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Seminar on Email Compliance on Nov. 3 in New York

This 4-hour seminar in New York is part of a ground-breaking series of email compliance-focused events. This specific seminar will cover the LashBack and UnsubCentral processes and deliverables within a framework of educating participants as to the need for comprehensive compliance process as a foundation to successful email marketing and email reputation protection.

Participants will learn the 10 Guidelines of CAN-SPAM compliance, with drill down on unsubscribe compliance, unsubscribe processes including suppression list best practices, the new FTC unsubscribe rule and compliance's overall impact on reputation and deliverability.

Email Compliance: The Foundation of Reputation and Deliverability
Produced by the Email Experience Council and the Direct Marketing Association
Monday, Nov. 3 at 1pm
eec/DMA Seminar Center, New York

Speakers:
John Engler, Vice President and General Manager, UnsubCentral
Bennet Kelley, Esq., Founder, The Internet Law Center
James O'Brien, Director of Marketing, LashBack

This seminar is $99, but eec members can get $20 off using the discount code "eecM."

>>Register Now for this seminar!

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Two-Click Survey Results: Are you in compliance with the new CAN-SPAM rules that went into effect in July?

The answer…
45% –> Yes, because the new rules didn't require any changes.
34% –> Yes. We've made the necessary changes.
2% –> No, but we're evaluating what changes are needed.
19% –> No. We weren't aware that new CAN-SPAM rules were issued.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this unscientific survey.

Are you surprised by the results? Share your comments below.

Also, visit the eec homepage to answer the latest Two-Click Survey question:
How long is too long to go between sending emails to a subscriber?

–>See more Two-Click Survey Results.

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MAKE IT POP!: Know the Lingo - Email Anatomy from Head to Footer

Diving headlong into the world of email creative is tough if you don't have all the lingo down. Here's a handy cheat sheet for those who are still polishing their grasp on the glossaries, and a brush up on definitions and best practices for those who already know their stuff:

(1) The Preheader
These small and subdued text blurbs at the top of your emails are getting more play these days. Particularly as more folks browse their inboxes from mobile devices, this first glimpse of the main message becomes your crucial chance to grab their interest. A preheader informs a recipient of what the email is about, how to view it with images and/or from a mobile device, and how to ensure future delivery via content teaser snippet(s), the "view with images" prompt and/or the "add to address book" prompt. Think about what text snippet you want customers to see first. Probably something a little more engaging than "If you are having trouble viewing this email with images…"

(2) Header and Navigation
This often takes the form of a colored banner and encompasses anything that lies between your preheader and main message. It's the space for your company logo, and—depending on the message content—it may also include menu items that link to other pages of your site, just in case the main message doesn't quite strike the fancy of the viewer.

(3) Primary Message
Your email's big push deserves a lot of attention from you since you're looking to earn the attention of your subscribers. A harmonious balance of headline, body copy and supporting images delivers maximum impact. This should include a prominent primary call-to-action (ideally in the form of a big, beautiful, "bulletproof" button!) and a link to a landing page with a cohesive look and message that will maintain enough interest to turn that clickthrough into a conversion.

(4) Table of Contents
These come in handy for longer, newsletter-form emails that contain tons of content, allowing customers to skip right to what interests them rather than having to scroll all the way down. The TOC works most effectively as a bulleted list at the top of your email that is anchor tagged to hotlink directly to content. Fitting this into your preview pane, along with your primary message and call-to-actions, will also help it gain enough attention to earn its keep.

(5) Submessage(s)
Adding secondary and tertiary messages to your email gives you the opportunity to present another story or two. Just make sure you don't lose your viewers in a maze of information. Keep it clean with visual prompts like color, strong headlines, imagery and graphics. Submessages are usually organized in a siderail or layer-caked below the primary message.

(6) Recovery Module
This is your final outpost, your last chance to capture the clickthrough of anyone who may have sailed through your main message or submessages. The recovery module is often a bar at the bottom of the email that includes a list of links to your site, or potentially an incentive to grab your subscribers' interest before they slip back to their inboxes.

