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Forget First Names--You Need Data You Can Use!


use email integration to move beyond the first nameA few years ago, personalization was the holy grail for email marketers. If you could use a customer’s or subscriber’s first name in a subject line or an email, you were heads above your competition and getting more attention in the inbox.

As with all things email, however, we’ve evolved beyond the first name level of relevance into a whole new world of delivering very specific content in a very timely manner to the widest possible variety of individuals.

Or…that’s what we are trying to evolve to at least.

With many consumers weary of superficial personalization, inboxes more crowded than ever, and attention spans even shorter, the real relevance is no longer a first name but rather an extremely relevant and timely message delivered to just the right customer at just the right time.

People aren’t opposed to receiving marketing messages, either B2C or B2B ones. But they want, even demand, more than yet another sales pitch with their name attached. They want customized product recommendations and information that is relevant to them at that moment in time.

A relevant email marketing message is one that contains content determined by a customer’s stated preference combined with their past behaviors. Consumers are more receptive to these kinds of messages, emails based on both what they say they’re interested in (preferences), as well as what they show they’re interested in (behavior).

Compare that to a first name. Is that name really a useful piece of data these days, when organizations are sending out hyper-targeted email messages based on everything from microclimate (for lawn care) to gestation age (for pregnant mothers)? If your personalization is limited to a name, what kind of useful email reporting can you hope to learn from?

You need more than a name
You need to know more than a name. You need to know your customer (or prospect).

With the business systems integration and deep analytics possible today, you can really know your customers…through both their preferences and their behaviors. And with the right technology combined with the right ESP, you can use email integration to put that data to use to send email marketing messages that speak to people on an individual level like never before.

Consider a wine lover, for example. She eats at her local Italian restaurant about four times a year and she always orders a bottle of wine with dinner. Using a relational database, we’d know this about her as a customer. Using advanced segmentation, we could target her with a discount on wine that might tempt her to patronize that restaurant more often.

How to get to know that customer
Obviously you can’t set up dinner dates with everyone in your database, so you can’t get to know these people in person. But you can still get to know them. How? You get to know your customer by collecting and using data about them. Emphasis here is on the word “using.”

Collecting data is nothing new in the marketing world. We’ve been doing it probably since marketing started and the door-to-door salesman, traveling from farm to farm, remembered that Mrs. Simpson always bought an extra bag of sugar if prodded.

Like our marketing predecessors, many organizations collect data these days. However, less than half are able to put that data to use, partly because of the sheer volume of data collected. (These days data is about a lot more than a bag of sugar.) A recent Forrester report finds that although marketers are capturing data, only 45% of those surveyed are capturing it and using it too.

How does a marketer cross that bridge, to go from collecting the customer data to being able to put it to use for targeted email marketing? By having the right technology in place.

By technology, I mean two pieces:

  1. The right ESP, one that can support relational databases, email integration and advanced segmentation.
  2. The right analytics that will help you understand the data you collect.

When you choose an enterprise-level ESP like ExactTarget, you get a robust email service provider that can handle not only your email volume but your data volume too. Plus these types of top-tier ESPs usually integrate with sophisticated analytics and email reporting tools like Tableau Software, tools that make it much easier to interpret your data and put it to use. Plus the market now offers tools like eMVision--a proprietary platform based on Tableau Software and built exclusively for ExactTarget—that make it even easier for you analyze data, identify new patterns and segments, and send targeted and timely messages.

Yes, we’ve definitely moved beyond first-name personalization, and consumers know it. They are wary of emails using their first names and they are welcoming of emails that are extremely relevant to them. With the right technology in place, you can deliver the messaging they want, when they want it, buy really knowing your customer.

--Marco Marini




How Can CRM Marketers Leverage RTB and Custom Audience to Drive Higher Engagement?

Email marketing is a special form of advertising.  Because of its opt-in nature, it’s mostly been 100% first party data customer targeting-based advertising. Email is CRM advertising, pure and simple. You get an email because you subscribed.

The CRM nature of email marketing is what has made it, along with search, the most intentful and successful form of advertising ever invented. When an online retailer or publisher sends out an email campaign it is confident it is sending a message to a ‘friendly’ customer who has agreed to accept messages. 

Despite a dismal 15% open rate, customers who open are so responsive that retailers keep on sending. But who can be satisfied knowing that 85% of their customers ignore them? Wouldn’t that make you sad after you worked so hard on the creative inside that unopened message?

