Why Email Marketing Is Like A Resort Vacation

Why Email Marketing Is Like A Resort Vacation :: Posted August 22nd, 2007 by Loren McDonald

Last week at this time, I was relaxing poolside with a prickly pear margarita at our timeshare resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. All the time I was sitting there working on my Email Insider column, I kept seeing how my resort experience underlined some key email lessons:

Lesson one: Timing is everything. The experience: We sat through a long presentation on our ownership and opportunities for additional weeks at some new resorts. Another timeshare was quite tempting, but it was not the right time for us. However, we couldn't pass up a special promotion being offered at our home resort.

The lesson: Your customers might not be ready to buy when they read your email message, or to buy exactly what you're selling, but studies show they often use the information to shop later. Be sure your email message value lasts longer than the day it arrives in their inboxes and provides alternatives. Not everyone is going to pull the trigger on that $200 cycling helmet, so make sure you include the $20 sweat-cap and box of energy bars as alternatives.

Lesson two: Don't hard-sell subscribers on a soft-sell list. The experience: One of the resort pools is for kids and more boisterous activity; another is set aside for relaxing. While I was outlining this column, a group of young men was goofing around in the "adult" pool and clearly annoying some of us "relaxers." A cabana worker was alerted and they were kindly asked to settle down or leave.

The lesson: Make sure your email program stays consistent with subscribers' expectations. If they opted in to a trend or thought leadership newsletter, don't start adding hard-sell content. Instead, launch a new email program specifically geared to product information, specials and discounts where the focus is clearly on sales. Otherwise, you risk losing subscribers who turn to you for news or advice, and you tarnish your leadership reputation.

Lesson three: Align your email program with brand identity. The experience: I love a good mojito, a Cuban-influenced cocktail made with rum, sugar, lime juice, crushed mint leaves and club soda, partly because it's so satisfying to watch a bartender muddle the mint leaves to create a unique drink each time. I expected that kind of custom work when I ordered one at the poolside bar, but watched in dismay as the bartender used a bottled mojito mix. While it was happy hour, my expectations were nonetheless consistent with this resort's brand — but it fell short of the mark.

The lesson: Understand what your brand represents to your customers and what they expect of you. If your brand speaks of quality, craftsmanship, or reliability, for example, don't use your email program solely as a discount channel.

Lesson four: Don't make readers work for benefits. The experience: I had gotten my own drink from the bar when I entered the pool area one day, but when it was time for a refill, I couldn't get the cabana worker even to look my way. It wasn't until I almost tackled her that she took my order.

The lesson: Analyze your customers to see who your best ones are. One customer might open every message but never buy; another might open one in five but buy something every time she opens one. Also, make it easy for them to buy without working too hard. Start with a message design that delivers key information in the preview pane and without images disabled. Next, clearly label buttons with the desired action: "buy," "download," "subscribe." Finally, send those who click your links to a dedicated landing page; don't make them hack their way through your site to find the offer.

Lesson five: Use customer-provided information to their benefit. The experience: The corporation that owns our resort probably spends millions on its customer database, but doesn't give that information to its sales reps. We had to supply even the most basic information, that we were already owners at this resort, for example. Someone tell me the marketing strategy for this, because it violates one of the basic tenets of good marketing.

The lesson: If your customers have taken the time to fill out detailed demographic or preference pages, use that information to populate new forms so that they don't have to repeat the information every time they interact with you. Also, use their past buying history to segment and create relevant messages. Don't send a loss-leader introductory offer to someone who has bought from you for years.

These tips should help you create an email program more closely focused on your subscribers' needs and wants, so that they come to believe working with you is as pleasant and relaxing as a day spent poolside.

FTC conduct enquiry about ValueClick's lead generation methods


On May 18, 2007, online advertising competitor ValueClick, Inc. (VLCK) received a letter from the Federal Trade Commission("FTC") stating that the FTC was conducting an inquiry to determine whether the Company's lead generation activities violated either the Federal Trade Commission Act or the CAN-SPAM Act. Specifically, the FTC is investigating certain ValueClick websites, which promised consumers a free gift of substantial value, and the manner in which the Company drives traffic to such websites, in particular through email....




