Pure360's Ben Geddes on Email Marketing in 2010

My mate and former email marketing student Ben Geddes, gives us the low down on where email is going to Fresh Business Thinking.

I concur. I also think that since everyone is now becoming a publisher RSS feeds from CMSs will become more and more prominent in spreading content. Subsequently it will be more and more important for ESPs to be able to create emails from the RSS feeds.

EMR: 'Pre sign-up' Trust Earning Text

Another legend of Email Marketing: "Mark Brownlow" tell us how to earn trust before they sign up to make sure you get the right email address in: Getting the right email address (November 25, 2009).

If you're thinking "Get the right email address, what does that mean?", allow me to elaborate.
Many people have at least 3 email addresses, often one of them is Facebook so it might not count for marketing purposes but it is another on-line inbox.
Depending on what their relationship, perception and need for you is they will give you a different email address.
If you are an old acquaintance, there is a chance that you will only ever be able to communicate with the via facebook. If you are a family member of a good friend you will get the main email address. If you off an online computer game (MMORPG) and you require someone to register their email address for them to use your software, it is likely that they will give you their rubbish address or even a temporary email address which runs out after it has received so many emails. If you consistently offer good, relevant and remarkable information and your brand is trusted you will also get the main email address.

The reason behind this is mainly because people do not want to get on a list that is passed around and spammed for ever that they cannot get off. Even if you won't do that you have to prove it to them before you prove it to them, so to speak. This is where you have to earn the trust. If you get the bad email address they won't read your email so you have to earn the trust to get the good address.

Mark does a good job in setting us up to do that...read on

Clickz: Trust Earning Text

In Leveraging Snippets and AutoPreview to Lift Response, By the legend of Jeanne Jennings, ClickZ, Nov 30 2009, Jeanne reminds us that the snippets section and the preview pane content are more and more fundamental considerations in our creative precess. Ignoring this when doing your creative work can mean you miss a track that can make the difference in the competition of attention in the every busying inbox...read on

This is the same concept as one of my earliest articles when I coined the phrase "Trust Earning Text" for Pure360.

That top two lines of text can help you get the email opened and the images loaded. After than you are left with coding for the preview pane to get that call to action clicked.

Also don't forget that people's attention span is smaller and smaller, hence the success or social media - in many way a tweet is an email with a call to action subject line and link. I wonder how many clicks a tweet gets compared to an email?

FYI: You're not allowed to track indivuals in Google Analytics

You're not allowed to track individuals in Google Analytics cos it's against their Ts and Cs

I've seen it in a few blogs from media agencies and and ESPs and I've discussed it myself that from email campaigns it is possible to use a recipient's unique identifier, like their email address, as one of the utm values. This sounded like a great idea as then you can do propper profiling for your recipients and target them better.

I have not seen anywhere on blogs and google alerts etc. saying that you are not allowed to do that but I was having my regular chat with the marketing manager of @apexauctions who said that they also thought of that but while exploring the technological side of it found out that it is against the Ts & Cs of Google Analytics.

I immediately googled it and alas yes! Google Analytics Support says no to personal identifiers and then the Google Analytics Blog also says no, but it took people to ask to find this out.

So don't do it.

I think it must be something to do with data controller laws and liability. You'd think they be all right seeing as they have Gmail?

I know there was a big noise from the states about people not wanting to be tracked to that level but I thought that was mainly from people who looked at porn and don't want their wives getting porn adds when they are served by IP?

I for one am fine with better and more relevant adds

Disappointing but understandable.

The unusbscribe experience and the preference centre

For Clickz Stefan Pollard, in Why a Good Unsubscribe Experience Is Important (Oct 7, 2009) gives us a reminder that the opt-out experience of a recipient could not only stop them unsubscribing but it could also help us retain more subscribers. It is a good read and sparked an idea...

This balances in very well with Preference centres.

I would obviously have a preference centre to better profile my recipients but also I would tie in an optout survey. As well as letting people opt-out you could also ask if they could tell you why and depending on their answers you might even be able to handle their objection. For instance, if they are opting out and they tick the "you send me too many emails" box, you could inform them of the preference centre's ability to control the number of emails. If they tick the "relevant content" box you could tell them about the ability to tell you about what they want to be emailed about, etc. etc.

So as well as begin able to find out why people leave you could even try to give them the information that they were missing in order to help their decision. After all all we want is to give them the content they want. WE can't make them want it but we can help them help us!

Obviously as long as you don't make the actual act of unsubscribing difficult to the point of them hitting spam, you still need that one click unsubscribe functionality. Maybe kick it in after they have opted out through the confirmation landing page.

The key for an ESP would be to enable customers to personalise the form.

At the very end of the day, it is all about profiling and permission.

The better profiling you do the more permission you get!

Email Insider: Pre-Header Tips

Preheader text is HTML text that appears before or sometimes within the header of an email. It's important and growing in popularity because of the prevalence of image blocking by email subscribers and the increasing use of image-unfriendly mobile devices to view email. Those two trends make preheader text vital as both a promotional and functional tactic.

Here's what you need to know about these two preheader text elements
...read on
Chad White, Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 2:30 PM
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Gotta love the preheaders, I also like Mark Brownlow's take on putting the call to action in there but I can't find the post now? How annoying!

EMR: Email software popularity: 5 lessons for your list

In "Email software popularity: 5 lessons for your list" Mark tells us how to get even more from email depending on on your recipients' email client.
Even though the email standards project guys have tried gallantly we still have no real html standards but we are close and some of the ISPs have updating their clients to be more in with the standards the industry know it should be working with. Mobile is still a bit of a git though!

Any as per usual Mark Brownlow has nailed it, read this and have a play with some of the tools he suggests.

As Fingerprint is from the same guys as Litmus, this functionality should be in every ESP pretty soon.

I was having a chat with the one of the Web guys from Pure360 and he said he'd seen the patterns and it might even be do-able in the platform as part of the normal delivery report? fingers crossed for the next-next feature upgrade. It won't be in the next one because Automations is out in December - very exited!

Twitter Email Marketing List - Just Email Marketing

I get pretty put out when someone gives me a gem every 50 tweets but the rest are pitches about their software, ads for seminars and webinars or telling me what they had for breakfast.
This list has the people I have seen being the most consistent dedicated email marketing tweeters.
It won't be perfect but it is the best I have found, so far:

Blue Sky Factory

Another classic from the guys at Blue Sky Factory:

5 MORE Things All Email Marketers Need to Know
Reports, templates, and lists – oh my!

There are many aspects of an email marketing campaign. From building a list to analyzing campaign results, email marketers have a lot to keep track of. I recently posted a basic list of 5 things all email marketers need to know, but was asked to do a similar list with information that’s, well, a little less basic. (And while you’re here, save some trees. Just click on the image to the right.)

Ask and you shall receive. Here goes
...read on
October 29th, 2009 by Amy Garland

EMR: Assessing the best time to send email

In line with Marc Munier's article about misconceptions in email timing, the legend of Mark Brownlow has done his home work again and really gone to town, this guy knows his stuff and it is all on his web-site for us to use!

Assessing the best time to send email, As well as being a must read it also takes you on a journey through where you can find out what email is right now and where it is going. read everything this guys writes.

Deliverability.com: Complaints Cost You Money

On Bronto and Deliverability.com Criss Wheeler tells us about how recipient complaints do make a difference and there really is no level of acceptable losses.

By now, most email marketers have probably come to understand that sending email is not without risk. As with any marketing, knowing your audience and serving up something that will entice them to convert is key. Two methods email recipients have to let you, as a marketer, know they don't like what you've sent them is by either unsubscribing or lodging a complaint with their ISP (largest still is Yahoo! with 106MM unique US inboxes according to the latest report).

