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30 entries from September 2008

Successful Email is Like a Good Marriage

While I was on holiday recently with friends, they found out how long I've been married and immediately began quizzing me on the keys to a successful marriage.

Naturally, being the email-marketing person I am, I realised as I was talking that the foundations of a good email relationship with your customer are quite like those of a solid marriage.

No, I won't tell you how long I've been married, but I'll gladly share my marriage theories with you and how they parallel with your email relationships:

1. Marriage is something you must work hard at every day and make a priority in your life. You can't take it for granted or let it fall into a series of dull routines.

The email equivalent: Email marketing needs to be continually worked on. The rules for good emailing are changing constantly, as are your subscribers' needs and interests. If you send out the same old offers in the same tired format time after time, you shouldn't be surprised if your subscribers get bored and look for that old zing somewhere else. 

2. Marriage is a giving relationship, in which you place the other person's needs above your own.

Always focus on your subscribers, what they want and expect. Don't just guess at what they want. Watch their behavior – where are they clicking on your emails? Are they clicking at all? Ask them what they want and give it to them, as much as you can within your own business model. In return, they will reward you with loyalty and a healthy ROI.

3. Maintain respect for each other. If you respect your spouse, you can't help but treat him or her well.

You absolutely must respect your subscribers. Honour their preferences for content, frequency and format. Don't abuse the relationship by sending messages they didn't ask for, by sending more email than they expect or sharing their data with others unless they say you can.

Maintaining high quality is another way you show respect for your subscribers. No email should ever go out with broken links, spelling errors or format problems.

4. Dolphins mate for life.
OK…so maybe this has more to do with the fact when I said this I had just been swimming with Dolphins - than any email marketing correlation! In fact, one of the oddities of good emailing is that you make it easy for your subscribers to leave rather than try to hang on to them!

However, if you apply the other three precepts I outlined here, you will build a stronger tie with your subscribers, one that will stand the test of time and bring you the kind of rewards not possible with a constantly changing cast of partners

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

Making Good On Your Mistake

Here's what I found in just one day's worth of email messages recently:

1. Wrong landing page
2. Spelling mistake in the subject line
3. Test subject line not removed
4. Email sent to the wrong company division list
5. Personalisation code showing instead of name
6. 2007 copyright date
7. Broken link to Web version
8. Images failed to load even when enabled
9. Brand name misspelled

Yes, everyone makes mistakes. But how you recover from them will either save your reputation and business or make readers think you're unprofessional and untrustworthy.

A good recovery isn't enough, though. Know where your greatest vulnerabilities are in your email program and what you have to do to make sure errors either don't happen or get caught before you click "send."

First Rule: Don't Panic!

Don't rush out an immediate email correction. Sending a second email to your entire list right after the first one can make you look like a spammer to ISPs if your list has too many undeliverable email addresses. You look like you're pounding on addresses that don't exist, belong to closed accounts, have become inactive or are temporarily unavailable.

If the mistake doesn't involve an email function – broken or wrong links, wrong price, incorrect image, wrong copy -- or won't mislead your readers, don't send out a follow-up to the whole list. Instead, include a short apology in your next regular email.

Second Rule: Fix the Mistake

You must correct the mistake if it could mislead readers or if it breaks the email's functionality. Also, if you are sending the email on an advertiser's or partner's behalf, you have to make good. However, it's still not time to rush out a correction email to your entire list.

If the mistake involves your Web site –- the landing-page link is broken, or you published the wrong link or the wrong offer –- post a note on the page with an apology and a link to the correct page. Post a similar note on your front page, again with a link to the correct page.

How to send follow-up emails:

1. Send a follow-up email only to those who either opened or clicked within 24 hours. This is a typical watch period for most ISPs and spares you from hitting all those inactive or undeliverable addresses again.

2. Send a follow-up email after 24 hours to your list if you can't segment out your openers and clickers. If you email more often than weekly, wait until your next regular email, then including an apology and the correct information.

Yes, you could lose some sales, but that will motivate you to make sure your emails are correct before they go out,

Third Rule: Apologise the Right Way

What not to say: "Ooops! We goofed!" or "Did ya ever have one of those days when nothing goes right?" if you mail to a business list. It looks unprofessional.

Better: "We apologise for the mistake and the inconvenience. Here is the correct link/information/price." Imagine what your typical reader would say, and match your apology to that.

Fourth Rule: Look for List Churn

Scrutinise your list metrics for higher unsubscribes and changes in open or click rates. Also, watch for more spam complaints and act on those immediately.

Fifth Rule: Step Up Your Quality Control

These steps can help you spot mistakes better without adding too much time to your publishing schedule:

1. Create a checklist that includes all relevant information for the email, including deadlines, who's responsible for it and who signs off that the information is correct. Include the offer, price, images, graphics/design, lists/sublists/segments the email will go to and any other relevant information.

2. Create a fresh email message every time, using an error-proofed template. You won't forget to change the subject line or placeholder copy or images.

