links for 2008-07-30
Jul 30, 2008
Comcast recently updated their Postmaster page
Very few unsolicited emails ever make it through to Loren McDonalds work inbox - so when one did make it in, he was curious to figure out why it got there. And then what really sparked his interest was all the things that this B2B company did wrong with their email.
In this blog post he lists some general comments and specific observations on this email: wrong timing, lack of permission, no unsubscribe... Read and learn!
In his Mediapost article last week, Loren McDonald yet again provided us with some 'what not to do's' and encouraged we email marketer's to pick up our acts, saying: "Email is a global village. Marketers who do stupid things mess it up for everyone".
Additionally, Jordan Ayer posted this blog which is very much along the lines of a DMA blog I wrote awhile back. Jordan ends his blog with: "Irresponsible mailing could easily kill the Golden Goose, and along with it many legitimate mailers who are using the medium responsibly."
This is a song I've been singing for awhile now, however I tend to view it as being like the Greenhouse Effect....the things we do or don't do today, ARE going to affect the future of email marketing.
Now I'm not a pessimist - far from it, and currently email marketing is a very healthy and profitable channel. But if we were to all to implement Best Practices for email marketing within our own email marketing programs, then we will all be doing our best to ensure it stays the wonderful, high ROI channel it is well into the future.
In their latest episode of BrontoFire, DJ Waldow and Kimberly Snyder explore the effectiveness of the preheader by focusing on four major online retail campaigns: Bed Bath & Beyond, Brooks Brothers, Expedia and Orvis. They review and debate the strength and execution of each Preheader in an effort to find the strongest example to follow. Enjoy!
Next month, they'll analyze how online retail messages render with Images Off and On.
Thought I'd share Greg Cangialosi's slides on “Email Marketing’s Role in New Media.” The central theme of the presentation is that email is the “digital glue” of the new media landscape, and a medium that is not to be overlooked. Email is the internet’s dominant application, and is where the attention is of our audiences on the most frequent basis. As companies move more towards a “publishing is marketing” model, email is more important than ever to tie your messaging together and cross-pollinate content.
According to Stefan Pollard, these are the steps marketers often overlook as part of the planning process:
1. Align the goals.
Define the marketer's/sender's message goals.
Define the goals you expect the readers had when they signed up.
Do these match? If not, you aren't meeting your readers' expectations. What happens when readers' expectations get bypassed or violated? They delete without action, unsubscribe or report as spam.
Example: Your message goal is to boost a last-minute cruise sale by offering free airfare. Your subscriber signed up to receive New York and Las Vegas destination news. If you don't have a creative brief that states the list will be segmented so that only members who signed up for cruise news will get it, you could alienate that subscriber.
2. Define the audience.
You, as the marketer overseeing the creative process, need to understand who the message is aimed at, and whether it goes to your whole mailing list or a segment of it. However, your copywriters need this information, too, so that the words they choose speak directly to this group.
Share as much information as you can about this targeted group: its general likes, dislikes, needs and wants, key drivers of previous responses, any data you collected from earlier messages on which links collected the most clicks, any A/B split-testing that yielded dramatic differences in outcomes, and anything else that appears relevant.
3. Decide which features and benefits to promote
Your knowledge of your audience will guide which features and benefits the copy will promote. Having this information clearly spelled out in advance will prevent your copywriter from lavishing hours on one angle, only to discover the customers really don't care about it.
4. A clear call to action
The last thing you want is to have a reader who hits the trifecta – opens the email, views the whole message instead of a portion in the preview pane and downloads images – only to wonder what the heck he's supposed to do with it.
But, that's what happens a lot: messages that blast information at the reader, yet fail to show him how to act.
So how do make sure that your messages are effective?
In this, once again, excellent article Stefan Pollard explains how a two-part process ensures that nothing critical gets overlooked, and also that your marketing team is all on the same page concerning all elements of the message, from the content to the audience to the goal. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and read it now!
Despite your hard work and what is in your opinion a well-planned and flawlessly executed email campaign, you may still find yourself with deadwood on your list. Recipients who have been inactive, meaning no opens and no clicks, for six months or more are dragging down your campaign’s performance.
There are a variety of reasons why recipients stop responding to your messages. Generally speaking, it boils down to the following factors:
No matter the reason for inactivity, consider these three tips to reactive your recipients and get them engaged again.
1. Define Inactives
First, define inactivity and see how much of your list has gone dormant. You may consider subscribers with no opens or clicks for a particular length of time inactive. You may designate another portion of your list slightly inactive if they have scant activity for an extended period of time and haven’t purchased anything in the past year. Whatever the criteria, make sure you clearly define the parameters and segment these recipients based on their behavior into groups.
