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44 entries from July 2008

BeRelevant Goes Mobile

image I just wanted to let you know that I created a mobile version of this blog over the weekend. You can find it at

At this location you can find the lastest posts on this blog, an overview of links posted to my account, as well as the latest posts from the Email Marketing Experts network.

For those of you who are interested to know how I did this, check out Mofuse.

Have fun with it, and feel free to let me know how I can make this even more useful to you.

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

6 Strategies to Keep Readers Engaged and to Reduce Unsubscribes

You can help minimize unsubscribes by incorporating basic strategies to encourage customers to remain engaged with your organization.

  1. Establish loyalty programs that reward and incent current and future customers to remain active in your email messaging programs.
  2. Offer alternatives during the unsubscribe process, which is a very easy method to retain customers. A simple line or two of well-written copy reiterating the advantages of receiving your messages before they click to unsubscribe may prevent a possible opt out.
  3. Use your unsubscribe page to enable email recipients to reduce the frequency of their messaging. Often times, recipients perceive that they are receiving too many messages from your organization. Remember, your email message is competing in an inbox that is most likely full of similar offers from competitors.
  4. Use your unsubscribe page to function as a survey tool to find out why customers are opting out of your messaging. Incorporating a brief exit survey with the following questions can help identify customer-perceived issues with your communications and will help you modify your messaging to avoid common email pitfalls: "Do you feel that you receive too many messages from our company?" "Do you feel that the messages we send to you are relevant?" "Are other companies providing better offers/deals than our organization?"
  5. Test messaging frequency to obtain the optimal number of messages your customers are willing to receive. Monitoring your testing frequency and churn helps to identify the sweet-spot for the appropriate number of messages that you are sending to your customers.
  6. Use a remarketing filter to limit the number of email messages being sent. If you segment your database, you should avoid sending multiple messages to the same recipient on a weekly basis. Pick the most relevant messages based on the consumer's preferences and segmentation of your database.

Source: iMedia Connection

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Tips for Using Email to Send Press Releases

As the saying goes, when all you have is hammer, everything looks like a nail. Such is the case with e-mail. It is pervasive in all corporations and an often preferred method of contact by editors, reporters and analysts. As with any e-mail program, corporate PR e-mail starts with considering the needs of the audience. These same media magnets are inundated with e-mail press releases every day. If you want your important news to get opened—and more important, to 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 recipient’s 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.


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links for 2008-07-13

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

Warning Signs That Your Small Business Client is Spamming

In their latest whitepaper "Warning Signs That Your Client is Spamming", MailChimp lists the most common reasons they end up having to shut down an agency’s client for too many spam complaints:

  • Old lists – If your client has been collecting email addresses on their website for years, and this is their first email campaign to the list, there will be people who don’t remember the client (“Who the heck are you, and how’d you get my email address!?!?”) These people will report you for spamming.
  • Spam traps – Some ISPs take very old email addresses that they assume aren’t being used anymore, and they post them to public websites. Then they wait for spam-bots to scrape them, and spam them. As soon as they get spam to one of these “spam trap” addresses, they block the spammer. This is why you never send to a list more than a year or two old. It’s also why you should never buy an email list, and why you should never scrape emails off of websites. The effect of hitting a spam trap is devastating and fast.
  • Tradeshow lists – When people attend a tradeshow, they usually buy their tickets online. They submit their email address. The tradeshow host then gives their email address to the companies who exhibit at the show. Companies can theoretically use this list to find prospects who plan to attend the show, and reach out to them. That’s fine, so long as the communication is one-to-one. But if they send an email campaign to the entire list, it’s spam, and they will get reported for it.
  • Outlook address book dumps – This one’s extremely common with small businesses who don’t have big fancy customer databases. They just manage everything in their Microsoft Outlook Address Book. The problem is their address book doesn’t let them export a list of “only my customers” or “only people who opted-in for email marketing.” It exports everybody, including “grandma, that dude I met at a tradeshow 5 years ago, my ISP tech support that I emailed 2 years ago, and my ex-wife.” These people will report you for spam. But it’s not limited to small businesses. You may tell your client, “Okay, we’re prepping the big email campaign now. I’m going to need your customer email list.” Your client will then ask their entire company sales team, to “Give me your lists of customers by close of business, so we can get our exciting email newsletter out!” Guess what that sales team is going to do. They’re going to dump their entire address book out and send it over. They’re not going to spend the time to sort out opt-ins vs. non-opt-ins.
  • Salesforce dumps – This is very similar to the “Address Book Dump” above, but at least you have some sort of classification (theoretically) of email lists. Be on the lookout for clients who dump all their different lists into one big one. Ask them if they combined their prospects list, leads Warning list, qualified leads list, customer list, and subscriber lists, then tell them how dangerous that is.
  • Purchased lists – It’s a real no-brainer that purchasing 30 million emails from some seedy offshore company is a stupid idea. The thing is, most clients buy lists from local networking organizations, or tradeshows, or publications they advertise in. They sound innocent, and totally legit. And sometimes, the intent of the list seller is to let you send one-to-one communications (not spam). But the reality is that most people buy those lists to send unsolicited bulk email. So ask your client if the list was purchased. If it was purchased, then whoever sold them the list needs to send the bulk email. Or, the client needs to send totally different emails, one at a time. Unacceptable responses to this include, “But this list is all legit” and “But this list is all opt-in” and “But this list was very, very expensive” and “But this list came from a very reputable industry source that everybody knows.”
  • Organization lists – Your client may be a member of a realtors’ organization, or a local business group. Organizations will often give you their membership directory whenever you join. This is for one-to-one networking. Not mass-subscribing them all to email marketing. The most vicious spam complaints can come from these lists, because very often your client’s competitors will be members of the same organization.
  • Chambers of Commerce lists – When you see a small/new company that has an inexplicably large email list, it’s probably from their local chamber. Again, the lists they give out are for one-to-one networking with other business owners. Not mass email marketing.
  • Lists from their previous ESP – If you’re helping a client switch from one email service provider to another, make sure they’re exporting the latest clean version of their subscriber list. Some clients will mistakenly export their entire list of subscribers (even those who previously unsubscribed, or bounced).