3. Create a test message before it goes live. Spelling and format mistakes will stand out. Unlike the test you use to try out subject lines and offers, this test goes only to a few people inside your company.

4. Have others review this message in different Web browsers, on different platforms (Mac, PC, smartphone and not just iPhone) and in different email clients (desktop, Web client and smartphone).

5. View message without images and in preview pane. Then, turn on images and open message, view content and click all links.

6. Watch all mailboxes to spot bounces or customer complaints about mistakes as soon as the message goes out.

Sixth Rule: Know the Traps

1. Content:

  • Old/placeholder subject line left in final mailing
  • Wrong/placeholder pictures
  • Old content retained in reused message (headlines, head shots, graphics)
  • Spelling/grammar/punctuation errors 
  • Wrong offer in mailing (old, not approved by client or sales team, etc.)
  • Outdated contact information

2. Format:

  • Errors in links
  • Coding incompatibility resulting in unreadable or broken formats in different browsers or on different platforms

3. Landing page:

  • Page not updated to reflect offer or before articles are uploaded
  • Link error redirects to homepage or an interior page
  • Page taken down too soon

4. Mailing list:

  • Mailed to the wrong list
  • Mailed test message to entire list
  • Mailed general message to single segment
  • Wrong segments identified for targeted mailing
  • Mailed live message to do-not-email database or to unsubscribe database
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

links for 2008-09-09

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

How to Encourage Readers to Interact with Your Emails

There are many ways to encourage readers to interact with an e-mail newsletter or Web site and just as many ways to use the resulting content. In this article, Jeanne Jennings offers a few tips for getting started:

Surveys, Polls, and Quizzes

Jeanne often recommends clients include a survey, poll, or quiz in each issue of their e-mail newsletter. The question can be based in fact or opinion; multiple choice questions work best, as this makes it easier for readers to respond. If you want to collect additional information, ask an open-ended question or two after readers have responded to gather more detailed information about the answer.

Results of a survey, poll, or quiz can be used in a number of ways. Some marketers report them in a future issue. If you have more resources, include the results in an article that delves further into the issue. Often, answers to the open-ended questions asked in addition to the original poll or quiz will be information you can include in an article or publish separately.

Discussion Boards

If you have discussion boards on your site, there's an opportunity to pull content from them directly into your e-mail newsletter. Including a particularly interesting post, along with a link to join the discussion on your Web site, is a great way to engage readers. It also drives more visitors to the discussion board to grow that community.

Many e-mail newsletters include a generic discussion-board link back to the site. This isn't an effective way to pull people in. The idea of a discussion board isn't interesting. The value lies in the actual discussions going on there. By pulling actual posts into the e-mail you provide readers with a reason to get involved.

Article Comments

Many e-mail newsletters feature a "comment" button at the bottom of articles, but I'm often disappointed when I click through to see what others have said. Too often, there are no comments at all. When comments do appear, they're frequently not substantial ("Great article, really enjoyed it.") or self-serving ("Great article, my company offers a service like this, contact us at...").

If you hope to get substantial comments, a link to comment isn't enough. Ask some open-ended questions at the end of your article. Make the article a jumping-off point to begin a discussion of the topic on your site. Even better if the author or another member of your staff helps to manage the discussion by chiming in with additional thoughts or comments.

Content From Readers

The holy grail of UGC is having readers submit entire items, articles, or stories for publication in your e-mail newsletter. People like to see their name in print, and more than you expect are willing to provide content. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them.

One way to do this is to focus their efforts. Give them a situation to write about. If there's an industry event coming up, ask readers to write a synopsis of one of the sessions and send it to you. Or give them an open-ended topic, such as "your most successful marketing campaign" or "a time when you found the silver lining in a bad experience." Don't require a long piece. A couple hundred words is easier to write and can be just as effective. Response probably won't be overwhelming, but if you publish submissions the program will build on itself.

If it makes sense for your industry, you can also request visual input from your readers. If you make or sell cameras, encouraging readers to send in photos and publishing the best images in your e-mail newsletter with attribution is a great way to leverage UGC.

Source: ClickZ

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

Welcome Emails: Dos and Don'ts

The first e-mail you send to a new subscriber is where you set and manage expectations. Your efforts will be rewarded if you do this successfully and then meet those expectations.

In this article, Derek Harding lists the dos and don'ts for writing and delivering a welcome message to new subscribers.

The what, when, and how of that first message is key. It sets the tone for the relationship. As with any relationship, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Explain Why

This takes on added importance if there's a time lag between subscription and first message. Remind recipients when, where, and how they registered. Otherwise, they may not remember having subscribed or they may not connect your e-mail with the Web site they visited a few days earlier.

Sometimes an e-mail address is shared by two or more family members. Providing the details can avoid a situation where an angry spouse complains of spam. Whatever the reasons, the more you tell recipients about why they're receiving your message, the fewer complaints and issues you'll have.