Note, these are not representative of recipients (your potential or existing customers) telling you they don't care or are indifferent to what you've sent them. But, rather, they've gone out of their way to deliberately tell someone they don't appreciate the email (either you, directly via the unsubscribe or the ISP via a complaint).

Let's dive into the complaints a bit more, though. These little bits of data a recipient fires off to their ISP or 3rd party service (like SpamCop) have two effects
...read on

Recipient's have far more control over your deliverability than ever before and often not even on purpose, as well as the obvious spam complaints, when people open, click, un-junk your emails this also is taken into account at some levels. If you are on the safelist or address book, this is far less of a worry as ISPs like it because the recipient has made you a trusted sender. Gmail is even trialling an auto-image load for senders who had 2 replies to their address from that gmail inbox!

Call To Action Tips

Many people are not really as clued up they might think on the call to action. Just getting an email out there is the main thing and then making it render the same every where takes the time. If you get your call to action right, you should get the click through in the top 3rd of the email. Benchmark email has listed some easy rules to follow to make sure you get what you want out of it:

When it comes to email marketing, your Call-To-Action (CTA) is extremely important. If you want a great response you need to ensure that your CTA has all the essential elements. It should be friendly and should reach out to people. It should successfully motivate readers to click your email and visit your website. If you feel you are not accomplishing these tasks, read on for some tips to improve your CTA...read on
Oct 22 2009, 09:36 AM

Make sure the rest of the email is still friendly though, what you want them to do is not always what they want to do, no matter how well you present it. Always give the recipients easy ways to contact you and interact with you. Maybe the call to action needs some more elaboration, have extra links further down just in case you need a little bit more trust - what if someone has been sent it form a friend?

Get the call to action right, use the tips in the article above and make sure the rest of your email supports people's needs and let them interact with you if they need!

Return Path: How Engagement Metrics Influence Deliverability

Many senders have noticed changes in the way that ISPs do their filtering, notably at the big four of AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, and have been scratching their heads as to what changed, and what can they do now to get delivered back to the inbox. The answer is in how ISPs are calculating sender's reputation scores (hint: it's really not that new). Less than savory senders are always looking for ways to game the system to bypass current filtering methods. As a result, ISPs and email providers are constantly changing and improving their filtering methods.

The major email providers are already using, or plan to use, a broad set of engagement metrics to determine inbox placement, not just clicks and opens as has been widely reported, to determine the level of user engagement for different senders. These include
...read on
By Tom Sather Oct 22 2009

- - -
This is really good bit of info. Most of revolved around "don't spam people - if they've asked for it, give it to them, if not leave them alone until they do", which is general permission rules which we should all be running with anyway. He does also suggest a deeper level of profiling per recipient: are they interacting a lot or only on various occasions and if so is there a pattern, if there is email them when you know they will interested. The basics of that is to give people frequency options as part of your preference centre.
Depending on how often you want to email. If you email daily give people the option to a weekly round up, if you email weekly - offer a monthly round up, if you do monthly - offer a quarterly. You can even give people a list of months that they want to receive them, it's all do-able with the right software or ESP.
This was people can get the emails when they need them.

This also ties a little into an old article I wrote on the EMM about how Spam Filters have evolved due to spammers trying to beat them and how to avoid the inconvenience of being mistaken as a spammer.

WttW: Why do you need so many IP addresses (part 2)

An interesting article from Word to the Wise about ESPs having a lot of IP addresses.
Why do you need so many IP addresses (part 2)

One thing I have found over the years is that an new IP is not good send large amount of email to straight away but it is relative straight forward, although tedious, to green it up. However, if you make one mistake ion the fist 12 months, you could be in the world of trouble.

Also large ISPS - Hotmail & Yahoo, tend to have IP reputation handlers to allow certain volumes in from an IP depending on it's complaint rate - the rules in use for this are a very closely guarded secret.

Of course none of these rules apply if you pay return path to certify your emails, apparently?
Although the way that works is also a closely guarded secret, or maybe just from me!

EMR: Email is not dead. Email is changing.

A Cracking site full of resource links from Mark Brownlow of Email Marketing Reports on how email is changing.

Email is not dead. Email is changing

Everyone should have this a least bookmarked and should check it every time you want to do something new or check if you're getting right.

the guardian: Web addresses in multiple languages

The internet regulator Icann has approved plans to let web addresses be written in non-Latin characters – such as Mandarin, Arabic, Hindu or Russian Cyrillic script – that it says represents the "biggest change" to how it works since its invention 40 years ago...read on

- - -

Does that mean that existing domains will just be translatable and hosting will be become more expesive or will there be another fight to buy even more domains per brand?

Pure360: Morning boosts and afternoon apathy

The media’s stereotype of employees taking advantage of work-based email and internet to browse online is leading marketers astray. Consumers’ behavioural patterns continually shift throughout the working day and email marketing providers must be aware of the changeable consumer mood if they are to reap the rewards.

For example, many marketing professionals believe that lunchtime is the perfect opportunity to engage with their audience. But new research by Pure360 contradicts this theory. Contrary to popular assumptions, the volume of marketing emails opened actually drops markedly during the lunch hour.

In fact, recipients are far more likely to open emails in their own time rather than at work. Almost half (48%) of all marketing emails were opened outside office hours. Marketers would benefit by targeting consumers at specific times of the day, instead of relying on ‘gut instinct’.

Pure360 analysed hundreds of thousands of emails sent by 34 companies and discovered that a mere 9% of the emails sent were opened between noon and 2pm. Sixty two per cent of those opened were news or magazine alerts rather than promotions on goods or services. It seems that employees like to spend their lunchtimes catching up on all the latest news, sport and gossip and are significantly less receptive to marketing emails during this period than at other times of the day
...read on

Oct 29 2009 on Brand Republic by Pure360

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Don't forget, some of this timing can be taken of for you with the right ESP.

video in email - nearly there?

We appear to be having some progress to actually getting video in emails... literally 'some'!

After my little rant about the over hype of video in email but start getting ready anyway, David Greiner for Campaign Monitor (HTML5 and video in email: October 14, 2009), has done some tests using the <video> tag for HTML5 conventions in various email clients. It didn't play in many but at least the fall back image worked - this could be an animated gif.

I am not sure that Gmail will buy into it so quickly as they are actively pushing their YouTube rendering in the inbox but you never know, we could have another fixoutlook type campaign to get everyone to adopt this new standard or maybe everyone will just go for it - yeah right.

This is definitely a step forward, especially with the fall back image being displayed if the movie cannot be rendered.

econsultancy: Defining trigger, remarketing and behavioural emails

It is important, I think, to define what is going on and what is out there in the market regarding trigger email marketing, behavioural email and remarketing, phrases thrown around and often confused but which have key differences.

I want to hazard some definitions of these terms, and of course I am open to having these challenged...

All businesses pinch vogue terms and use them to describe what they do. The bigger the issue and phrase, the more companies try to ride the bandwagon.

‘CRM’ was the classic example. I wonder how many people out there thought they understood what it meant until before seemingly every supplier in the market place twisted it and applied it to describe what they did!
...read on
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This is a great surface level article about how to do things that are not always at the the top of our list (below, send one message to everyone we have) and how to do it right.
To implement any of this, your ESP should have all of the tools in their tool box, give them a shout, give me a shout or give Pure360 a shout.

Clickconsult: Email marketing: make your campaign attractive

When a visitor to your website, or a customer, opts in to receive your email newsletter you then have to work on keeping them interested. If your periodical emails fail to deliver anything of value, the subscriber may well decide to opt out.

To avoid this happening, work very carefully on creating a captivating email marketing campaign. Only provide information that the subscriber will find useful and relevant to them. Receiving emails that are not interesting to the reader are going to be deleted and not even opened. Therefore, the subject heading has to be attention grabbing. Keep it real though, as making an unbelievable claim is likely to be regarded as junk or spam and be deleted
...read on

Dan, Thursday, October 22nd
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Some good advice from Dan there, keeps it concise and to the point while being understandable and relevant. Many of us might already know all of this but as we know it is easy to get dragged in and articles like this help us keep perspective.