(7) Footer
Using the same sort of subdued, "legalese" text that comprises the header, this is another place to include the essential nuts-and-bolts info. The unsubscribe link is tucked away here along with company contact details, "forward to friend" and customer service links. And of course, make sure it's CAN-SPAM compliant!

Now that you know all the lingo, can you identify all seven message components across these two REI emails?
–> REI Triathalon
–> REI Paddling Newsletter

Talk the talk; walk the walk!

As ever,
Lisa Harmon of Smith-Harmon

–>Read other Make it Pop! posts.

3 Comments »

Two-Click Survey Results: What is the primary metric by which you measure the success of your subject line A/B tests?

The answer…
42% –> Open rate
13% –> Click rate
18% –> Click-to-open rate
26% –> Conversion rate

Are you surprised by the results? Share your comments below.

Also, visit the eec homepage to answer the latest Two-Click Survey question:
Are you in compliance with the new CAN-SPAM rules that went into effect this month?

–>See more Two-Click Survey Results.

4 Comments »

THE EMAIL ADVOCATE: FTC Finally Issues Final CAN-SPAM Rules

From the eec's Member RoundtablesLast week the Federal Trade Commission announced its approval of a "new rule provision under the CAN-SPAM Act," and it was a long time coming—fully 3 years after the Commission first issued the May 2005 discretionary Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that lead up to it.

I'm not going to spend time here going through all the rules and "rulings"—they're relatively straightforward and you can read about them here. Instead, I want to call attention to what I view as the most important victories our industry gained here:

● The FTC preserved the 10 business day opt-out period. In 2005 they had proposed reducing it to only 3 business days.

● The FTC made it easier for marketers to assign a single "Sender" when it comes to "multiple advertiser" campaigns. The perceived "grey area-ness" of law on this issue had been a big concern for many firms.

Concerted industry advocacy—which is so core to the mission of the eec and DMA and their members—played a central role in last week's final outcome. We are also fortunate that the FTC was so open to hearing our views and so interested in learning about the inner-workings of the industry.

More than a hundred of us submitted formal comments to the FTC, and many even met with agency staff to voice our perspectives and concerns about the NPRM in person. And in the official Federal Register notice detailing the new rule provision, the impact of our collaborative efforts is apparent throughout. See for example, on page 81, where the Commission notes:

…the time period for processing opt-out requests required by legitimate commercial emailers varies, and often exceeds three business days depending upon a number of factors, including the size of the business, the existence of third-party marketing agreements, and the maintenance of multiple email databases.

and

Approximately 100 commenters addressed the issue of whether the period for opt-out compliance should be reduced. The vast majority—over 85%—opposed reducing the time frame to less than 10 business days.

Bottom line: Your voice can and does need to be heard to ensure that the email marketing landscape continues to grow and prosper—and that your consumers have the best possible email experiences when doing business with your brands.

The FTC may have issued the last of its CAN-SPAM rules but the members of the eec have a lot more advocating to do. We need to get more ISPs up-and-running with authentication, accreditation and reputation protocols. We need more "unsub" buttons and feedback loops.

My co-chair Robb Walters of Costco Wholesale and I would love to hear your thoughts. What else do we need, and what do you think it will take for us to get there? Comment here or email us, and stay tuned for information about our next Advocacy Roundtable meeting.

—eec Advocacy Roundtable co-chair Jordan Cohen of Goodmail Systems

–>Read other issues of the The Email Advocate.

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Members-Only Conference Call About New CAN-SPAM Rules on May 16

Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003. Intended to clarify CAN-SPAM's requirements, the new provisions address four topics:

1. An e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender.

2. The definition of "sender" was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act's opt-out requirements.

3. A "sender" of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act's requirement that a commercial e-mail display a "valid physical postal address."

4. A definition of the term "person" was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM's obligations are not limited to natural persons.

The Direct Marketing Association is hosting a conference call, which is only open to Email Experience Council and DMA members, to brief members on what the new CAN-SPAM rules mean.

FTC's New CAN-SPAM Rules
Hosted by the Direct Marketing Association
Friday, May 16 at 1pm EST

–>If you are an eec or DMA member, you can register by emailing government@the-dma.org.