So how do retailers get more out of the email channel in an inbox that is essentially soaked in competitive messages and controlled by Google and Yahoo?

You are probably aware of the four major tactics for increasing email engagement:

  1. Test subject lines and creative
  2. Segment Customers based on value, history, etc.
  3. Time message delivery or trigger messages
  4. Send more email

Using these four tactics alone you can create enough complexity to drive yourself insane. Is that all you can do?


There is room for at least one more strategy.

#5. Reach your customers outside of your own 1st party email newsletters using 1st party data based on the MD5 hash of the email address

Reaching your valuable email subscribers using your 1st party data – the hash of the email address – is the most effective strategy that you have probably never used.  Because until Facebook introduced ‘custom audience’ earlier this year, it wasn’t something that was readily available.  Now, besides Facebook, other large sites are creating ad networks.  And there are email ad exchanges that allow user targeting based on the email hash.  This technique is a viable alternative to cookie-based targeting.

Why is this useful?  Using ‘Custom Audience’ targeting on Facebook or on email ad exchanges using 1st party email hash data has a 100% open rate.  It has zero breakage.  Hash-based targeting is based on your own data, not 3rd party cookie data.

Custom Audience targeting is the merger of two elements:  real-time user matching and bidding.  How does this work?

  1. Identify a segment of the customers that you want to reach, and run their email addresses through a hashing algorithm like MD5. All ESPs can do this for you.
  2. Determine the offer/creative(s) that you want to show them and the landing page for URL.  You already do this when deciding what to do within your own email campaigns.
  3. Determine the price per thousand (i.e. $7 cpm bid) that you are willing to pay to show them this highly-targeted email ad.
  4. Upload this data into an email ad exchange or Facebook.
  5. Watch the clicks and conversions.

What this technique does is place your advertisement in front of YOUR customer, where they are paying attention. On Facebook it happens in the newsfeed on the right rail, and within email ad exchanges it only displays within newsletters that your subscribers open and enable images. Newsletters and sites which they are visiting, opening and reading. It is literally waste-free. 

So, keep on sending your 1st party newsletters. They are great vehicles for your own content. But if you want to bring your email CRM data to life and reach your valuable subscribers where they are paying attention, there is no better tactic than custom audience targeting in social media and premium newsletters using the MD5 hash. 

Dave Hendricks
Chief Operating Officer, LiveIntent


Email is Alive and Well!

As we pass the halfway point of 2013, it is clear to see that the email channel is still robust and effective. In early 2009, I read an article titled "9 Reasons Email is Dead." I recall thinking, boy this stinks! If email is dead (or dying) what am I going to do? I was too young to retire and old enough not to want to start again.  Well, not only is email alive and well, it remains the most efficient and  effective method of Marketing. Having said that, sending effective commercial email has certainly gotten much more complicated and challenging.  Maintaining an effective and efficient email program takes more than just good marketing. Successful programs takes a mix of marketing, operations, creative, privacy, compliance and technology to do all the "right things" to make a program successful.

Consumer expectations are at an all time high. Consumers expect to be contacted when they want to be contacted, in a format that is appropriate for the device they are using at that time, with exactly the right offers they are interested in. Simple, or even complex, segmentation is no longer good enough. Consumers expect marketers to deliver highly relevant, targeted, timed, campaigns using data that was obtained in a clear and transparent manner that satisfies their marketing needs, but protects their privacy and data.

When I was selected as the DMA/EEC 2013 Stefan Pollard award winner, I commented that in no other industry was there the passion, intelligence and commitment as the people who dedicate their time and talents to the email industry. Below I listed a few of the recent challenges marketers faced in the first half of 2013 as well as some of the new innovations in email.

Gmail continues to add new innovations and nuances to their email platform. These new innovations continue to present email professionals with new challenges. The most recent change is one that has most marketers on the edge of their chairs. Gmails new inbox, which is being turned on by default, automatically sorts email into three tabs. The Primary tab is earmarked by Gmail for personal one to one conversations. This tab is automatically displayed when you first log into Gmail.  The second tab is called “Social,” and includes all of your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media updates.  The last tab is for “Promotions,” and is earmarked for all opt-in email marketing offers.  While some may argue the reduction in inbox clutter that occurs when promotions  are mixed with bank statements, personal notes and social media update notifications will be a positive change, most will agree that having marketing messages filtered to a promotions folder will negatively impact response.  How big of an issue is yet to be determined.  Effective Marketers are going to have to quickly adjust strategies to accommodate this. Time sensitive emails will need to be adjusted to account for the lower frequency people may end up checking the Promotions folder. 