Pure360: A 3 Step Guide to Improving Deliverability

Are you getting good deliverability rates? The chances are you could be doing more to improve them.
Internet Service Providers (ISP's), such as Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo filter emails suspected of being spam. An increasing amount of opt in email is mistakenly being caught by filters, which could be losing your revenue.
Read on for three key factors to focus on, plus our top tips on how to address them.

By Marc Munier, Commercial Director, Pure360 25/09/2009
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The hardest thing is to revive your reputation when it is gone bad. Subsequently, avoid it at all costs. Do your home work early and don't make mistakes, eg: don't buy lists, make sure your unsubscribes and hard bounces are suppressed from all future campaigns. Even you are towing the DMA guidelines and the law, you can't say that to Spamhaus or spam cop, they don't care because their users don't - they have the power, they have given you their trust along with their email address, don't abuse it!

Experian: Retailers Get Ready for Social Shopping Experience

Online shopping is more than just transactional
People have long shared product opinions with friends and family through word-of-mouth. Today, social media tools enable consumers to extend their connections and conduct commerce in powerful new ways
...read on

October 26, 2009

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Social Media IS digital word of mouth!
If you start treating it that way, you may see the success of it.

The whole time you try to control it the more you are going to bang your head against a wall and your 'followers' will turn their backs.

Social media is the child of the new way to market, people who try to use social media in the way they used to market and still want to market - 'pay and spray' are the people who won't make it work.

Scott Write Everything: Wall Street Journal Says Email is Dead?

Wall Street Journal Says Email is Dead; In Other News, Dewey Defeats Truman

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Email has had a good run as king of communications. But its reign is over.”

Wow. Should I alert my email marketing friends? Obviously I need to jump ship before I get too far down this road into this dying medium.

Now I know I shouldn’t get too worked up about this article, because folks have been trying to declare that email is dead for years. First, it was blogs. Then it was RSS feeds. Now it’s Twitter and Facebook. What do all of these communication venues have in common? Two things:

1. They’re wrong! (Hence the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline)

2. You need an email address to use them!
(okay, maybe not RSS, but still, the argument is valid)
...read on

Posted on October 13, 2009 by Scott Cohen

nonprofitmarketingguide: E-Newsletter Makeovers: 5 Easy Design Fixes

Here are five easy design fixes that all revolve around making your e-newsletter as easy to read, as quickly as possible. Most people skim through email quickly, so you want to make it easy on the eyes and easy on the brain. I’m still surprised at how many e-newsletters I see that are really tough to read, simply because someone got a little carried away with the design...read on

Posted by Kivi Leroux Miller on Oct 13, 2009

Email Transmit: The Art of the Email Letter

You wouldn’t create a print newsletter just to send your friend a thank you note.

In email, as in snail mail, a letter is different from a newsletter. It’s shorter, more personal, probably from someone you know, and is most likely about something fairly specific like a personal message, an announcement, a request, or a specific or surprising piece of news.

Here are some tips for creating email letters, as opposed to other types of email communications
...read on
by Anthony Schneider October 13th, 2009

Bronto: Straight Talk on Subject Lines

I’m from New York, so I’m going to give it to you straight. There are some schools of thought that I just don’t buy into when it comes to subject lines.

For example, I don’t believe that your subject line should be less than 55 characters or more than 67 or whatever the studies say. At the end of the day, you can write a long ineffective subject line or you can write a short ineffective subject line. It’s not the number of characters you use that matter, but what you say and how you say it.

Here are the only 4 subject line rules I truly follow
...read on

by Kristen Gregory on October 12, 2009
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I like it, it's the straight talking that gets the trust.

One thing I have noticed about subject lines is a consistent convention can help people find your email more easily. So once you have found the one that works, keep it consistent for the frequent interactors. The people who rarely or never interact, mix it up a lot, what have you got to loose?

BlueSkyFactory: Top five 'Fails' in email

Where there are fails with email marketing practices, Elena Hekimian is here to help!

Guiding email marketers to creative effective, efficient, and lawful email marketing initiatives is my job and I am ALWAYS happy to help. But day after day, I still get pretty shocked at some of the basic email marketing best practices that are misconstrued or completely unknown.

I want to share with you the most common fails that I have been hearing over the past couple of months. So here it goes, my very blunt countdown of The Top 5 Most Common FAILS of Email Marketin
g...read on

September 17th, 2009 by Elena Hekimian

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I'm liking pretty much everything these guys have to say at the moment, really relevant, clear and re-usable stuff.

I haven't had a chance to see what the software itself looks like, but I'd love to have a play with it - hint hint.

New look Get in the Inbox

"Yes I know the site colours keep changing. To be honest, I spent ages making it just right and then realised I'd inadvertently copied Email Marketing Reports, so I tried again and it looked like dotmailer so I did one last one and it is a bit like Pure360's but that'll do"

Econsultancy & Pure360: Why integrate your email marketing software?

A month ago, Pure360's Marc Munier wrote another useful blog post for Econsultancy about integration of your email marketing software.

It is an insightful article from someone who has obviously experienced and solved these problems on more than one occasion.

I my self am often queried about integration and many marketers will either have a panic attack over it because it sounds so technical and intimidating or will be incredibly inconvenienced that they can't just click their fingers. Fortunately this is not the majority.
All it takes is the inclination to really find out what they want at the end of it all not how to actually do it, just the end result. That will bring with it a clarity that will enable other experts, like myself and Marc make sure you get what you need.

- - -

“Marc have you got a minute?” It always starts that way, I take my headphones out of my ears slowly to try and emphasise my disdain at being interrupted from whatever I am doing...

Plucky Account Manager: “So I’ve got this big client and integration is high on their priorities...”
Me: “And?”
PAM “They want a meeting to find out what we can do for them...”
Me: “Right.”
PAM: “Can you come? They have their technical lead there and I don’t want to be out-teched.”
Me: “Why?”
PAM: “Why what?"
Me: “Why do they want to integrate their email marketing software?”
PAM “?” (this indicates bemusement)

And herein lies the problem, people want to integrate their email marketing software with their customer database, but a lot of the time they don’t know why. What are they going to do when all of this data is at their fingertips?

Now I am not saying that people shouldn’t get all their data in one place because your database marketing effects will be far more effective if you do, but I believe that you need to have the following in mind before you start the (potentially painful let’s be realistic) process.
...read on

Twitter replacing email marketing?? that's crazy talk

I've seen quite a few posts and articles over the last year about twitter replacing email. The latest one I have seen was a comment from IT Wales on another article "Twitter may replace email marketing, according to report": September 14, 2009
I suppose I can understand why it could be thought of as newsworthy but quite frankly I'm bored of it all.
Twitter will not and cannot replace email, anyone who really thinks it will is delusional or just so hysterical over twitter it has made them temporarily delusional.
Your inbox is your centre of the digital word, it is the one stop shop where everyone you need to communicate with can if you let them.
Can you see your bank Tweeting you your statement or Amazon tweeting you your receipt - no? good me neither!

I can understand why some overexcite-able individuals might think that the marketing side of things could become dominant but it won't. You don't have the control in Twitter to label, store and prioritise the tweets you receive. It is more of an instant messenger meets mass SMS broadcast on a device. You can tell everyone who wants to hear from you in a click and they can publicly or privately reply but you only get 160 chars. And that's a good thing, no-one's got the attention span for anymore. If you can't get my attention from that 145 chars for me to click the link, you're rubbish and I'm not interested.
if you tweet something about your brand and someone is not look at twitter at the time by the time they get to it, there would have been bags of other tweets and the recipient will still have to sift through them all and decide what warrants a click or a retweet except they can't filter, label and search.