Download the whitepaper here.

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10 Email Marketing Mistakes

Loren McDonald lists 10 email marketing mistakes in his Email Insider column:

  1. Making it difficult to unsubscribe.
  2. No "welcome" message and/or waiting weeks to send the first message.
  3. Overmailing.
  4. Using a large single image as the core of your email.
  5. Not using alt tags.
  6. Relying on graphical links.
  7. Not having a preference center.
  8. Not designing for the preview pane.
  9. Using a person's name in the "from" line.
  10. Hiding email registration.

Read the full article here.

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links for 2008-07-11

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

Top 5 Mistakes that Email Senders Make in Scheduling their Mailings

I just stumbled on a new email deliverability blog by Anne P. Mitchell and found this great article:

In all of the focus that email marketers, newsletter publishers, and other volume email senders put on tweaking their content, format, and other aspects of their email to help maximize deliverability, they often overlook the scheduling of their mailings - by which I mean when they send their mailings, and how often they send them. Yet this can have a definite impact on your deliverability! Here then, are the top 5 mistakes that email senders make in scheduling their mailings.

1.  Sending email too frequently

If you send email to your mailing lists too frequently, you can cause a number of unintended effects, all of which will affect your deliverability. First, you can tick them off, and they will hit the “this is spam” button. That’s really bad. Second, you can cause them to tune out and just ignore the email - this will affect your open rate which yes, make no mistake, will affect your deliverability rate. Think about it this way: if you were an ISP and a sender’s email never got opened, by any of your users, wouldn’t you start sending it to the spam folder?

2.  Not sending email frequently enough

Conversely, if you don’t send email frequently enough, then people will forget who you are, or that they signed up for your mailing list. Then, guess what happens when, suddenly, after two years, a user gets email from you, seemingly out of the blue, advertising your service? That’s right - they hit “this is spam” - because they don’t remember you. It’s important to find that delicate balance between sending email often enough that your users remember and follow you, but not so often that you get them upset by inundating their inbox.

3.  Not sending email consistently

This goes hand-in-hand with item #2. If the timings of your mailings aren’t consistent, then people can’t anticipate your mailings. If they aren’t anticipating them, they aren’t expecting them, and if they aren’t expecting them they - you got it - mark them as spam.

4.  Sending an email just for the sake of sending an email

Once you recognize the importance of sending your mailings consistently, it’s also important that you have something to say!  Don’t send an email just because it’s time to send another email.  In other words, do send an email when it’s time to send another email, but not just because it’s time to send another email. Have something interesting, and useful, to say. Because even if you send an email when it’s time - if your emails are just rehashes of other things you’ve sent, or yet another announcement of the same thing - your users will either get ticked and hit “this is spam”, or get desensitized to your mailings and stop opening them which, again, can affect your deliverability bottom line.