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THE EMAIL ADVOCATE: HGH—It's Not Just a Baseball Problem

From the eec's Marketing RoundtablesEarlier this month a federal judge ordered a Las Vegas-based company to pay a whopping $2.5 million fine for making false advertising claims and sending illegal email messages in violation of the FTC Act and the CAN-SPAM Act. The company was sending unsolicited email to people promoting human growth hormone (HGH) related drugs (you know, the stuff that Roger Clemens never took).

The judge found that the defendants violated the FTC Act (which outlaws fraudulent and deceptive business practices) because their ads falsely claim that the drugs cause rapid, substantial and permanent weight loss, in addition to having anti-aging qualities.

But what makes the case most interesting for our Roundtable's members, of course, is the CAN-SPAM component. The violations cited by the FTC are very basic; they're not "high-tech" offenses such as using open relays or forged headers to physically distribute spam. What this particular company got hit for was, in large part, three very simple CAN-SPAM violations: (1) using misleading subject lines; (2) not including a valid postal address in their emails; and (3) not including—or facilitating—opt-out functionality.

So for anyone who ever doubted that the CAN-SPAM Act had "teeth," make no mistake about it: The FTC can and will make use of the full scope of CAN-SPAM to bring cases against offenders, and it ain't hard to do so.

Our advice: Never overlook the basics. Check, check and check again to make sure that your email programs are 100% compliant. Make sure strict governance and procedures are in place. Because all it takes is one untrained new email marketing associate to click "send" without including a postal address and the FTC will come knocking on your door.

You can wag your finger at the camera and claim "misremembrance" all you want, but regardless of whether you're pushing HGH in baseball locker-rooms or email inboxes, no one's going to believe you.

—eec Advocacy Roundtable co-chairs Jordan Cohen of Epsilon and Robb Walters of Costco

–>Read other issues of the The Email Advocate.

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THE EMAIL ADVOCATE: CAN-SPAM Update

From the eec's Marketing RoundtablesWhat is the status of the FTC's CAN-SPAM rulemaking and is the agency going to reduce the opt-out timeframe?

It's already been more than two-and-a-half years since the FTC issued its discretionary CAN-SPAM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which the agency proposed, among other things, to reduce marketers' allowable opt-out processing timeframe from 10 to three business days.

At last summer's DMA Email Policy Summit, FTC Spam Coordinator Sana Chriss told attendees that "a team is in place," and the FTC was working on finalizing its rules. However, at the same time Chriss noted that, because the rulemaking is discretionary, it's up to the agency as to if and when final CAN-SPAM rules are issued at all, and if so what they'd ultimately say.

So will the opt-out timeframe be reduced? Nothing can be said for certain, but it is encouraging that Chriss acknowledged at that meeting that the vast majority of the 151 organizations who submitted comments to the agency in response to its NPRM described operational challenges that would make it overly burdensome to comply with a 3-day opt-out. You can review those comments for yourself here.

Another positive development has been the agency's December 2007 report to Congress on the current state of the spam problem. In its "Next Steps" section, the document made no reference to reducing the opt-out timeframe, instead looking to technological developments like email authentication, collaborative government-industry initiatives and consumer education programs as more promising anti-spam measures.

So what should marketers do?

Stay "in-the-know." Keep in mind that the opt-out period still could be reduced, and closely follow developments on the Hill as relates to any changes to CAN-SPAM. One way to make sure you're not out in the cold when it comes to knowing what to comply with and how to do so is by participating in the eec's Advocacy Roundtable! Members can sign up today by shooting an email to Ali Swerdlow at ali@emailexperience.org. Not an eec member yet? Ali can help you with that too!

Make opting-out fast and simple. Some very reputable marketers have some very legitimate reasons for needing a full 10 business days to process opt-outs, and it's essential that we preserve the status quo in that regard. That said, for the sake of maintaining positive customer relationships and improving deliverability, we always recommend processing opt-outs as fast as possible. Making the process shorter for your company will also put you on solid footing in the event that the FTC does eventually decide to reduce the opt-out timeframe.

We'd like to hear your thoughts on this subject. How would a reduced opt-out timeframe impact your company and/or clients? Also, has the lack of decisive clarity on additional outstanding CAN-SPAM issues such as "forward to a friend" and "multiple sender" campaigns been an impediment to your marketing efforts? Let us know by commenting below.