So in conclusion, until we find a replacement technology to give people almost or more complete control over their central point of the internet, email will rule on!
Of course use twitter, every new blog post - tweet it, every new newsletter or marketing email - tweet the on-line view but don't pick one cos its the best and only use that.

iPost: Email subscriber list management: Don’t forget your middle child

"The middle child on your email subscriber list needs some attention.

Those high-achieving oldest children—email subscribers who are active, engaged and likely to purchase—garner a lot of praise and interest. And a good amount of time is spent worrying about those rebellious younger children—those subscribers who have officially opted out.

But what about those who are technically subscribed to your emails, but are inactive and uninterested? These subscribers quickly delete your emails without reading them, but haven’t taken the effort to opt-out. It’s time to think about those middle children, or the “emotionally unsubscribed” as marketing blogger Joanna Lawson Matthew calls them
"...read on
Posted by Bart Schaefer - September 10th, 2009

Captain Inbox says:
Never a truer word spoken, it is very easy to leave these guys to it and focus on the big clickers.
Also if you are already that white noise in their inbox you may have to come from a very different angle to get their attention. For instance a different from domain or address, a new style of subject-line and new creative etc. etc. ask for feedback and start a new dialogue.

sign-up.to benchmark report

Sign-up.to have done their first pretty large scale report.
It's quite a good read with some very interesting stats.

The fact that the government emails have the best stats cannot really be a surprise and from some angles they might as well be dismissed as many of their emails are so necessary they are almost transactional!

Publishing is one to look out for as primarily that market has been more print related and the digital boom has caused some problems for them. With all of today's free on-line content they have all been trying to find ways to keep the advertisers happy while trying to keep the readers paying too. Some papers have gone completely free - and some of them are now giant adverts with some articles, some have found ways to get paid for content on-line and there is more of that to come. I know Robin Kennedy is up to his eye in paid for content strategy for publishers and it is a great concept but a sensitive one.

emailInsider: The Red Phone

How do you reach your customers when it really matters?

The original "Red Phone" on the President's desk was built following the Cuban Missile Crisis. It took U.S. decoders 12 hours to decipher Khrushchev's initial settlement message, during which time Moscow grew impatient at the perceived rebuff and issued even more stern demands. Some thought the entire ordeal could have been parried through clear and immediate communication, so the Red Phone connecting the U.S. and Soviet heads of state was conceived and built.

I'm sure all your email messages are important, and you'd like them attended to in less than 12 hours as well. But some -- conveying a deadline, a member benefit, urgent news or an important announcement that impacts your customers' relationship with you -- are more important than others. If you don't yet have a strategy for escalating your most important missives, it's time to build a Red Phone of your own.

Metaphors aside, here are some elements that should be part of your Red Phone strategy
...read on
by Mike May, Friday, August 28, 2009, 3:30 PM

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Captain Inbox says:
Quite a funny article but covers some things that are often dismissed but can make so much difference. Those little things that readers do not really know that they are noticing and relying on but would really miss if they were not there.

BtoB: How RSS can complement e-mail marketing

"A few years ago RSS (really simple syndication) was being touted as a replacement for e-mail. The technology, the theory went, would let marketers create frequent Web content updates that would then be “pulled” from a subscribed user's RSS reader. Marketers could have people subscribe to RSS news feeds like they did e-mail lists but not have to worry about bounces or deliverability issues. Clearly, though, that didn't happen—and never will.

Instead, RSS has emerged as a strong complementary tool for e-mail marketers, especially as more and more Web content is repurposed in e-mail newsletters. Want to offer an RSS feed to your own subscriber list? Here are four tips courtesy of Derek Harding, CEO of Omnicom Group's Innovyx, an e-mail marketing solutions provider, to help you get started
"...read on

Karen J. Bannan
Story posted: September 3, 2009 - 11:26 am EDT

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Captain Inbox says:
I think RSS is great, most people don't really get it as they only see it as a defunct syndication tool that has been replaced by email and twitter. That's Madness!
So much of the content we see is derived from an RSS feed but we just don't know about it. There are so many places we need to get the same bit of content - facebook, twitter, blog, delicious, the list is endless. It all uses RSS. Twitterfeed is the prime example, it will take the feed from your blog and tweet it for you, it can throw it to Ping.FM which will then updated dozens of other sites all using RSS.

The best thing of all is the ability to use the RSS feed to automate your email marketing!
Nowadays most of our content is a bit bloggy which means that there will be and RSS feed. YOu can just make a parser to rip out the top 3 or 4 posts from your RSS feed and drop it in your email template. You can even do this automatically. Pure360 has a cool tool that allows me to point a message at a url and whenever a delivery is scheduled using that message, Pure360 goes and gets the content from the end of that url. And, if it is the same as the last time it will pause the delivery and tell me - now that is cool!

Email Advisor: A few pointers to help your call-to-action stand out.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "one click wonder" when it comes to email marketing. Today your important call-to-action within any email message needs all the help it can get. A visually well balanced message may combine supporting images, no more than a few different font faces and a layout that compliments your brand. Be mindful, it is easy to let your call-to-action get lost in the creative mix. Choose your visual elements wisely and consider these suggestions to help your recipients quickly identify what you want them to do with your message:...read on

Spotting spam, can you do it, should you make the effort?

Back on the 15 of September Patricio Roblesm for Econsultancy listed out 10 ways to avoid spam in all of it's forms. Were about email.

One of those 6 was "Be careful about unsubscribing" - I believe that this needs some elaboration. The last thing the industry needs is people not trusting the optout link on legitimate emails.
"Surely if the email is legit the recipient will know the sender, be expecting their email and know to trust the optout link" - I hear you cry (faintly in the distance).

Well, there is a lot of email marketing going on and some people don't know it as well as others and as new fads and conventions come about some users just on certain band wagons. For instance on company sends a B2B email once a quarter to a few thousand people, one day they read an article about re-targeting so they get their old list of people and try to bring them back on board. Half of these people might not remember this brand, yes it is not the best practice but it still happens.
If the creative is rubbish you might not even trust to load the images but it still happens.

You need to know what to look for in an email which you do not recognise but has an unsubscribe link. You need to know that when you hit that opt-out link you are actually opting out and not telling a spammer that your address exists.

But what is the point, why care? If you don't recognise it, just hit spam!
Fair point, if the sender gets it wrong, they have abused the trust you have given them so mark it as spam.
If they use an ESP, marking as spam in at least Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL should also get you optout because the EPS should be on their feedback loop. Strangely I can't see Gmail with one, they seem to be about those List Headers!
If not you just tell your email client to not put it in the inbox any more and tell your ISP that this lot or spammers. The ISP then knocks a load of point of the IP reputation of the sender and gets on with it.

Is there a way? Nothing consistent to be honest. The old way was to take the domain out of the email address and paste it into the address bar and see if you get to a web-site that resembles the company sending it.
But nowadays from sending domain is often a dedicated sending domain for email and night not always got back to the home page, often this is a bi-product of using an ESP. This also counts for the links. Mark at Email Marketing Reports wrote a cool one about tracked links - and also said that Pure360 was one of the best too!
So that kicks that idea into touch.

One thing to always check is the link text and the link destination. If the link text you can read on the page says something like www.natwest.co.uk but when you hover over the link and look at the bottom of the browser, where it says where the link is actually going, if it says www.imgonnastealyourmoney.com you can be fairly sure that it is a phishing email. Most email clients will spot this for you and either junk it or a least flag but it is still the first thing to look out for.

A recent load of spam that I have seen is to me and from me. This is quite cheeky as it get past a lot of the filters because my domain is white listed on my email server.