5.  Not paying attention to the day and time that you send your email

If you think that the actual timing of your email - whether it’s sent on a Monday or a Friday, in the morning or the afternoon or evening, doesn’t matter, well, you’re wrong. For some email senders, having their email show up at the end of the business week is the kiss of death - for others it’s the ideal time as it gives their users the whole weekend to look the email over. It depends - a great deal - on your target audience. The only way to find out the best day and time to send your mailings is to test it and carefully track your open and click-through rates.

Source: Getting Email Delivered - The Email Deliverability Blog

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Research Reveals That Leveraging Email Personalization Techniques Increased Average Order Values by 57%

With increased competition for the customers' time, wallet, and mindshare, top performing organizations are maximizing the effectiveness of their email campaigns by personalizing outbound marketing messages. Heavy personalization techniques allow organizations to develop highly personalized relevant marketing campaigns by incorporating customer profile information, segmentation or demographic behavior, channel behavior, purchase history, personalized product or service recommendations, online activity, and other attributes from customer databases.

A recent study, "Email Marketing: Get Personal with Your Customers," conducted by the Aberdeen Group, reveals that 96% of organizations surveyed believe that email personalization can improve email marketing performance. Furthermore, organizations that leverage email personalization techniques increased average order values by 57% as a result of their efforts.

While the pressure to improve return on marketing investments (ROMI) and increase online revenue were identified as the top two factors causing organizations to focus resources on an email personalization initiative, the research reveals the businesses are challenged by an inability to create personalized marketing content and a lack of data for use in personalized emails.

Continue reading "Research Reveals That Leveraging Email Personalization Techniques Increased Average Order Values by 57%" »

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Test Shows Embedding Images in HTML Emails Is No Solution to Image Blocking

Ron Blaisdell, a member of the Email Marketer's Club, recently tested whether embedding images in HTML emails could be an answer to image blocking. He shared the results of this test on the Club's forum and I thought I'd share them here as well:

Over the years, a number of folks have asked if "encoding" the images in their campaigns would allow more people to see their campaigns, with images, and not have them blocked by the various email clients.

Using a web application to encode an image in base64, allegedly will allow images to be displayed and by-pass image blocking.

Using a base64 encoded image, you end up with an image tag that looks something like:

[img src="data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAADIA..." alt="Encoded Image"/]

I created a custom xhtml campaign, encoded a single image, and sent this to my testing list. The results:

Gmail: Displays only alt text
Hotmail: Displays a grey square, not the image, and no alt text
MS Live Hotmail: Same as Hotmail
Outlook 2003: Display a broken image, with alt text displayed
Outlook 2007: Same as Outlook 2003
Yahoo Classic: Displays only alt text
New Yahoo Mail: Same as Yahoo Classic
AOL: Displays alt text
Hosted Gmail: Displays alt text
Thunderbird: Displays alt text
Outlook Express: Displays broken image, with alt text displayed

Apparently, since spammers have been using the encoded image trick for some time, email programs have adapted to stop their display!

Therefore, encoding images for campaigns is not worth your effort, and normal image linking, is the best solution.

(As an aside, this was tested using multiple ESPs, and the results were consistent, regardless of ESP used.)

Thanks for testing and sharing the results with us Ron!

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links for 2008-07-09

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

links for 2008-07-08

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

12 Ways to Reel Inactive Subscribers Back In

In a recent whitepaper, Spring Clean Your Email List: 5 Easy Steps, marketing technology company Lyris touches on 12 ways to reel these inactive subscribers back in.

