Once your display ads have hooked that new customer, and you get him or her into your email database, then enjoy the universe-dominating cost-effectiveness of email for retention, loyalty and cross-sell. And if you work with a digital agency that is proficient in both email and targeted display advertising, you're already off to a great start in "going green!"

Read the full article on iMedia Connection.

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UK DMA Email Marketing Council's Blog Launch

The UK DMA Email Marketing Council have been busy!

Not content with resting after their re-design of their newsletter, Infobox a couple of month's ago, they've now launched an Email Marketing Blog which aims to impart and encourage Best Practise as well as discuss relevent and topical issues.

Some of the blogs already posted are:

Beyond opens and clicks: why it's time for new metrics
Has Legislation helped?
Getting opened in the business inbox
Spam is in the eye of the beholder
Test. Send. Analyse. Change. Repeat

So check it out: and while you're at it, why not sign up for the newsletter?

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

How Good Intentions Can Go Bad

Did the EEC spam its members? Ken Magill certainly seems to think so. Here's what really happened:

in celebration of Earth Day the eec thought it would be nice to give something free to our subscribers (just like we did when we gave away free dice from SubscriberMail during the holidays 2 years ago). We decided to go with one free issue of VIV magazine. We chose this because it both demonstrated how email can extend into the digital world even further and because it is an all “green” publication.

Sadly, when the service message was set to send, notifying people their eec gift was ready for review, a few things went awry:

  1. People received two or more emails with this notification
  2. The context of the eec Earth Day gift was left off the copy

While no one’s information was rented or sold to any other company, admittedly, the perceived recipient experience looked pretty poor. 

Source: EEC blog

Now, we all know that Ken Magill likes to post controversial articles and he's not afraid to spread gossip either, but he does have a point in his article: VIV Magazine had no business sending emails to the EEC list: EEC members never opted in to receive emails from third parties (it doesn't matter that the email was announced) and the offer (a digital woman's magazine) was completely irrelevant to a large part of its member base (a gift that would have been of value to all EEC members would have been eg. free access to one of their reports/studies).

However, let's not make this any bigger than it is. As far as I'm concerned, this was a mistake and I'm willing to forgive them for it.

Jeanniey has done and is doing wonderful things with the Email Experience Council and I would hate to see the EEC lose credibility over this.

And to answer Ken's question: Jeanniey assured me that the email addresses of EEC members were not added to Zinio's database.

You can read Ken's article here.

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links for 2008-05-04

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

links for 2008-05-03

  • "With all the social networking sites popping up lately, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. However, we’ve found one that anyone in the email marketing world should join - the Email Marketer’s Club!" Thanks for spreading the word, Joanna!
    (tags: community)
  • Video in e-mail has been a code that many e-mail marketers have been trying to crack for years. But the efforts aren’t always successful and can be very costly. There are some things to consider before moving down this path
    (tags: video design)
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Key Email Trends According to Bill McCloskey

Industry vet Bill McCloskey (founder and chairman of Email Data Source) lists these key trends in email marketing:

1. The largest corporations shifting focus from e-mail marketing to newer channels.
Many of the larger Fortune 100 companies are pulling their attention away from e-mail and instead looking at other new marketing channels, such as mobile texting, RSS, blogging and social networks. The tried and true e-mail marketing campaign is not the hot, exciting toy in the boardroom at these companies. It’s more exciting now to say, “Here’s our mobile marketing campaign.” Some of the budgets for e-mail are now being targeted to other early-stage marketing channels.

2. More smaller companies jumping on the e-mail marketing bandwagon.
On the other hand, I’ve noticed over the last six months stronger interest in smaller companies using e-mail in their b-to-b efforts. The insurance industry and others are beginning to see a lot of excitement in e-mail marketing because the technology is more sophisticated and it’s easier for them to create the campaigns and manage them. The [e-mail management] companies marketing specifically to smaller businesses can make sure the campaigns look good, and they’re delivered to the inbox instead of getting blocked by the ISPs. The price point has come down, too, so now we are seeing the smaller guys using e-mail marketing to level the playing field.