One thing you can always do if you are worried about the optout link but you want to try and optout is to forward the email to abuse@ the domain sending the email and the domain in the reply address if it is different. If there is an ESP that should get you optout out too if it is an agency they'll jump on it and optout you out and if it is a business their postmaster should taker action. IF it is a proper spammer, you'll probably get a hard bounce back!

ecademy: Quick Tips: Content Ideas for Email Marketing Campaigns

"One of the most common questions from companies engaged in Email Marketing is "Help! What do I write about in my email campaigns?"

While they are the subject experts on their products and services, the secret is to 'package' the 'story' in a way that their customers want to hear, and follow some simple time tried and tested techniques such as being relevant and targeting your 'story' to the appropriate audience. This is guaranteed to make that empty space in your copy less intimidating, and create campaign messages that really resonate with customers.

The first thing to remember is that unlike a regular print newsletter that typically runs four or more pages, you don't need a lot of news to send out an email newsletter or campaign. Effective campaigns can be successful based around just one or two items (and these can be short - only a couple of paragraphs long).

Remember, too, that your customers want to hear from you and want to hear your 'story'. So there are many topics that would be of interest to them, that showcases your expertise and knowledge. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you generate content ideas:
"...read on
Jim WebsterPowerNetworker on 22-Aug-09

at the very bottom they are pushing Constant Contact, I say try Pure360 first and I'm as biased as they are.

MediaPost: How Good Do You Want to Be? Taking Bold Steps

by Alex Madison and Lisa Harmon, Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This is a very good article, a bit long, sounds a bit Seth too, which is never bad!

"These are exciting days! With so many developments happening in the email inbox, from technologies like SWYN and video GIFs to "grid-breaking" design innovations, it's fair to feel a little apprehensive about incorporating new ideas into your campaigns. What if the new approaches don't work? What if subscribers are turned off by the unfamiliar? What if we end up trying new things for the sake of novelty at the expense of results?"...read on

Email Copy: the Customer, the Prospect

Back on September the 9th, Marco Marini wrote an interesting article for Clickmail about copy writing in emails and how you have to come from a different angle for customers and prospects.
As per all marketing, it is about empathy. Every recipient has a different perception of your brand due to the rapport you have with them and their experience of your brand.
Obviously you can't write one email per person so you 'normalise' it. Each person gets categorised depending on what we think their perception is based on experience, path of entry, interaction etc. Some categories might be different but might have a a very similar perception and can be merged.

At the end of it all you will have a group of categories with different groups of perceptions. At the very least you are likely to have Customers and Prospects. You might be able to break prospects down depending on how much interaction they have with you. The same might be said of customers, although if they are a frequent buyer, blog commenter, etc. etc. you might be able to less formal than you are with someone who buys once or twice a year.

You then decide how you want to communicate with these groups of people and write different messages or content blocks.

Does this seem familiar? It sounds like profiling again only with copy and not content!

This is something that is often missed. We decide how are brand says and phrases things and we do it consistently, we then change the content to make sure each person gets the email that they are most likely to respond positively to but we never consider changing the felling of our words!

Worth a thought, I do write differently to friends than I do strangers and it is the same with customers and prospects depending on how they are. A customer that I hardly ever hear from will be written to formerly while a prospect that I have a laugh with but just can't close the deal will get swear words!

BlueSkyFactory: 5 Things All Email Marketers Need to Know

September 23rd, 2009 by Amy Garland

So you want to be an email marketer, huh?

All you need to do is buy a list, set up the email, hit send, and you’ll see a spike in sales, right? WRONG. While email is an effective marketing channel, there are a few rules - unwritten and written - that all email marketers need to know. While this list is beneficial for beginners, it also serves as a reminder to the pros out there. So, without further ado, here are the 5 Things All Email Marketers Need to Know
...read on

- - -
Another classic from BlueSkyFactory - love your work Amy.
Everyone should read it once, because While this list is beneficial for beginners, it also serves as a reminder to the pros out there.

Certified Spam?

Yesterday I had a little exchange with Return Path after I quoted someone's opinion that if you are a good sender, you won't need certification and if you need certification, you're unlikely to pass the permission tests to qualify in the first place! Return Path made a good point that the images do get loaded automatically and then got a bit confusing about how fully permitted campaigns can still get better results with certification but without any clear reason?

Then morning I found Tamara Gielen's post about getting an email that she'd never heard of who is Goodmail Certified?
Oh dear, there may be a chance that Goodmail are too busy getting sued to vet their customers properly or was there just a bag load of money? I'm sure Goodmail did everything they could to ensure that every address had permission though!

If certification will get you better results even with the best deliverability already, what is the difference? Does it bypass personal spam filter training to avoid false positives, are ISPs deliberately harsher on non-certified email's IP and creative, does certification completely write off IP reputation?

Also if you see my comment on Tamara's post - spot the deliberate typo

Unsubscribe Options and Feedback 2: Optout Reasons

In a follow up to their post "Listen to your reader’s unsubscribe feedback" which I mentioned in "Unsubscribe Options and Feedback" Email Garage has come up with some stats.
They even suggested asking about feedback options when you collect the address in the first place. That's a great idea, I wish I'd thought of it - oh!

In the latest post Why email subscribers unsubscribe, check out the stats...read on
- -

I suppose it is not a new stat and appears to be staying quite static this year.
It all comes down to the same thing - don't email people content that they have not asked for and won't want...Sherlock

Holiday list hammering can really screw you up

A cracking article from Stefan Pollard for ClickZ on Sep 9 2009, called "Avoid Desperate E-Mail Tactics This Holiday" covers a very good overview of today's deliverability concerns and some of the causes.
It goes from old school spam reports to the latest plans for domain reputation, worth a read but it's quite long!
- - -

On the subject of holidays, it is really easy to really bugger up your reputation as a sender, not just with the ISPs but with your recipients!

You want to really make sure that every one gets the best chance to buy from you but also you can overload them and scare them away.

Pure360 has a cheeky little check box called Contact Frequency Limiter. You can set it to only send an email to one address every X number of days and Pure360 sorts the rest out.
I don't use because I profile but if you are a generic sender this could save your list!

E-Mail Versus Twitter?

E-Mail Versus Twitter? Errr, email. Bill McCloskey explained for ClickZ on Aug 27, 2009...read on

- - -
Twitter's somewhere between an RSS feed that you can reply publicly to and an instant messenger that everyone else can see, with an SMS interface.

It works but it can drag you in so far you can lose perspective. You can forget that 80% of your readers, customers etc. might not interact with you this way but they do and will do in other ways. Also this Twitter 20% might not be the 20% that accounts for 80% of your revenue - don't get dragged in, remember it for what it is and use it with quality and not quantity.

And yes, I stopped following you cos I don't care what you had for breakfast, what you bought from the shops and I really don't care how your dentist appointment went! Unless you're Stephen Fry...but only just... you'd best keep it funny Steve!

WordtotheWise: Goodmail sued for patent infringement

21 Sep 2009, Laura, Word to the Wise: Late last week RPost sued Goodmail for infringing two patents. One patent authenticates content and delivery of documents. The second verifies the message was received by the recipient...read on
- - -

Oh dear!

Wise man say:
If you need to pay the likes of Goodmail and Return Path to get in the inbox, you probably won't pass their tests to qualify for it.
If you pass their tests to qualify, you don't actually need them!

oooh, controversial!

Apology Emails

It's that time again, every so often we get another, very similar, in-depth Apology email article.
This article by Stefan Pollard, for ClickZ, Aug 26, 2009 is one of them but as it is for Clickz it is particularly detailed and accurate...read on
- -

In my experience, while you should obviously avoid needing to apologise but when you do, that apology email could bring you that much closer to your customer base.

I remember getting a call from a travel company I worked with who had put a typo in the merge field so instead of "Dear [firstname]", they actually got the word firstname rather than the actual firstname from the list and it was in the subject line!