  1. Special offers. Consider offering discounts or free shipping for retail or a motivational whitepaper for B-to-B communications, suggests the whitepaper.
  2. Survey subscribers. Find out why inactives have become disinterested in your e-mail communications.
  3. Update profile. Using incentives, drive subscribers to their profile update pages where they can change preferences and personal data.
  4. Understand their demographics. Many of your inactives could share common traits—they opted in as part of registering for the same whitepaper, seminar or promotion; a majority are the same sex, age, ethnicity, etc. Find ways to connect better with their demographics.
  5. Try different send days/times. Different people respond better at different times of the day, week or year. Send out e-mails at different times to see if it spurs response.
  6. Modify frequency. Considering adjusting your frequency. Maybe inactives are receiving so many solicitations that they’ve become annoyed. If so, tone it down. Or maybe interested customers are not getting enough e-mails to make an impression. In that case, try sending out more.
  7. Create new content. Perhaps the content these inactives signed up for has become stale or their needs have changed. Offer different and new content to re-engage them.
  8. Try different formats. Test using a text version, suggests the whitepaper, that is very simple but with specific links and messaging intended to drive action.
  9. Test different subject lines. If the subject line doesn’t catch their attention, chances are the e-mail goes straight to the trash or junk folder. Try changing the subject line for inactives to see if it triggers response.
  10. Monitor seed/proof lists. The whitepaper advises sending your messages to proof and seed lists for key domains. Monitor delivery in case content or images are causing your messages to be filtered or treated differently with specific ISPs and companies. If problems are detected, develop different versions of the messages that may not trip filters.
  11. Send a postcard. Send a postcard that offers an incentive for inactives to update their e-mail preferences and profiles.
  12. Move re-engaged to active status. After each e-mail message sent to inactives, change the demographic status of those recipients that clicked a link to “active.” This helps keep your focus on converting the inactives and tracking your success.

Source: Target Marketing

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The Cost of Irrelevancy

In order to create the type of email program that is responsive to our subscriber needs, we need resources, both technology and human.  And that means we need money.   In this article Stephanie Miller explains how to make a business case for investment in the email channel by showing your management what the the cost of irrelevancy is:

Your CFO (or CMO or CEO) thinks that sending that additional message is simply the cost of broadcasting them — the CPM we pay to our email delivery vendor.  Actually, the real cost includes the costs of replacing addresses lost because of increased unsubscribe requests, complaints (clicks on the “This is Spam” button), decreased deliverability and fatigue.

Let’s say that your “one more blast” message to a million recipients results in a half a percent more unsubscribe requests, a 5% boost in complaints and a 10% boost in fatigue.  Add that up, and you are talking about 150,000+ subscribers that you need to pay to acquire again or replace.  The negative revenue hit is not just against this one mailing.  You also need to factor in the cost of unrealized future revenue from those lost subscribers. If your average subscriber spends even $100 a year with your company through email, you’ve lost the opportunity to capture that revenue from all 50,000+ subscribers.

Lastly, the impact of this mailing has what I call a “brand slam” factor, based on negative brand impression and lower loyalty.  We typically assign some brand slam factor (say a penny or half a penny) based on the inverse of your open rate - how many subscribers never opened anything this month?  You’ve taken a brand slam with emails that are not compelling enough to engage.

Add it all up.  When we do the math on our sample mailing of just one million records, we often find that a mailing that the CFO thought cost around $1,000 in broadcast fees, actually cost the business $500,000 or more.  That is real money!  And a real missed opportunity for future sales and customer relationships.

Here’s where all that math pays off — doing the ROI calculation for a mailing that costs $1,000 is very different when the actual cost is closer to $500,000.  It’s really hard to make up that delta in revenue, especially when you have to pay to acquire customers or pay high fees to contact them via other channels like telesales or postal mail or search. Now this is a language that your CFO can understand.  You can quickly start talking about investment in the channel.

OK, you may be thinking: “Focus on the customer.”  That sounds reasonable.  Yet, if this is so obvious, why don’t we do it?   Well, I think it’s because email marketing works too well. It’s easy to get stuck in the status quo, blasting away at our subscriber files with irrelevant messages and hoping that it resonates with enough subscribers each time to make our number.

Source: Email Insider 

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

links for 2008-07-07

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

Four Email Marketing Essentials

In this post on the UK DMA's Email Marketing blog, Jonathan Burston summarizes what he learned at a recent email marketing conference:

  1. Data is key – collect enough but not too much as you risk customer disengagement. Use the data you collect and continually ask your customers questions to build up a richer picture of their attitudes. Also gain an understanding of why people no longer want to hear from you, so that you can apply those learnings to your strategy.
  2. Protect your customers and protect your brand. Change the perception of the value of email within your organisation. Use email to drive long term growth and not continued short term offers to generate short term results. Continue to do the latter and your at risk of losing your customers and diminishing the value of your brand.
  3. Make your email campaigns customer driven not marketing driven. Remember there is an individual at the end of your communication. Put yourself in their shoes, think about what’s in it for them and what they need to do to respond. Build an experience with your customers and give them value back. Remember that customers judge you on each and every email you send.
  4. Make your emails relevant. Relevance makes your email work harder for you. Segment your customers, use triggers, personalise, add interactivity and continually test. The more relevant you are the more often you can communicate.