3. E-mail marketing campaigns expanding beyond in-house lists.
In the b-to-b world, a lot of successful marketing is happening through sponsorship of affinity newsletters and magazines online. Lots of people in a particular business subscribe to the trade magazines of that industry and they see the banner ads and white papers offered by companies that advertise in those affinity publications. Those are very successful campaigns that will drive a dramatic spike in traffic to your site. Marketers have to decide how much money to spend developing an in-house list versus spending it on advertising in trade publications.

4. Brands being compromised in the marketplace.
Over the last couple of months I’ve noticed a big increase in the number of spam e-mail and phishing schemes where people are illegally using large technology companies’ domains ... to get their own word out to sophisticated users. It also goes beyond others trying to sell Viagra with your company’s e-mail. Some companies may be incorporating your brand into their logo or e-mails without your knowledge. It’s important to monitor your e-mails if you want to protect your brand.

Source: BtoB Online

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

How To Make Your Email Marketing Campaign Stand Out From the Rest

1) Simplicity.
It's the old KISS metaphor (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Email has an attention-capturing window of opportunity that is greatly diminishing. Some say three seconds, some five, but either way, it isn't a lot of time. Nielson Norman Group produced a newsletter usability report in June of 2006 ("Email Newsletter Usability") which indicated an average newsletter has the reader for up to 40-50 seconds, while a marketing or promotional email retains the reader for less than 5 seconds.

The fact is we read less, scan more, and make decisions based on where we are drawn into the message--some through a contextual hero image, some through flow of images, typography and layout, and some by modularity. You should understand the basic principles: a simple call to action, buttons, text links and image roll-overs make quick comprehension easier. If it doesn't pass the scan test, then it won't be compelling.

I recommend you test your design on an internal focus group. Flash the email in front of them for five seconds and have them tell you what it said and what the call to action was. If they can't tell you, then you should consider revising.

2) Color.
Go back to the principles of design and use contrasting colors, but do so for the right reasons: to draw the eye, reinforce a value statement, and amplify the call to action. In addition, you have another consideration - how your colors appear within the email inbox interface. Do your light blue borders get muted out in AOLs predominately blue interface? Cool design can get blurred when there is an animated image of an eBay IT campaign flashing at the bottom. Is there a competition of cohesive?

3) Proportion.
While the email industry has migrated to a concept of design in which the top 200-300 pixels are a virtual banner, too many designs have disproportionate layouts (almost like an hourglass).  Your email should flow smoothly and be evenly distributed if your intent is for the reader to flow through content.  Eye tracking studies show how most users scan e-mail and apply those logics (if you want more information on this, check out  If the intent is to design a singular message, then design it to a five-second preview. That way the eye is conditioned to the flow and not tempted to roam. 

4) Message focus.
Email is direct response, not a website. Infuse what you know about good media and banner design into your creative by minimizing your real estate. This will cause you to be more concise in your messaging and creative treatments. Just because you have a never-ending scroll doesn't mean you need to use it all. Use imagery to quickly communicate a message, not merely for beautification. While I love the retail industry, the cataloger view of delivering email messages (with the large postcard-like image) has shown diminishing response. Catalogers are continually amazed when simple SALE messages, without that large postcard image, result in a boost in sales. Never forget that because this is a sales message, a response is required.

Source: Topica's Online Marketers Newsletter

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

How Did I Add The Twitter Feed to the Sidebar?

Lots of folks have asked me how I added the Twitter feed to the sidebar of this blog, so I thought I'd post it here. Let me start by saying it is super easy to do :-)

Sign in to your Twitter account, go to, and select "Flash, with friends" other. You can style the widget any way you want by changing colors and font sizes and then you copy the code to your website. It's as simple as that...

In this case I created a separate Twitter account called "emailexperts" and with this account I'm following a bunch of email professionals. The feed shows all the people that I follow with this account. Want to be added? Just follow @emailexperts on Twitter and I'll follow you back :-)

Come on folks, it's time to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. You'll love it, I promise! :-)

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

links for 2008-04-30

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

Calculating Statistical Relevance of Your A/B Tests

Thanks to Tim Wilson for pointing this out to me in a comment on a previous post.