In June, Yahoo! announced that it was reclaiming dormant, unused email addresses and would make them available to new users. While on the surface this sounds like a good idea (I would prefer instead of it opens up a host of issues for marketers to deal with in order to ensure they protect the user data that has been entrusted to them. While most marketers are already removing from their active email lists members who do not engage in a year,  a lot of marketers use email address as a primary key. Breaking the link between email address and PII has become a critical concern. All good marketers know one of the fastest ways to kill a business is to erode the trust of the users especially with the handling of their personal data.

While the concept has been out there for a few years now, in 2013 we have seen rapid growth in content optimization at the time of open. Spurred by the dramatic increase in smart phones and mobile devices, marketers are adapting their programs to optimize content based on time, place and device opened. Technology companies like Adstack and Moveable Ink are focused on providing tools that make it easier to customize content. Coupling this new functionality with traditional audience segmentation has enabled savvy marketers to take their campaigns and programs to new levels.

Overall, it is safe to say, email is alive and well! Consumers and list members continue to challenge brands to raise the bar and provide them with content they want, when they want it, in the manner in which they want to consume it and optimized for the device they are using at that time. Email marketers continue to find ways to find new and creative ways to leverage technology and provide truly customized content for their users. Commercial email remains one of the most effective mechanisms of delivering marketing messages.

You can stay current with the latest in email marketing practices by taking advantage of the wealth of resources available from the eec. EEC offers webinars, in-person events and networking opportunities with your peers and thought leaders in the industry.

Sal Tripi
AVP Digital Operations and Compliance
Publishers Clearing House
2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award Winner


Calling All Retailers!

We’re excited to announce that the Email Experience Council is launching a new initiative focused specifically on email marketing in the retail industry. Starting this month, we’re kicking off our Retail Marketing Special Interest Group, and we’re looking for a few good Retail Email Marketers to join in this initiative!

This special interest group will bring together 6-8 retail email marketers and industry experts who are interested in sharing best practices and develop thought leadership that will help shape the future of email marketing for the retail vertical. Members of the Retail Marketing Special Interest Group will have the opportunity to:

  • Work and network with leaders in interactive marketing for retail
  • Co-author a publication that will define email marketing best practices for retail
  • Co-present RMSIG findings at the Email Evolution Conference, attended by hundreds of marketers and industry experts
  • Be on the inside track for leading trends, industry innovations and best practices

If you’re a retail email marketer interested in joining the Retail Marketing Special Interest Group, we’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to us at for more details.

For marketers in other industries – stay tuned! We’ll be launching additional special interest groups later in the year.



Lisa Brown Shosteck

Managing Director, eec



Understanding Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

The email marketing landscape is always changing as marketers find new and savvy ways to boost engagement, increase conversions, and maximize their efforts. But, beyond the discussion of open rates, click-throughs, subject lines, A/B testing and deliverability is the issue of compliance.

In an overall sense, there are two rulebooks that email marketers follow:

  • "Best Practices"... which are the processes we abide by because we know it treats our customer’s inbox as a special place and that’s a responsibility we take seriously.
  • "Legal Compliance"... which are the specific and mandatory rules we follow because our actions are governed by law [....and because none of us would do well in prison! :) ]

Most marketers are familiar with the US CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. But, now Canada has their own proposed version of anti-spam legislation that in it’s current state goes much further than it’s US counterpart.

It’s important marketers are aware of the new proposed legislation so they can begin taking action well in advance to ensure they remain in full compliance. While there is still a lot of time to make sure your ducks are all in a row to appease CASL, it’s never too soon to get started.

This post will cover the main highlights of Canada’s proposed Anti-Spam Legislation. For a more in-depth summary, you can read my blog post titled “All About CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) in Plain English”.

I’m Not In Canada, So Why Do I Care?

CASL isn’t just focused on Canadian email marketers, but rather extends its coverage to anyone who is emailing someone that will receive that message within Canada.

So, if you run an eCommerce store out of the USA, but you occasionally sell to people north of the border and have those folks on your mailing list, then CASL is in full force for you.