Source: UK DMA's Email Marketing Blog

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

7 Tips for Your Welcome Emails

In this article Jordan Ayan provides these 7 tips for your welcome messages:

  1. To start, html is a standard. Your welcome email should be a well-designed html message sent out in multi-part mime so that it will display properly in text or html. It should also be optimized so that if a recipient’s images are “off,” it will be legible, understandable and eye-appealing.

  2. It should thank the recipient for providing the required information. It should also reinforce the value of your emails, reminding them what to expect in terms of frequency and any other information that reinforces relevancy to the recipient.

  3. It should include the information recipients need to add you to their white or “favorites” list, including the “from” address for your message.

  4. It should reinforce the value you place on the relationship and reinforce your privacy commitment, including a link to your privacy statement. If you don’t plan to share their email address - restate that fact clearly.

  5. A little something special. The subscriber has expressed a high-level of interest, so this is the time to offer something extra as a thank-you: a coupon, a percentage off, free shipping, a bonus download of a white paper or a free webinar. Just let subscribers know that you appreciate the fact that they supplied their email address, and the trust they are placing in you by signing up for your message. You can test offers to see which ones are most effective.

  6. If you use a double opt-in process, you have an opportunity to double-dip. The initial confirmation message can include a promotional message. This should be muted from whatever you would send in your welcome message once they confirm.

  7. A welcome message should appear in the subscriber’s inbox within minutes of when they sign up. Wait too long, and recipients may forget who you are or why they subscribed.

Source: Email Insider

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Copywriting for Email: Key Things to Focus On

There aren't a lot of writers trained in the fine points of e-mail writing. As a result, most companies aren't achieving their objectives in terms of sales generated. 

To make things easier, create fill-in-the-blank templates for the main types of e-mail communication you send out. Areas to include in your template:

  • Subject lines: Specify the optimal number of words or characters, and provide a few of examples of subject-line approaches that tend to work well.
  • Alt-text tags and photo captions: Require that each image (including your company banner) include an alt-text tag in the image itself, as well as an intriguing caption.
  • Preview pane: Require that the e-mail's whole message be summed up in one or two sentences at the top of the e-mail, so that it shows through the preview pane.
  • Call to action: Specify where the call-to-action message should go (near the top) and how often it should be repeated in the message.
  • Sidebars, Johnson boxes, and hotboxes: Create a template to break up information into bite-sized chunks that all appear in the initial screen.

Finally, guide your writers to where their creativity really counts, including:

  • The subject line: If it isn't good, no one will open the e-newsletter.
  • Your event or Webcast name: It better be compelling, or no one will attend.
  • Your headlines and lead-in sentences: If you don't catch readers in the first few seconds of opening your e-mail, you'll lose them as they hit delete and scroll away to view the rest of their inbox.

Source: Tips for Improving E-mail Marketing Performance by Karen Gedney, ClickZ

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

links for 2008-07-04

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

Survey Finds Email Is the Most Popular Direct Response Medium in the US

E-mail is now the most popular form of direct response marketing, per a new survey of large U.S. corporations conducted by Direct Partners.

E-mail is used primarily by 35 percent of companies compared to 25 percent that use traditional direct mail and 21 percent that use promo packages, statement stuffers or freestanding inserts.

The findings echo a study from last fall by MarketingSherpa, wherein participants reported that "house e-mail marketing" delivered the best return on investment in terms of direct response.

The results of the Direct Partners study were derived from 30,000 surveys sent in April to senior executives at companies with 2007 revenues exceeding $100 million. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that e-mail works most effectively for them, with 24 percent reporting that direct mail does the best job.

"The dramatic emphasis on e-mail as the primary direct marketing vehicle is significant," said Harry Haber, vp, Direct Partners, Marina del Rey, Calif. "And why not? It's fast to deploy, inexpensive to distribute versus other media, and the response is rapid."

Most companies (56 percent) reported spending less than $1 million on direct response media in the past year, while 37 percent said they spent between $1 million and $50 million.

Half of the respondents said they handle their direct response marketing internally, while 37 percent conducted it though a combination of agency and internal resources.

Also among the findings:

  • 68 percent market to their prospect database
  • 82 percent market to their customer database
  • 57 percent said their direct response budget would remain the same this year compared to last, while 23 percent reported their budget would increase by 10 percent or higher
  • 47 percent said that less than 10 percent of their marketing budget went to direct response media

Source: Adweek
Hat tip: The Email Wars

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