Regulation FD Disclosure

Item 7.01 Regulation FD Disclosure.

On May 18, 2007, ValueClick, Inc. ("ValueClick" or "the Company") filed a Form 8-K which stated that, on May 16, 2007, the Company received a letter from the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") stating that the FTC is conducting an inquiry to determine whether the Company's lead generation activities violate either the Federal Trade Commission Act or the CAN-SPAM Act. Specifically, the FTC is investigating certain ValueClick websites which promise consumers a free gift of substantial value, and the manner in which the Company drives traffic to such websites, in particular through email. The Company defines the use of ValueClick websites which promise consumers a free gift as "promotion-based" lead generation.

As a result of the Form 8-K filed on May 18, 2007, the Company received several calls from analysts regarding the revenue contribution of its lead generation business in general, and its promotion-based sub-category of lead generation in particular, to its Media segment. In response, ValueClick stated that lead generation accounted for more than 60 percent of its Media segment revenue for the quarter ended March 31, 2007. In addition, the Company stated that the promotion-based sub-category of lead generation, which is the subject of the FTC inquiry, accounted for less than 30 percent of its Media segment revenue for the quarter ended March 31, 2007.

ValueClick provided these financial metrics for informational purposes only, and the Company does not intend to update these financial metrics in future communications with the financial community, including periodic reports filed by the Company.

Silver surfers


So-called 'silver surfers' could be more responsive to email marketing, it has been suggested.

Matthew Finch, who oversees online marketing for
travel company Warner Breaks, tells E-consultancy his firm has seen
success with emails as a means of targeting the over-50 age group.

He adds that traditional methods of advertising - both online and offline - remain important to older web users.

"We have invested significantly in display
advertising and affiliate marketing to reach new customers - and of
course search marketing," he tells the e-commerce website.

"Email marketing has increased significantly over
the past 12 months as we find our customers are highly receptive to
communication by email."

He recommends a wide-ranging promotional campaign
in order to reach the more mature audience, with internet service
providers and webmail sites among the more successful targets.

A study conducted by Burson-Marsteller recently
revealed that young people with influence over their peers are the most
likely demographic group to respond positively to a commercial message.

Email Marketing Tips - Autoresponder - How To Start Your Own Opt In List

...For best results you should not use a free auto responder service
because advertisements will be added to all your outgoing emails. You
will have no control over which ads are shown and this will distract
your subscribers and dramatically reduce the response rates to your

You can either pay a monthly fee and use a third party hosted auto
responder service like Aweber or Get Response, or you can pay a one
time fee and install an auto responder script like Auto Response Plus
on your domain.

The problem with auto responder scripts is that
the number of subscribers you can store will be limited depending on
how much disk space you have with your hosting plan, and you will also
need to backup your list on a regular basis in case a problem occurs
and all of the information is lost.

Its much easier and safer to
use a third party hosted auto responder service because you will not
have to worry about installing a script and your subscribers will be
stored securely on a dedicated server with no limits.
...Double opt in lists are becoming more popular because they provide
extra security as subscribers must confirm their email address, but
many people will forget to complete this confirmation which results in
fewer active subscribers so you may prefer to use the single opt in

U.S. Email Marketers Now Leading Producers Of Unwanted Bulk Email


Email coming from marketers is now
accounting for 72 percent of the unwanted bulk email that our company
has to divert away from customers, said
Dean. This unwanted bulk email has enormous
cost implications to ISPs and network operators. It has been an annoying
problem to deal with for both us and our customers. Users often
accidentally subscribe to 'Third Party Offerings' but don't know how to
stop it. Now that we allow blocking of 'Commercial Marketers' our costs
have gone down, and customer satisfaction has gone up.