They were on the phone to me as soon as the first replies came in: "stop the delivery", "take it back" , "can't you hack in and change it?" quite delirious.

We calmed them down and talked them through the structure, copy and subject line for an immediate apology email written from the person who actually made the typo, the marketing manager! This email had more replies than any other email campaign ever, in fact they might have had more replies in that one campaign than all campaigns had received in the last 12 months!

It revolutionised their marketing because it opened the dialogue and this was BEFORE TWITTER!

Ads in Emails

The legend of Jeanne Jennings has written two articles, for Clickz, about 3rd party advertising in your marketing emails.
Tips for Selling Ads in E-mail Newsletters, Part 1 & Tips for Selling Ads in E-mail Newsletters, Part 2

It is something that a lot of people would like to do but cannot allocate the amount of time it takes to actually implement in a way that does not annoy the recipients.

This is a complex thought process but can be extremely lucrative if done correctly.

It is not something that can work for everyone and more often than not it is more suited for content publishers than on-line sellers. This is mainly because senders with an e-commerce click through target want everything to go to their shop and not risk competitors as the ads would normally be trying to do that too.

At the surface level you decide where on the email the ads are going to go and then if everyone will be getting the same ads or you want to make it targeted. I expect most people to be doing the same ads for everyone.

Then you decide how you are going to charge: one sum to have the ad on there - yellow pages style; cost per click - Google Ads style; cost per acquisition - don't bother cos you can't control the landing pages.

If you have the profiling available for each person you could really go to town on it and make the ads dynamic depending on the interests and behavioural actions you have per recipient! This could be stage two, once you have recorded the Ad actions of recipients on the generic ads, you may then have enough data to target. You could also push small surveys here and there to help this better - a bit like the preference centres extension.

Some companies will do a dedicated 3rd party mailing once a month or so, this can be more lucrative in bursts but over time you are likely to see the list shrink.

Either way the important thing is to take ownership of the ads and make sure that the recipients know that it is still you, only you get their data and you don't share it with anyone else!

This can be a good complementary revenue stream to your normally emailings but as soon as you start thinking of it a separate thing or allow it to take priority over the reason why people signed up in the first place your list and your relationship with your customers will suffer.

It was Seth Godin who said that interruption is bad, so don't allow the ads to get in the way of the content on the page but it is not interrupting if the content you supply is accompanied by ads which complement the content in a non intrusive way.
For the actual implementation tips check out Jeanne's articles from Aug 10, 2009 & Aug 24, 2009.

Finally, normally you put the Ads on the right to stop stops them intruding on the main content. This is because people read from the left.
But one thing I've noticed and something that Google tried recently, is that if you put the Ads on the left they will get more clicks!
You have to decide if your recipients will tolerate, or even notice, that they have to read your content from further over in the screen!

Vetical Response: 29 Ways to Collect Email Addresses for Your Business

September 15, 2009

There are a ton of ways to get people to sign up for your email marketing offers. I've put together a list for you to read, so you know all of the ways you can be growing your list.

1. Put an offer on the back of your business cards to get people to sign up for your newsletter.
2. Tradeshows - Bring a clipboard or sign-up book with you to tradeshows and ask for permission to send email to those who sign up.
3. Include a newsletter sign-up link in your signature of all of your emails.
4. Send an opt-in email to your address book asking them to join your list.
5. Join your local chamber of commerce, email the member list (if it's opt-in) about your services with a link to sign up to your newsletter
, for the other 24...read on

I have one thing to add, make sure you send them all at least a welcome email. Whether it is an immediate transactional response to the sign-up or a campaign to the list you gathered at a face to face event. In fact with face to face events and trade shows with today's mobile internet could might consider adding them to the list there and then but there is the argument that the next day message would be good.

BlueSkyFactory: Preference Centres - I'd take it further

This is the second time today I have had the opportunity to mention a previous post - I hope that doesn't mean I've covered it all now?

Anyway, a while back I mentioned email preference centres and it came up again recently when talking about Unsubscribe surveys.

About two weeks ago, BlueSky factory took the old Burger King slogan "Hold the pickles hold the lettuce special orders don’t upset us, have it your way" and stated that "Email marketing should be this way too" which follows on nicely from their article "I Just Don’t Love You Anymore" published two week before.

They say that "There are several ways to allow your readers to have it their way"
1. When they opt-in
2. By having options on your subscriber preferences page
3. By sending a specific email asking readers to update their preferences

Obviously I am a fan of this concept and so far I think the Clickz preference centre is the best one but BlueSky's article also gives some great examples.

Personally I don't think BlueSky went far enough...

Yes ask them about categories and frequency as early as possible and always allow them to change their minds, always do that but there is more...

In the grand scheme of things you might want to know so much more about them in order target them better. You might - should - be taking your recipients' responses back to your marketing database/warehouse and comparing them with your web analytics, ecommerce etc. etc. Also categories may change and you can't just email people about the new categories until they change their preferences, they might just opt-out.

That kind of information would be one giant survey and no-one will take the time to fill that in unless you are giving them something very expensive for free.

Robin Kennedy calls it "Profiling" and I agree. The key is to ask a bit at a time. Profiling needs to be a gradual thing as you build that trust, that rapport, that dialogue!

Every so often have an underlying theme in a message which would relate to a section of your profiling and include a link to a small form to collect just that information, maybe 3-5 questions with multiple choice predefined answers. Obviously don't start with personal stuff as you have not built enough of a rapport yet.
Alternatively just see if any of your messages relate to part of the profile you are trying to build and stick a link in the message.

Imagine all of your Web-analytics data, ecommerce data, email marketing reporting data, and everything else all query-able from one spot! This is possible and without a great amount of data migration.
If you like the idea give Apteco a shout and ask about Faststats. They might even be at Ad:tech.
It also has full loop integration with Pure360 and it's really pretty too! Don't forget to let them know who referred you either!

Robin told me he has been working with a few companies on profiling strategies for brands through Pure360 and it sounds pretty exiting. You could even ask him about it at Ad:Tech London next week.

Domain Reputation 2: List Headers - the way forward?

To follow on from my previous post "Domain Reputation - it's gotta be a good thing" I've found out a bit more and I'm sure this will become more and more popular and maybe even the standard.

The short version is:
There are some extra bits and bobs which can be put in email headers which allow ISPs and Inbox Hosts to know where to forward emails to in order to unsubscribe someone, just like a feedback loop!
I reckon all EPSs and email marketing software developers should use incorporate it and if not why not?

Allow me to elaborate:

A couple of articles from Lashback, one in on July 23rd and the other appears undated, started me off looking into List Headers.

It is a very interesting concept, although the technology has been around for years, it has not been embraced until recently when Google rolled out their "Unsubscribe and Report Spam" button. This reportedly uses these list headers in pretty much the same way as a feedback loop. Now while Return Path's feedback loop is becoming more popular with the big ISPs, Google, being Google, has decided not to follow the likes of Yahoo but to use existing technology to do the work for them and not pay anyone for the privilege.

As far as I can tell at the moment, the standards were created a while ago to enable mailing list members to control their subscription options by sending an email and the settings would be automatically be controlled, instead of have a person reading emails and taking actions.

This seems quick obvious to me and I am wondering why it was not used by the first ESPs, maybe someone who worked at Buongiorno in their email days can tell me?

Anyway, the standards RFC 2369 and RFC 2919 basically involve putting particular names and values in the header. One of them being the email address to forward the email to for the unsubscribe and another being the email-id which is the unique id for that mail to that recipient from that sender. Any decent ESP will employ some form of unique identifier in each email.
Google will see that they are there and give the reader the option of mark as spam and unsubscribe and then they will forward that email back to the unsubscribe address and the sender will pick up the email-id opt that recipient out.