—eec Advocacy Roundtable co-chairs Jordan Cohen of Epsilon and Robb Walters of Costco

–>Read other issues of the The Email Advocate.

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Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

While major online retailers do a great job of honoring unsubscribe requests quickly, there's plenty of room for their opt-out processes to improve—most notably in the areas of providing subscribers with alternatives to opting out and of lowering barriers to opting out. For instance, only 66% of retailers use their opt-out processes to engage subscribers in order to address the issue causing them to want to opt out—and few do more than a superficial job of it. When looking at opt-out barriers, only 9% of major online retailers employ a one-click unsubscribe process, while another 35% easily could, but don't.

Those are a couple of the key findings of Email Experience Council's first annual Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study, which looked at the opt-out practices of 94 major online retailers. The study looks at trends in the opt-out process itself, including the alternatives to opting out, opt-out methods and friction in the unsubscribe process; and examines the honoring of opt-out requests, including CAN-SPAM compliance.

"Email is a relationship channel, and opting out of the relationship is just another step in the lifecycle," says Kara Trivunovic, director of strategic services at Premiere Global Services Inc., the sponsor of this study. "Ignore it at your own peril."

Increasingly one of the most important benchmarks for your unsubscribe process should be the single click of the "report spam" button. Some consumers already regularly use it to unsubscribe from email that they no longer want. So if your process becomes confusing or cumbersome, consumers know they have an easy-to-use fallback. That makes it more important than ever to have a frictionless opt-out process.

It also makes it more important to honor opt-out requests quickly, as delays increasingly look like failures. Thankfully, more than 86% of retailers honored opt-outs within 3 days, with most of them effective immediately, as evidenced by the number of emails received after opting out. Another 4% honored opt-outs within 7 days, and 3% more within 14 days. One percent took more than the CAN-SPAM-sanctioned 14 days to honor unsubscribes, and another 3% of retailers had their opt-out processes fail.

Other key findings from the study include:

• 73% of retailers sent no more emails after receiving an opt-out request.

• 16% of retailers give those trying to opt-out an opportunity to reduced the frequency at which they receive emails.

• 17% of retailers solicited feedback from those that had opted out

• 4% of retailers were in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 by either failing to honor opt-outs or taking longer than 10 business days to do so.

Get the Full Report
Visit the Whitepaper Room to download the full 30-page report, which is free for eec platinum members, available at a discount to eec gold and silver members, and available for $179 for non-members. Not a member? Learn more about becoming a member of the Email Experience Council.

And as part of a special promotion, attendees of the eec's Email Evolution Conference can receive the study for free. Visit www.emailevolution.org for more information and to register.

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Two-Click Survey Results: How much time do you need to honor opt-outs?

The answer…
71% –> I can honor opt-outs within 3 business days.
14% –> I can honor opt-outs within 5 business days.
16% –> I require the full 10 business days allowed by CAN-SPAM.

Are you surprised by this collective wisdom? Share your thoughts below.

Also, visit the EEC homepage to answer the latest Two-Click Survey question:
Have you ever tested (with control groups) the impact of frequency on the success of your email program?

–>Read more Two-Click Survey Results

2 Comments »

Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

Welcome emails have historically had significantly higher open rates than regular emails. These messages are key to setting expectations with new subscribers and communicating the brand promise. Yet, only 72% of major online retailers send out welcome emails. That's the top line finding of the Email Experience Council's second annual Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study, which is a follow-on to our 2007 Retail Email Subscription Benchmark Study, which examined the subscription practices of 122 of the largest online retailers. In this Welcome Email Study, we looked at the welcome emails that were sent as a result of those subscriptions.

"Welcome emails should set the tone of the program and the expectations of the recipient from an aesthetics and content standpoint," says Kara Trivunovic, director of strategic services at Premiere Global Services Inc., the sponsor of this study. "It is said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression—and that adage holds true to the email channel as well. Properly executed welcome messages actually create anticipation in the recipient for the next message."