2. Try to Re-Engage Them with a Conversation
Once you have segmented your list based on activity level, create an email campaign that appeals to the different groups you identified. For instance, if you divided your list into three basic categories: active, slightly active and inactive, consider sending messages that include the following:
Additionally, another reason to remove old addresses from your list is that ISPs are increasingly taking old, abandoned addresses and using them as “spam traps.” Send too many emails to these spam trap accounts and it’s likely your messages will get blocked.
3. Evaluate Your Email Program for Inactivity Triggers
Once you have completed your first reactivation campaign, examine your email program for practices that could trigger inactives. For example:
Re-engaging recipients takes an understanding of who they are and what they want. If they are potentially interested in your products or services, a few tweaks to your campaign and using what you know about them could yield great results for your program. By reinvigorating your list and eliminating those who are completely inactive, you’re likely to boost deliverability and improve your metrics.
Many email marketers (and a lot more CFOs) think if a little email is good, a lot more is even better. It's an easy assumption to make. If a campaign or program does great business once, it will the second, third and fourth time, right? Certainly, that's what your boss thinks, especially during high-volume retail seasons such as Christmas, Mother's Day and back-to-school. But it just isn't necessarily true.
Remember that email is different from other marketing channels. Optimum frequency isn't just the number of "drops" you want or need to make to reach your ROI goals or your quarterly revenue projections. It's also how often your subscribers want to hear from you.
Yes, in the short run, doubling your weekly mailings from one to two might give you a decent lift on the bottom line. But, stop right there. Over-mailing has long-term risks that can not only wipe out your short-term gain, but also leave your program in the hole.
On the other hand, not mailing often enough may hurt your email program in the long run as well.
So, not surprisingly, "What is the optimum frequency?" is one question I hear all the time from email marketers. Problem is that it’s the wrong question. Instead, ask this: "How can I create an email program that uses demographics, preferences and behaviors to maximize my customers' lifetime value?"
The real costs of over-mailing
While moving to a higher frequency can deliver increased revenue in the short term, it may actually end up costing you money over the longer term. Here's what can happen:
Detecting subscriber discontent
How do you know if you are over-mailing? Track not only process metrics like click-through, bounce, unsubscribe and spam complaint rates but also strategic metrics–total revenue per campaign, average revenue per email, average revenue per order–over several campaigns. In particular, compare different time periods during which you sent emails with greater and less frequency. Look for spikes in unsubscribes and spam complaints and corresponding drops in opens or click-throughs.
Monitor your feedback and reply-to addresses for subscriber comments and analyze the rate of frequency and channel preference changes (if you offer options). Conduct regular subscriber surveys to obtain direct feedback.
Under-mailing can hurt, too
Most frequency discussions warn you not to send too much email, but sending too little email can also cripple your marketing program.
Email is a digital, immediate medium. Subscribers forget about you if you wait too long to start sending email or send infrequently. Quarterly mailings are for paper newsletters. Email newsletters should generally go out at least monthly.
Additionally, what is too frequent for some subscribers might be too infrequent for others. Offering subscribers frequency choices, such as monthly, twice monthly, weekly or "whenever we have an offer," means that the optimum conversion and frequency combination might be once a month for one segment and 15 times a month for another.
Why customization and relevancy impact frequency
The right frequency is both unique to the recipient, but also directly driven by the relevance and value of the emails. "Batch and blast" emails sent twice a week might be spam-complaint material for a subscriber, but twice-weekly emails based on preferences and behavioral data, for example, might be the perfect cadence for the same person.
The first thing to do to move your program forward is to create a customer preference center if you don't have one, or promote the one you have. This lets subscribers set the frequency, format and content they want. Then make sure you deliver on those expectations.
Better yet, move to a lifecycle, behavior- or trigger-based approach. This method changes the, "What's the right frequency?" question to, "When do I send emails to optimize the value and relationship of each segment?" And because many of these messages can be triggered by customer activity, once set up your program can almost run on autopilot.
When you build your program around your subscribers, their preferences and behaviors drive the optimum frequency and your program success.
Savvy marketers realize that you can only achieve solid improvement on campaign elements that you actually take the time to measure. The great thing about email marketing is its ability to be evaluated quickly and effectively. If you're not evaluating past campaign performance, you’re missing out on key insights that can improve results.
Email marketers should regularly evaluate some core metrics. These include:
Take an in-depth look at each metric and examine some ways you can improve your results.