It’s not just those in North America that have to play under these new rules because the people behind CASL are hoping it’s reach will extend to marketers internationally who are contacting Canadians. In an interview, the CRTC’s chief compliance and enforcement officer, Andrea Rosen, said:

If the spammer is offshore, we have the ability under the law to co-operate with foreign governments, to share information and to bring proceedings together against individuals that are offshore.

There is an exemption written into CASL that if the sender does not know or could not expect to know that the receiver would be using a Canadian computer to access the email, then you’re off the hook. So, if your USA-based eCommerce store doesn’t ship to Canada and you have no Canadian’s on your mailing list, but someone has taken the trip to see the Jays play in Toronto and while there they get your email, you don’t have to panic.

Do keep in mind, however, that ignorance won’t be an excuse so even if you don’t think you have Canadian’s in your database, be sure to be on the lookout for that. At Elite Email, we have been prompting people to look at their geo-reports to get a sense of who is engaging with the email in Canada because it might be more than you think.

What are the key requirements of CASL?

The current proposed regulation is really long and if you care to see the whole thing in it’s entirety, you can click here.

For those that are too busy to read the whole law (...and that is probably ALL of us!) here are the primary requirements:

  • You must have permission BEFORE sending an email.
  • You must be able to prove that you have received clear consent (more on “consent” below)
  • You cannot use false or misleading subject lines or sender names.
  • You must have a working unsubscribe mechanisms where manual requests are processed within a 10 day window and any unsubscribe links are valid for at least 60 days after the send date.
  • You cannot pre-check subscription boxes on firms. Valid consent must be an affirmative action.
  • You must include a physical mailing address as well as an alternate way to reach you, which could take the form of an email address, phone number or link to contact form.
  • You cannot confirm unsubscribes by sending a follow-up email.
  • If an email is being sent “on behalf of” another organization, you must clearly identify both parties.
  • If you are a charity, then you are included in CASL if you are selling or soliciting anything.

One key thing I want to highlight is the notion of subscribing to your mailing list as an affirmative action. I see a lot of signup forms where the box is pre-checked and you have to uncheck it to indicate you don’t want to signup for a mailing list. If your organization is doing this, then it’s one of the first things you should consider changing. It’s a quick change that will ensure all new subscriber acquisitions are valid under CASL.

Signup Form With and Without Affirmative Action

Consent, Consent, and More Consent... It’s All About Consent!

While there are lots of different facets to CASL, if I had to boil it down to one thing, I’d say that the most critical factor is ensuring you have obtained consent properly. If you’ve done that, then you’re heading down a good path.

CASL currently outlines four different scenarios that would qualify as consent.

Consent Scenario #1: Implied Consent

This is the scenario that many people will already be familiar with as it’s the one that is based on an existing business or nonbusiness relationship between the recipient and sender. Essentially, if someone has bought something from your organization or entered into a contract with you then you have a “business relationship” with them. Whereas, if someone does volunteer work for you or becomes part of your organization, then you’ve got a “nonbusiness relationship” with them.

The critical part of this type of implied consent is the 2 year time limitation. From the moment someone purchases something from you, a 2 year window commences where you can email them and be in compliance with CASL without needing any other form of consent. On top of that, if that same person buys something from you again during that window, the clock resets and you get another full 2 years. However, as a general rule of thumb, at some point during that 2 year window, you would want (or need) to obtain explicit consent in order to keep emailing them after that window expires.

Consent Scenario #2: Explicit Consent

I suspect most email marketers are already actively engaged in this type of consent where the recipient gives you direct permission to send them emails. Most commonly you will have a signup form on your website that lets people join your mailing list. This direct type of consent is really at the core of CASL, which is why it’s important that you obtain good evidence to support your practices. Doing things like capturing the date stamp and IP address of a new subscriber when they join your list and then when they confirm their subscription (for double opt-in) will help ensure you’ve got a strong case should someone challenge if consent was obtained.

As I mentioned previously, make sure your signup forms require an affirmative action and not an opt-out action. So, if you’ve got a sneaky pre-checked box that auto-enrols people, you’re going to want to change that up ASAP because it won’t count in the eyes of CASL.

According to CASL, you can also get written or oral consent and while that is acceptable, it should be noted that these methods are far more difficult to prove. If you plan on using these tactics, make sure you’ve got a workflow that allows for the careful documentation of when, where and how consent was obtained.