In 2006, only 66% of major online retailers sent welcome emails. With 72% sending welcome emails this year, it appears that more retailers are recognizing the value of these critical emails.

This report shows that many retailers are still missing out on the opportunity to use those emails as a selling vehicle and relationship-building vehicle.
Instead of engaging subscribers with incentives and links to products, departments, loyalty programs, catalogs and other shopping-related material, a great number of the largest online retailers simply say hello and leave it at that.

However, there was some improvement on this front over the past year. In 2007, 98% of retailers' welcome email now containing a link to their shopping site (up from 88% last year), 33% containing store locators (up from 31%) and 14% containing links to catalog information (up from 6%).

Over the past year, more retailers have also made their welcome emails CAN-SPAM compliant. This year 58% of welcome emails were CAN-SPAM compliant in terms of including both a mailing address and unsubscribe method, versus 52% last year. While non-promotional emails are not required under the law to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act, we believe that all emails should be compliant.

This year, for the first time, we also tracked the passage of time between subscriptions and the delivery of welcome emails. The good news is that 61% of retailers deliver their welcome emails within 10 minutes of sign up, with most of those delivering within 3 minutes. The bad news is that 19% take more than 24 hours to deliver their welcome emails, with nearly a third of those taking more than a week to deliver. In the world of digital communications, that's an eternity to wait for a welcome email.

Other key findings from the study include:
• 32% of welcome emails include a discount, reward or incentive, down from 34% last year. That's in line with the results of our subscription study, which saw a move away from incentives during sign-up.
• 62% of welcome emails asked the subscriber to whitelist them by adding an email address to their address book, up from 49% last year.
• 79% of retailers sent out HTML welcome emails, up from 69% last. The remainder sent text-only welcome emails. That said, most of the HTML welcome emails were HTML "lite," making extensive use of HTML text.
• 53% of welcome emails included links to the retailer's privacy policy, up from 45% last year.
• 75% of the welcome emails include the retailer's brand name in their subject lines, on par with last year. Including branding here helps the subscriber recognize the email as one that they requested.

Get the Full Report
Visit the Whitepaper Room to download the full 30-page report, which is free for eec platinum members, available at a discount to eec gold and silver members, and available for $179 for non-members. Not a member? Learn more about becoming a member of the Email Experience Council.

0 Comments »

REPLY TO ALL: Am I Being Overly Paranoid About Spam Filters When Writing My Subject Lines?

Both SubscriberMail and Blue Sky Factory recently released lists of words that shouldn't be used in emails because they're likely to trigger spam filters. But I see some of these words—like "free" and "discount"—used routinely in the subject lines of commercial email that I receive. If I have a good reputation do I need to worry about content filters? Am I staying away from these words unnecessarily? —S.G.

The Voices of Email had this advice:

J.F. Sullivan: The answer should be no. If you have a good reputation then you do not need to worry about content filters. The actual answer is another question, as in it depends on two things: What's your definition of a good reputation, and which content filter are we talking about?

Everyone in the email marketing (and message security) ecosystem has a different view of what a good reputation actually means. For some it's as simple as making sure they are not on a blocklist; for others it may be that they are in compliance with a specific Sender Authentication implementation. In order to answer "yes" to the question, it may be more useful to provide a checklist summary of what a good reputation constitutes. So, if you can say "yes" to the following reputation aspects:

1. You have a good public reputation (not on blocklists, or have upset any ISPs).
2. You have good legislative adherence (e.g., CAN-SPAM compliance).
3. You have good infrastructure (e.g., DNS, MX records and the like).
4. You have good identity (e.g., you have a correctly configured SenderID record).
5. You have best practices (e.g., list scrubbing, opt-in, etc.).

…then yes, you do have a good reputation so you will not need to worry too much about content filters. And while your good reputation will work, say, 80% of the time, your actual delivery will still depend on the content filter you encounter to some degree. A subject of much longer blog entry for another day…

Rob Fitzgerald: You always need to be aware that filtering exists, but I don't think you need to be ruled by that existence either. It's interesting to lay out all the various releases, of all the various words that shouldn't be used within in an email, and see how incredibly long that list is. Sometimes it makes me wonder how you can actually put a string of sentences together without actually using any of them. Practically speaking, you have to use some words that may be "known" filter words. I don't think that should give you pause to run the campaign for fear of a lack of response. We've sent out many campaigns with the word "Free" on them that have performed very well.