As both Internet service providers and recipients tighten spam filters, more email messages are failing to reach customers. It’s been estimated that as many as 20 percent of permission-based email messages are mistakenly blocked.
Delivery rates can be improved in a number of ways. Getting your recipients to add your address to their address book certainly helps, as does practicing diligent list hygiene and carefully monitoring spam complaints. Surprisingly, these simple approaches are not yet widely adopted. For instance, Silverpop’s “2005 Retail Email Marketing Study” found that only two out of 10 companies requested recipients add the company address to their email address book. There’s a lot of room to improve this key metric for most marketers.
The marketing strategies that allow you to build a relationship with your customers affect not only open rates but also other metrics downstream. Research shows that the number-one factor that influences people to open an email today is knowing and trusting the sender. Presuming you have done everything to ensure a recipient wants your email--that is, you've obtained permission and are sending only relevant communications at an appropriate frequency--using your company or brand name in the "from" field and in the subject line will help increase the chance that your email will be opened and read.
The interactive nature of email marketing is one of its chief allures. With email, interaction comes when a recipient clicks on a link. As with so many other elements leading to success in email marketing, the relevance of the messages you send recipients can dramatically improve clicks. The key is personalized content.
Always address recipients by name. Try sending different offers to recipients based upon geography or demography, and use behavior (i.e. purchase history, email click history, visits to your Web site) as an attribute to guide campaigns.
Also think about the look and location of your links. Prominently-displayed hyperlinks and big action-oriented buttons, accompanied with compelling reasons for the action, make it clear to recipients what you want them to do. Further create a sense of urgency by giving reasons why they should act soon, such as limited availability, subscription expiration or “offer-ends” dates.
If you see big jumps in the number of unsubscribes, your email program may be in trouble and it’s time to take a hard look at what you’re doing.
Separate new addresses from old and evaluate each list differently. If you’re seeing a growing number of new subscribers opting out of your email program, perhaps it’s because what you told them they’d receive when they registered doesn’t measure up to their expectations.
If you’re seeing customers who have been with you for some time begin to drop off, review past email messages and evaluate how fresh the promotions are and how compelling the merchandising is.
Unsubscribe rates can be lessened with appropriately constructed preference centers. Perhaps the frequency of emails is too high for some on your list. Offering weekly updates rather than daily bulletins, for example, could salvage an unsubscribe. Giving a choice of topics or product offerings can also help to maintain a relationship with customers and prospects.
Ultimately, the goal of your email campaign is to entice recipients to take some desired action, whether it’s to purchase a product, to sign up for a newsletter or white paper, or to schedule an appointment. The conversion rate is another important metric that gives you a read on how relevant your email campaign is to your customers.
Getting recipients to do what you want is best accomplished when you make it clear what you expect them to do. Make the call to action obvious, and then make it easy for the recipient to comply.
Design landing pages with the thought in mind that it’s your last chance to entice a recipient to act. Further, make the conversion process easy by populating forms with the customer’s name, shipping address and other information at your disposal.
Pulling it All Together
There's a wealth of information available to marketers from most email reports. If you begin focusing on one metric a month, you’ll soon have an invigorated email program achieving dramatically improved results.
More than one-quarter of consumers in Asia-Pacific believe that promotional e-mail or newsletters that were opt-in—but no longer engage them or address their needs—are spam, according to the Epsilon/Return Path "2008 Consumer E-mail Survey."
More than four out of 10 respondents said that instead of just unsubscribing, they reported legitimate e-mails to which they had subscribed as spam, using a "Report Spam" button or link.
Consumers in Asia-Pacific were not hostile to all e-mail marketing. More than one-half of respondents said they would use e-mail coupons. More than seven out of 10 had made direct purchases as a result of receiving relevant promotional e-mails.
In fact, two-thirds of respondents said they would divulge personal information in order to get more relevant e-mails.
But consumers can be merciless when they do not want to get more e-mail from a marketer. In Japan, Webmail provider and portal goo found that more than six out of 10 e-mail newsletter subscribers would unregister altogether from the site of the merchant who had sent the e-mail when they were finished reading.
Considering how much effort marketers put into getting permission to avoid spam filters in the first place, it is clear that e-mail needs to be continuously reviewed for relevance.
The link between e-mail relevance and legitimacy is not limited to Asia-Pacific. One-third of Internet users in North America interviewed in April 2008 by Ipsos for Habeas said that an e-mail's content contributed to its legitimacy—about three times as many as mentioned third-party seals of approval.