The number one way to reduce complaints among new subscribers is to provide a clear and accurate explanation of why someone is receiving a message.

For example, something like this doesn't count and won't help: "You are receiving this message because you signed up on our Web site, or that of one of our affiliates, or contacted our customer support, or in some other way indicated a desire to receive e-mail from us."

However, this will: "You are receiving this e-mail because on Saturday, August 24 at you signed up for our product updates newsletter."

Don't Delay

Your confirmation message should be sent quickly. Ideally, that means immediately upon receipt of the subscription. There can be reasons why a message takes time to work its way through your internal systems, but it's vital to make this happen as quickly as possible.

The greater the delay, the greater the disconnect among subscribers between their subscription behavior and the received e-mail. This leads directly to an increased complaint and opt-out rate.

Offer an Opt-Out

If you aren't using confirmed (double) opt-in, at the very least ensure there's a clear and easy opt-out mechanism in your confirmation message. Sure, it can be argued that this isn't legally required because the message is transactional in nature, but this is when recipients are most likely to change their mind.

When someone wants off your mailing list, making it hard -- or even fighting with that person -- does more harm than good. If you don't let them easily unsubscribe, many will use the TIS (this is spam) button instead, which harms your reputation, may result in delivery issues, and -- most importantly -- irritates your customers and prospects.

Explain What

This is your opportunity to set expectations. Even if your signup process discloses what someone signs up for, it's worth repeating. If you send daily offers, yet subscribers don't expect them, subscribers will find out pretty soon and may be upset. Tell them up front what they're going to get, and how often, so they can choose to join or not.

If you offer a profile management center, this is also a great place to get new subscribers to ensure their profile is accurate and that their subscription preferences are what they really want. If you send a variety of communications, your subscribers may or may not realize just how many of them they agreed to when they first signed up. This is especially true for off-line subscription processes.

Source: ClickZ

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

links for 2008-09-07

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

Direct Mail Versus E-mail: You Decide

In this article Barry Abel lays out the benefits of email over direct mail. Here are some of his arguments:

E-mail costs: For companies whose customers are largely online, e-mail is a cost-effective replacement to direct mail. For organizations that have a blend of online and non-online customers, it can be a welcomed alternative for e-mail-equipped recipients that also lowers the cost of marketing for the company.

Direct mail efficiency: A direct mail campaign can take weeks to design, lay out, print and mail. Moreover, while deliverability and response are trackable with direct mail, they take time. Undeliverable mail can take weeks to be returned and addresses must be manually removed from a list. In addition, response can take days by postage paid reply.

E-mail efficiency: An e-mail campaign can take as little as a few hours to a few days from concept to receipt, enabling companies to respond rapidly to market dynamics and competitive pressures. In addition, with e-mail sent by an advanced e-mail delivery system, bad addresses are discovered within minutes and culled from a list. Then, marketers know exactly how many recipients opened the message.

Read the full article here.

I don't think you should entirely replace direct mail with email, both channels have their place in the marketing mix. Smart marketers use direct mail for their higher value customers/segments and add the email channel to their communication mix to strenghten the offline channel.

For segments where direct mail is not very ROI positive, I would definitely recommend increasing the use of email marketing and reducing direct mail - because due to it's cost-effectiveness you'll be able to reach out to a larger target audience, while still being able to segment and target this audience with different messages.

Would love to hear your view on this!

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

links for 2008-09-06

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

5 Fundamental Segmentations That Drive Relevance

Whether taking a basic approach or performing extensive data gathering and analysis, there's a core set of fundamental segmentations that drive relevance and consistently outperform across the most successful e-mail marketing programs. In this article on the Multichannel Merchant website, Millie Park sums them up:

  1. E-mail behavior: by leveraging the behavioral data collected from your e-mail programs, you can design campaigns with greater relevance to your targets and generate a higher number of clicks. 

  2. Purchasing behavior: of course, customers with the highest RFM numbers should be marketed to in a distinct way. But segmenting by one element alone can increase hit rates. For example, if you have a customer who makes a purchase every three months, you should market to her near the end of this cycle, offering discounts to entice her to not only buy again, but possibly increase spending.

  3. Purchase category: you already know what customers have purchased in the past, so from this you can deduce what may interest them in the future.

  4. Preference center and survey data: preference center data and/or data obtained from surveys is infrequently used or leveraged to its fullest, yet it can serve as strong basis for customizing programs and improving e-mail relevancy.

  5. Demographic or psychographic data: you may not already be tracking information as detailed as a customer's gender. But you can easily glean it from other data you've collected, directly ask customers for it or purchase it. For example, results from a brief survey asking a customer for his zip code can enable you to segment him by geographic location and gain insight into what's most relevant to him.

You don't need complex customer models and sophisticated publishing grids to effectively segment customers. Small incremental changes such as tailoring subject lines can have a big impact on the relevance of your e-mail marketing and your bottom line.

Source: Multichannel Merchant

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