I tend to look at it this way—it's all about moderation. Put together a creative with a lot of words that trigger filtering and it could be adversely affected. Give that same creative a diet, and keep some of those same words included, but not all of them, and I think you'll be OK.

Stephanie Miller: Despite the frequency that I receive this question, there is still no magical list of words to avoid, nor is the use of marketing terms like "free," "discount," "special offer" and "click here" an automatic block. Don't misunderstand. Those words can get you blocked. However, judicious, responsible and clear use of them usually won't.

Why? Because spam filters dynamically update to reflect current market conditions and spammer behavior. The only way to ensure your content does not depress inbox deliverability is to run every email through a series of popular message filters to determine your spam score before sending to your entire mailing list. You can do this through a service or on your own by setting up multiple accounts at different ISPs.

Here's how to optimize your message for response and deliverability: Write the copy as a marketer. Sell. Build the relationship. Clarify the offer. Make the call to action very clear. Then, test it. If you fail the spam filters, adjust it. Before you hit send, even if you pass the filter test, be sure to give your message AND subject line a "smell test." If your readers or subscribers will think it's spammy, so will the receivers. If you are using all capped, repetitive words that filters watch like "FREE SHIPPING THAT'S FREE" or using strange punctuation like ***NOW ON SALE***, then you are likely to be blocked.

Chad White: Inspired by this question, I did a little real world research and found that major online retailers have used many of the "dirty" words on SubscriberMail's list of words to avoid using in subject lines. How many have they used? They've used 27 of the 100 in the past two months alone. Some of the words—like "Free," "FREE," "Offer" and "Buy"—they used a LOT. So it's clearly possible to use these no-no words in subject lines under the right conditions. Based on that I'd say that you should explore using them but test to make sure your emails are getting through.

Have some good advice that we missed? Please add a comment and take part in the conversation.

Have a question for the Voices of Email? Email Chad your question at chad@emailexperience.org and we'll REPLY TO ALL by posting the answers so everyone can benefit.

–>Read other Reply to All posts

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REPLY TO ALL: What Are the Best Practices for Initial Emails After Sign Up?

We create shopping/advertising websites for media companies. People who register at the sites are invited to receive emails with special offers from the site. We start emailing each list after about 100 members sign up, but prior to hitting that threshold the only other email they would have received from the site is the confirmation email. I have been looking all over for some info on "starting from scratch"—a how-to or best practices for that initial email. Do the Voices of Email have any advice? —L.S.

The Voices of Email had this advice:

Rob Fitzgerald: Start the mental and marketing integration of your brand in that message—have it in the "from" line, the subject line, and in the email itself. Successful email marketing blossoms from consistency of message and consistency of branding. Also, be clear on the "what comes next," what types of email offers will you be sending. Leave no chance for misunderstanding and your registrants will appreciate that. Be sure to present the person with the clear opportunity to opt-out from receiving any future emails from you. Lastly, don't wait too long to send out marketing emails from the time the initial confirmation went out. There should be some immediacy to it or you risk disconnecting your registrant from your initial value-add.

Stephanie Miller: This is a great opportunity to launch an email conversation with prospects in order to engage early and lead them through the sales cycle. In fact, a conversation strategy on email is perfectly aligned with the goals of a newly launched shopping website—build the file over time, build relationships, optimize the early growth and leverage for future market saturation.

Today, you are "holding back" on sending email messages until you reach a critical mass of 100, and thus penalizing folks who join the list early. Rather, you want to celebrate these folks and "wow" them so keep reading and even tell two friends about your newsletter. Instead of thinking about it like a traditional publisher (where everyone gets the same content on the same date), think about it like a short-term email conversation—every subscriber gets the same experience. Email message one comes on day one, regardless if you signed up on June 1st or July 31st.

Offer something of real value for signing up—e.g., a free report or coupon—and use an auto-responder system that allows you to send brief, topical newsletters on a regular basis. If you have already built the website, send that content out in bite-sized, well-constructed tidbits to keep subscribers engaged. This will minimize the work and equalize the experience across all subscribers.