Those ESPs who already plug into ESP feedback loops (Pure360) will find this easy to integrate, other EPS who employ an automated abuse@ opt-out mechanism too (Pure360 - yes, I know, I'm biased) would probably just use that address at the very least.

- - -

When someone marks an email as spam, there is a very good chance that every other email afterwards will go to their junk folder. Subsequently, not only will the sender begin sending an email that is highly unlikely to get seen, sending consistently to the junk folder harms the IP reputation. So ISPs will notify the sender, the sender will opt that person out and then no more emails will be send straight to junk. In fact Hotmail and Yahoo tell us that marking as spam is the same as an unsubscribe request.

Not every ISP has a feedback loop.
Some, Outblaze for instance, will only give a feedback loop to guaranteed double opt-ins. To be honest that seems like utter madness, IF YOU ONLY SEND FULLY DOUBLE OPTIN EMAILS - YOU WOULDN'T NEED A FEED BACK LOOP

This List Header method could make it very easy for everyone to have a feedback loop without paying a company loads of cash or completely updating their technology.

If, as rumoured, this also ties into future domain reputation, we could all have a lot more control over our own deliverability and that is definitely a good thing!

I think all ESPs should do this and open that door for ISPs and Inbox hosts who want to use it! and if not, why not?...discuss

Or am I talking utter twaddle?

CIO: Top 10 Spam-Friendly Registrars Named and Shamed

Thu, February 05, 2009 Robert McMillan:
"IDG News Service - When it comes time for spammers to register their Internet domain names, some companies are more popular than others.

Spam-fighting organization KnujOn has released a report on the top 10 registrars it has linked to spam and other illicit activity. It found that some companies have cleaned up their act in recent months and that others -- most surprisingly Network Solutions and GoDaddy sister company Wild West domains -- have suddenly popped up on the list
"...read on

Benchmark email: Common Email Marketing Mistakes

Back in August (Aug 22 2009) Benchmark Email wrote an interesting piece about what 'not' to do...

"Email marketing, if carried out in the right way, is extremely economical and can provide you with some spectacular results. Best email marketing results require a moral, and extensively detailed plan to be in place. Setting this plan in place usually takes up a substantial amount of thought and energy; this is something a lot of email marketers fail to give consideration to.

To avoid making typical beginner mistakes, take a look at our list of common email marketing mistakes
"...read on

Robin Kennedy at Ad:tech London

I've just been informed that a good mate of mine, Robin Kennedy, will be doing a Seminar at Ad:tech next week called:
"Email - to Blast, to Broadcast, or enter into Dialogue?".

Robin is one of the most knowledgeable people on email I have ever met and great laugh to work and socialise with.
Anybody who wants to learn something, anything or almost everything about email marketing should make sure they attend whenever this guy's doing any seminar.

This Ad:tech seminar is on the Tuesday 22nd Sept, 3.50pm - 4.20pm in the Email Marketing Thaetre.

Be there!

SEOhosting: Make Your Links Count

"Usability expert Jakob Nielsen once said that email marketing is “probably the single highest ROI-action you can take to improve your internet presence.” Some studies have shown that an effective email marketing campaign can generate an ROI of nearly $10 for every $1 spent. Research by the Direct Marketing Association concluded that email marketing outperformed all other direct marketing methods in ROI.

In other words, email marketing is a highly effective tool for putting money in your pockets. At the core of email marketing is linking. Within your newsletters, you’ll be asking your customers to click links to learn more about your products and services and to take action on special deals.

To help you get the most from those links, I’ve come up with this short list of email marketing linking tips
"...read on

Written by: Eric Brantner Aug 2009

Have you been de-prioritised?

I've mentioned a couple of times that recipients can de-prioritise you to a brand that they do not want to forget but aren't going to do anything about now.

This ties in with Seth Godin's "being remarkable" and always having a good story (As Seth has written soo much great stuff - these two links are actually Google Searches - pick your own blogs or videos).

On the 20th of August Kara Trivunovic for MediaPost's Email Insider wrote "Can You Walk And Chew Gum?" which is a great real life example of how people can see your emails and prioritise accordingly...read on

Popup sign-up forms! Are you sure?

Two weeks ago I saw a tweet from Vertical Response, recommending using a pop-up window with a subscribe form to pop-up when someone leaves the site.
While I can see the attraction, as a last grab at getting someone's details, if you have to ask then, there is something wrong with your site!
To be honest, if a site tried that with me I would not go back to it.
Sites with pop-ups are traditionally not trustworthy and are to avoided.
Don't do it!
I also believe that my opinion is shared by Andrew Kordek and All Web Email amongst others.

Passive Recipients: rescue emails

As we all should be doing now, there is a sign-up form on pretty much every page of our sites to collect just the email address and maybe the first name. We did this to make subscribing as easily as possible. Then down the line we might ask for more details in order to better profile our subscribers.
Over time some people just stop interacting with our emails, they stay on the list, we send them the emails they requested but we get nothing from them. You don't want to just remove them from the list because they still might have money to spend.

Firstly we have to think about why they are not doing anything with our emails but have not opted out, there are a few reasons:
  • They marked an email as spam but their provider did not have a feedback loop so all future emails from our address go to junk but the there was no way for us to know to unsubscribe them.
  • They got a new really sensitive filter and/or safelister which is causing a false positive and we are not on their safelist/addressbook.
  • They did not give us their primary email address so we go to their second or third email address which they don't ever really check but they need it in case they don't trust a web-site or they need it as an login, eg: primary Gmail users will still have Yahoo so they can access places like Flickr etc.
  • They moved primary email address and did not see fit to tell us - eg: moved from Hotmail to Gmail

So we need to know if they are still interested but we need to get in front of them to find out without spamming! what do you do?
Personally if you can do it, get a second email address with a different domain to send from, take the passive recipients and send them one email asking them to confirm their subscription. We use a different domain because there is a chance that their inbox's self learning filter will use your email address and sending domain to block emails.
The email's call to action confirm subscription should be a link to click, which sends them a welcome message - preferably with reporting on opens and clicks, anyone who does not take action, remove them from the list, you are just wasting bandwidth and harming deliverability if you are going to junk.
Anyone who hits opt-out on this, 'rescue campaign' should be opted-out from everything so they do not get any other emails, apart from transactional emails, until they manually opt back in again from a sign-up form of clicking that link in the rescue email.

Also, the welcome message we send people when they sign-up should come from the same email address as the emails they are signing up for. This should make it as easy as possible for them to add you to their safelist straight away, that is assuming we are all asking people to do so!!
If you are uber permission and use double-opt-in (love your work) it is not always possible to send that email from the same address as the campaign emails, in this situation you should make sure that email address is in the content and you can ask them from there.

As long as the rescue email is brand compliant and you are up front and honest with why you are sending them the email and what you want to them to do, you should maintain the trust enough to get an honest answer and then have a clean list.

Part of this idea has come from common sense, empathy and experience.
Some of it came from the Spamhaus permission pass
I was triggered to blog this idea by an article from Cakemail on 27/08/2009 called Blacklists and Spam Reporting Services are our Friends.

I have considered this approach carefully from a spammy point of view and I know this is easily abused if only part of the process is followed, but please let me know if I have missed something and it is more spammy than I thought!- Cap.

Unsubscribe Options and Feedback

The last thing any of us want is for someone to unsubscribe but even if we get everything right, sometimes people's priorities change and they just don't want our emails anymore.

Obviously there are some common reasons that people opt-out that are our fault, eg: poor creative, bad subject lines, un-remarkable content, frequency to high etc. etc.
Some of these can be handled before sending the emails by just spending a little more time empathising with the audience and focussing on why you are actually emailing them in the first place and then ironing out your priorities.

Once someone who has the email decides they want to optout, obviously we make it easy: click a link submit a form. That does not mean that your relationship is over, it just means that from their most recent experience they do not want those emails anymore.