For those who lack access to a statistical software solution that will also interpret the results, A/B testing is challenging at best. Testing for statistical significance is important, but just as critical is an understanding of your tests' validity and how to use the results to improve future campaigns. To answer these needs, Bulldog Solutions offers two Excel-based A/B calculators. You can view a demo or download these calculators here.

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

links for 2008-05-02

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

Use Re-Opt-In Campaigns to Reengage Unengaged Subscribers

In this article, Morgan Stewart shares some tips on how to use re-opt-in campaigns to verify email permission and reengage unengaged subscribers on your list.

Unengaged subscribers result in lower response rates and wasted marketing dollars. Re-opt-in campaigns are useful for cleaning old or unengaged subscribers off your list by confirming which subscribers want to continue receiving marketing emails. This results in a healthier list and increased return on investment.

Based on his experience with these kind of campaigns he lists 4 best practices:

  1. Be clear in the subject line. These campaigns tend to be targeting subscribers who have not responded in a while, so breaking the mold with concise, straightforward, or even provocative subject lines help get people to open the email.
  2. Restate your value proposition. A concise restatement of what your subscribers can expect reminds them of what you are all about — and what they will miss if they do not confirm their email subscription.
  3. Use "yes" AND "no" options. By including that NO option, you will actually get more people to click YES.
  4. Send a second request. In Morgan's experience second requests to non-responders consistently get nearly the same number of opt-ins as the first, so failing to do so could have a material impact on the success of your campaign.

Read the full article here and don't forget to read the comments as well!

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

How to Build a Test Plan to Improve Your Email Program's Effectiveness

Here's an exerpt from SubscriberMail's CEO Jordan Ayan's book "The Practical Guide to E-mail Marketing" on email testing. Use this checklist next time you go into a meeting to discuss how to improve your e-mail marketing performance.

Step 1: Ask a Question

Start the testing process by asking a question. What are you hoping for? Determine a specific goal to accomplish rather than attempt multiple goals with one blanket approach. A series of small steps can be easy to test and analyze:

  • I'd like to have more people open my messages.
  • I'd like to have more people click through to my Web site.
  • I'd like to reengage with historically inactive people.
  • I'd like to have people click on a specific area, topic, or action.

Step 2: Form a Theory

Use your marketing experience and best practice knowledge to determine what aspects may make a difference in achieving the goal you've defined.

  • I think people may be bored with my current subject lines.
  • I think that the placement of the specific content may drive more people to action.
  • I think that people may not understand this is from my organization and therefore will not interact.
  • I think my calls to action need to be stronger.

Step 3: Create the Test

Set up your test, following best practices. Remember, you don't need to prove the obvious.

To optimize opens, I am going to test (one per test):

  • From name
  • Best day to send
  • Subject line
  • Best time to send

To optimize click-throughs, I'm going to test (one per test):

  • Creative/layout
  • Subject lines
  • Copy
  • From name
  • Calls to action

To optimize conversions, I'm going to test (one per test):

  • Landing pages
  • Calls to action
  • Creative/layout
  • Subject lines
  • Copy
  • From name

Step 4: Segment the List

Choose the best list or segment to test, and split it (for that specific test):

  • I'm confident this list is the most appropriate to prove or disprove my theory.
  • My list is only large enough to do an A/B split.
  • My list is large enough that I can break it into a larger control and other smaller test segments.
  • My list is large enough that I can sample a percentage of my list to test.

Step 5: Measure and Analyze Results

Measure and analyze results to gain insight and prove or disprove theory. Accurately compile stats (to conversions). What does it all mean? Look beyond the numbers. Even small percentage differences can mean large gains in response rates:

  • My opens increased ___%.
  • My click-throughs changed __%.
  • My conversions changed __%.
  • Traffic to my Web site increased __%.
  • My click-throughs were more focused on specific area, topic, or action.
  • My click-throughs were spread out across areas, topics, or actions.
  • Sales calls increased __%.

Step 6: Make Changes

Commit to making at least one change in each campaign.

  • I need to change my from name.
  • I need to change my subject line.
  • I need to specific words.
  • I need to subject line format.
  • I need to add content.
  • I need to decrease content and simplify.
  • I need to increase clickable areas or clicks.
  • I need to highlight actionable items more.
  • I need to change copy.
  • I need to modify layout.

Source: ClickZ

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