Once you set up this "series" of emails, you can trigger it for all new subscribers, regardless of the day they sign up, or their position in the queue. Using the same series for each subscribers ensure that each has a similar (and optimal) experience.

After you learn from this email conversation, active buyers can be converted to a more traditional promotional email program, where everyone gets the same promotion on the same day. But using a conversation in the beginning ensures that you engage fully with new subscribers, and optimize sales across the board.

Good luck!

Jeanniey Mullen: I would start with a strong subject line that includes the company name and something that indicates these are message they requested. For example: XYZ: Site special offers now available. Or: XYZ is ready to bring you special insights

I would also focus on the copy reminding people that they asked for this info, and VERY clearly giving them an opportunity to opt out of this section only.

Hope that helps!

Chip House: We've found that the Welcome email may in fact have the most impact of any email you ever send your subscribers. Opens, clicks etc. all tend to be the highest for an initial email, then can drop off from there if you don't continue to engage your audience or follow-up on the promised content, education or offers promised when they opted in. My advice is to first put substantial effort into optimizing that email. Sure it is transactional in nature, but make sure you do things like:

- Reiterate what they can expect from you in terms of content and frequency.
- Ask them again to add your "from" address to their address books to "ensure good deliverability and rendering."
- Don't forget to make it compelling. Using HTML is best. And don't be afraid to use the CAN-SPAM legitimized commercial content below the transactional introduction.

Getting off on the right foot will pave the way for your first set of campaigns. If you are speaking to their needs, no need to wait for a critical mass.

Chad White: Welcome emails are absolutely critical. Ideally, they not only quickly reassure subscribers that they are subscribed, but they also set the tone for the relationship and reinforce expectations that were (hopefully) established during the subscription process. Unfortunately, only about two-thirds of the retailers I track via RetailEmail.Blogspot use welcome emails, and then only a fraction use them well, missing the opportunity to promote their content, plug their services and tout unique and popular products. At the Email Insider Summit in May, Niti Chhabra, an email marketing consultant to BabyCenter, said: "Give them a reason to save the welcome email." If you don't feel like you're doing that, then you should sit down and makes some changes.

Almost as important as that welcome email are the few that follow it. With each email they're going to be asking themselves, "Was subscribing a mistake?" In some cases, you can increase your chances of keeping that new subscriber if you use an onboarding campaign, where you extend the introduction process. I just wrote a reportlet on onboarding emails that may help you, and in a few weeks I'll be releasing the sequel to last year's Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study.

Have some good advice that we missed? Please add a comment and take part in the conversation.

Have a question for the Voices of Email? Email Chad your question at chad@emailexperience.org and we'll REPLY TO ALL by posting the answers so everyone can benefit.

–>Read other Reply to All posts

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FTC Summit Missing Mark

Ken Magill was right: The recent FTC Spam Summit was a real snoozer. Maybe it was the oppressively humid weather in D.C. this time of year that's conducive to snoozing. More likely, it was due to our own misplaced expectations that such an event could ever be more than a big "show 'n tell." Never mind that we'd heard all the speeches and solutions before and that not much had changed since the last Summit. This simply wasn't the forum for examining the truly systemic issues or questioning the wisdom of the industry's strategies and tactics. Debating those things in front of a regulatory body simply wasn't on the agenda, and it was probably unrealistic to ever think it could be.

Nonetheless, those are precisely the things we should be debating in our industry. Trevor Hughes of the ESPC set the stage by arguing that there are really two classes of spam—spam that is malicious and spam that is annoying. His point was that today's real problem is with the malicious spam that comes from the bad players, not legitimate companies. The inescapable conclusion was that the answer isn't further legislation since the bad players operate outside of the law anyway. While it's a good message for the FTC to hear as it considers further rule making under CAN-SPAM, it didn't go far enough.