What ever you do with the opt-out form, avoid asking them to enter their email address, that scares people. If people think that anyone can enter any email address and press go to opt it out, they won't trust you and that can domino down to other parts of your core business.

Now this optout form can do more than just let someone optout...

Apex Auctions and Pure360 found that Apex's problem was that they were sending too many irrelevant emails as everyone was on the same list. Pure360 built them a preference centre so people could tell them what they wanted to be emailed about. Apex started sending a lot less emails, but everyone was getting emailed about the products they were interested in, retention went up, ROI went up and then subscriber acquisition went up.

I would also suggest considering collecting feedback at the that point, to elaborate on a post from EmailGarage, maybe a tiny survey or just a text area for comments. personally a survey would easier to transfer in to stats and would require less resources mind you. with the results you can easily and quickly keep an eye out to see if you are doing some thing wrong.

BlueSkyFactory blogged about an optout page that also gave you the choice to specify how many emails a week in their opt-out form. I'm not realy a fan because if you think about it how would you manage that? You send 3 emails out in one week but some people are only letting you send one - which one do you send?
I love Clickz's subscription page, they give you a tick box for everything they publish and then a tick box to manage the frequency - so I can either get an email every time a new article is published on one of my chosen catagories or I can get a weekly email with a snippet and link for everything.

Giving the recipient as much control as possible and being as up front as you can, will earn you trust and get you interactions.
Especially nowerdays when so much content is bloggy, the RSS feed can easily be used to grab content, format it into email html and email it out depending on the rules defined by the users. It can be really easy and low maintenance, I think it's great.

Domain Reputation - it's gotta be a good thing

I've read a bag load of talk about ISPs moving towards domain reputation over IP reputation.
Personally, I think it's about bleeding time!

So many companys' emails come from a shared sending platform where more than one brand will send from the same IP address, it seems silly not to use something that separates and identifies the senders - the sending domain.

A small complexity is how that will be identified because the from address for the recipeint's eyes and the from address in the envelope are often different but I'm sure they'll come up with something.

I also had a chat with a particularly intelligent System Administrator yesterday who speculated that this domain reputation could also be linked to the abandonment of feedback loops from ISPs? But that is another post.

Domain reputation cannot come fast enough, although one article I read speculated that some places will be using DKIM and others (Micorsoft) will be using Sender ID (not the ReturnPath one).
This is where it gets ambiguous! Already we have to chose between an spf record and and senderID depending on where you mainly want to send to, if you have mainly hotmail and yahoo you go with senderID, if you are mainly B2B you go with SPF, or do you??

I love the idea but I'll need more details before I am going to rely it, seeing as so many things have been tried and not made anough of a difference to separate the trillion or so spam mails sent a day from our few million sales and marketing emails.

BenchmarkEmail's 8 top tips to compelling copy

For some reason we don't always focus on the copy, it's only the writing, as long as people can read it'll be fine.

Well, it does help to do it well, there are more pedants out there than we think and to be honest with our selves, most of us are a little too. So why drag their attention away from our meaning by giving them bad spelling, grammar and copy to distract them.

Benchmark email has written a nice little post on Aug 05 2009 called "Writing Compelling Email Marketing Copy" with 8 easy tips to stay mindful of...read on


EmailAdvisor: Pointers for optimizing your HTML Email messages

One of the most tedious thing about email is the html rendering ambiguities, it really gets boring!
Even with the Email Standards Project, we are all still up against the control freakishness that is Outlook, which is just being awkward cos it can and like to show off how much market share it has by making everything more complicated and watching the rest of us rush around to comply. GGGrrrrr! ... and relax,

Email Advisor has a couple of tips here which makes thing a little easier once you have ready the Email Standard project: the article was in June some time and is called "Pointers for optimizing your HTML Email message"...read on


EmailDirect: Email Marketing Inhouse is a bad idea

I'll always say that as long as you never get marked as spam and every email address is double opt-in, you'll never have to worry about deliverability until you start trying send in the millions, well over 600k at a time to be safe!

I can't really name any brand that I've interacted with in email terms that would send that kind of volume of sales and marketing email whilst having full on all singing all dancing permission all day every day.

Subsequently, these people should never go in house, they should use and ESP.

I like Richard King's post for Email Direct on August 16, 2009 called "Why Doing Email Marketing In-house is a Bad Idea" it breaks it down pretty well...read on

Emotion causes interaction

With today's requirements for dialogue in email marketing you need ways to get that interaction.
Obviously you need the framework at the back end, whether it is one person replying to emails, a blog or a sophisticated CMS with all of the frills, as long as people can interact with you and each other you're a away.

Now you need a reason for someone to interact; typically you'll be posting blog posts and asking for opinions, maybe tweeting links to the posts and updating your Facebook status at the same time but not everyone comments, many people will read it and that'll be that.
You will probably find it is the same people each time commenting and retweeting and that is all good - pay them attention - but you want more people doing it, people who would not normally get involved.
How do you do that?
Make them care more?
How do you do that?
Do or say something that'll spark their emotion, make them feel inclined to get involved and preferably emotionally obligated to interact but without burning any bridges!

There are a few things you can do, some are quite risky like annoy people so that they retort or you can give them the power and the tools to make it is easier, reward them for their interactions, make feel them part of the brand more.

Using polls is a good idea and on Aug 22 2009 there was a useful article from Benchmark Email called "Using a website Poll to build traffic" which supports this idea and gives some really handy tips...read on

MobilizeEmail: Not respecting your subscribers can be extremely damaging to your business

August 17th, 2009
"Always send your subscribers content that they subscribed to receive and nothing else. If you subscribed to receive information on the latest wine specials from New Zealand wineries you would not expect to receive special deals on trips to Fiji.

Well, one company did send their subscribers content that a subscriber thought was not relevant and found out that sometimes this can massively backfire especially if one of the subscribers is a very influential blogger
"...read on

- - -
Permission, permission, permission!

White House Spamming

The blogosphere has been full of articles about the Whitehouse spamming people recently. I belive we tried it in the UK a while back but they didn't do their home work and spent loads of cash on a poor solution where the emails were actually sent from US servers! - Dime bar anyone?

Anyway, people in the US have been complaining that the Whitehouse emailed them when they had not opted in.
Two articles that seem to cover it quite well are:
White House Email Acquisition Controversy, by Chris Wheeler on August 14, 2009 for BrontoBlog
White House sending spam?, by Laura 14 Aug 2009 for Word to the Wise.

It's a tight one as while you do need permission to email people to avoid being a spammer there is also some arguments that some content from the government are required, whether it is email or paper. Where do you draw the line?

At what point does information from your government, how every it is delivered, move from marketing (propaganda) to transactional (info that everyone must have).

In the UK:
Should they create email addresses for everyone registered to vote in the UK using maybe their National Insurance Number and communicate that way?
If I could vote digitally that would make my lifer easier but I'm pretty tekki, it would be a great risk to expect that many people to be able to do it and keep it secure.
I expect with all of the forgotten passwords it'll cost too much to run as you'll need people to work it. Maybe in 50 years time!

Of course you also have thing that the government want to do but need the support of parliament and the people to do it, so would their direct communication directly to us count as propaganda or keeping us informed?

You don't have to watch the news if you don't want to, you don't have to buy a news paper, you don't have to search for it on the internet so you shouldn't have to have emailed to you whether you want it or not?

Hhmmm it's a thinker!

Lyris: What Good is a Click?

That is a very good question, we've been on about the difference between render-rates and opening-rate and email html standards for so, we've forgotten the reason for the email in the first place - to get the click through to the web-site!!!

Obviously on 14th Aug 2009 Dan Miller hadn't when he wrote "What Good is a Click?" for Lyris.
Have a look see what you think...read on