After acknowledging those two classes of spam, we should be talking about how to deal with them. No one disputes that both are undesirable, but applying the same tactics used to combat the malicious spam to that which is annoying is what produces "false positives" and endangers the reliability of the medium for legitimate commerce. In my mind, reconciling email security with legitimate commerce—balancing the scales—is the critical challenge facing our industry today. Admittedly, my attempt to address this challenge at the FTC Summit fell flat. (Right message, wrong forum.) Yet, I'm convinced this is the real debate we need to have. And we do need some new thinking about the roles that different stakeholders (consumers, ISPs and senders) can and should play.

If the FTC Summit isn't the right forum, what is? We need a new blueprint for email. Where can we come together to debate the systemic issues and arrive at more coherent, comprehensive solutions that satisfy both our security and commercial concerns? We can't continually parade into Washington, D.C., with nothing new to tell and nothing new to show. At some point, the FTC's patience will wear thin…as it should. If industry wants to retain the latitude of self-regulation, industry must have more to show for its efforts. We'll invite government intervention if we don't.

—Dave Lewis

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Reputation Matters

One thing I've learned in life is that your reputation follows you. Once tarnished, it is difficult to repair. United Airlines is one business that has destroyed what was once a great reputation (yes, at one time it was wonderful to fly with them).

USA Today recently ran an article about the decline in service quality in the airline industry. The article recounts story after story of small missteps that have built into a major reputation crisis for the industry. I was interviewed for the article:

"There were days in the not-too-distant past when United's service was fantastic, especially if you were an elite flier," says Jordan Ayan, CEO of a Chicago high-tech firm.

A million-mile United flier, he used to buy Christmas gifts for his favorite United agents at Chicago O'Hare. "Boy, have times changed."

The lesson is the same for email marketers: protect your reputation by following the best practices of the industry. Don't try to take short cuts that can damage or tarnish either your mailing reputation (your mail won't be delivered) or worse, your brand reputation (your customers will leave and prospects won't buy).

The basics are simple: keep your list clean, don't pre-check opt-in boxes, honor unsubscribes, don't email too often, remove bounces and comply with CAN-SPAM. It's like anything that impacts reputation in a relationship, put yourself on the other side, and if a practice is distasteful to you, don't do it. If United's executives had done this, we might all have cleaner planes, nicer agents, on-time flights and a better time traveling.

—Jordan Ayan

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Good Email Hygiene Doesn't End with CAN-SPAM

Is it just my imagination or is there a resurgence in CAN-SPAM interest in the news recently? Between the INBOX session on "Getting Email into the Inbox," where we chatted on a couple-few issues related to what being CAN-SPAM compliant really means, to press coverage by Inc.com selecting a CAN-SPAM-compliance monitoring solution for a "Best for… Making sure your outbound mail works" award, it seems there's a surprising increase in interest in this topic. I checked with our own support team and lo and behold…higher volumes of questions last week about what it means to be CAN-SPAM compliant. It's gotten so bad our email policy director has taken it upon himself to write a white paper enumerating what it means and, more importantly, what it does not mean to be CAN-SPAM compliant.

Frankly, I find this all rather odd.

Odd because CAN-SPAM compliance should be called what it truly is…ineffectual legislation from the one part of our industrial economy that is least likely to produce efficient policies—the government. I hear folks intimate this all the time. CAN-SPAM compliance is the most negligible form of email marketing compliance that you can actually do. If you are building a program and infrastructure to effect CAN-SPAM compliance as your only goal, then by all indications you will essentially appear to be a spammer. You may ask yourself why that is, and while there are many reasons, it basically comes down to permission. CAN-SPAM doesn't require permission from the end user while the industry at large does.

Congratulations! You won't be able to get your email delivered but your CAN-SPAM compliance will be beyond reproach.

There are a great number of checklist items that EEC members in aggregate will advise people to do for effective email marketing. Certainly CAN-SPAM compliance is on that list. But always remember that this is very basic stuff that you simply have to do. In the way of a simile, it's like going out on a first date. You know you need to perform a set of personal hygiene acts. CAN-SPAM compliance is akin to just brushing your teeth and throwing cold water on your face. If you hope to get a second date or even a phone call, you need to put your best foot forward. The latest threads and a bit of cologne might be in order. Aiming for the bare minimum shouldn't be your goal and that is what CAN-SPAM is—the bare minimum.

—J.F. Sullivan

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