Consent Scenario #3: Conspicuous Publication

This is a rather unique scenario that is very different than the two above. You can send someone an email if you obtained their email address and the following three criteria are also met:

(i) The email address is clearly published for viewing.
(ii) In the location where the email address is published, there is no specific statement saying that unsolicited emails are not allowed.
(iii) The email you’d be sending to that address is related to that person’s business or official role. [For example, you can email a university professor about a new book that is related to their field of expertise/interest, but you cannot email that same person trying to sell them concert tickets. It’s a bit tough to exactly draw the line on what is related and what is not, so we might see this further clarified CASL.]

Consent Scenario #4: Shared Email Address with the Sender

This is the “business card” or “networking” rule under CASL that lets you send someone an email if they willingly share their address with you. CASL doesn’t want to render the email address on a business card useless, so if someone shares their card with you and doesn’t say they do not want to be emailed, then you can email them and be in compliance. Be sure to document the how, when and where they shared their email address with you so you’ve got that on file in case you need supporting evidence. However, do keep in mind that if you want to start sending someone your monthly newsletter (and not just emailing them as a follow-up to a networking event) you should obtain consent using another method as well.

What Happens If I Break The Rules?

Shame on you! Now go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done!

But, on top of that shame, penalties for violating CASL can range from a maximum of $1 million for individuals and $10 million for companies.

It should be noted that anyone can bring this new law against a sender, it doesn’t have to just be the government or other legal agency against the sender. Of course, if someone goes down this path and it turns out they were wrong, then they are responsible to cover all court and legal fees.

Also, the reason I have been harping in the sections above about keeping evidence for how you obtained consent is because if you can show that you really made strong efforts to follow every aspects of the rulebook, then that will play a factor in any legal proceedings.

When Does All These New Rules Go Live?

There is still no specific date set so at this point everything is an estimate, although there have already been delays so further delays are not out of the question.

Based on the current flow of events, Industry Canada should have the regulations finalized by the middle of this year (2013). After that, there will be a one year grace period for everyone to digest these new rules and prepare for the coming changes, which will result in CASL going live some time in the middle of 2014.

That being said, there’s no need to wait until the final minutes to start ensuring your compliance with CASL. Although certain parts of the proposed legislation may change, the underlying concepts about the ways you can obtain consent probably won’t change much. So, take a good look at your database now and start to figure out who you may need to re-confirm and what evidence you’ve got to support that consent has been obtained properly (in the eyes of CASL). Review all of your signup and capture forms to make sure that it is an affirmative (and not opt-out) action that enrolls someone on your mailing list. Lastly, doing a periodic top to bottom review of your organization’s email practices can usually either confirm you’ve got your best foot forward and are ready for CASL or highlight areas that you need to improve upon... and there’s no time to take those steps like the present!

* Note: This article is intended to provide general comments about Canada’s new anti-spam legislation. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act on information in this article without first seeking advice from their lawyer.

Robert BurkoRobert Burko is CEO of Elite Email, a leading email marketing solution and proud member of the Email Experience Council that has been helping businesses of all sizes harness the power of email for 10 years. Robert has been featured extensively in the media for his knowledge of email marketing, social media and digital trends. You can also find him on .  


Just How Engaging are Birthday Emails?


By Joanna Roberts
Account Manager, Client Services
I recently celebrated my birthday and received a few nicely crafted birthday emails from retailers that I have a relationship with. We’ve all heard before that birthday emails typically generate better response rates than normal email newsletters and promotions, but I wanted to see for myself if that was true.  I know I opened and interacted with each of these emails, but did others? To answer this question, I used data found in Return Path’s subscriber engagement and competitive analysis tool, Inbox Insight.
Using Inbox Insight, I was able to find data on each of these birthday emails, including how often the retailer sends birthday emails, what size list they are sending them to, what type of engagement they are receiving on these emails, and how that all compares to their regular email sends.  Here’s what I found:
Panera Bread
Subject line: It’s Your Special Day…
From line: MyPanera (
Offer: A “special surprise” loaded onto my MyPanera card, good for 60 days
From Inbox Insight, I can see that Panera sends their birthday email to subscribers every Monday. My birthday was on a Thursday this year, and I received this email the Monday prior. I liked that Panera’s email was so timely, and I can see now that this is due to their frequent sending pattern. Because it’s sent so frequently, the send size of each is very small (around 500 panel subscribers each, which is about 3% of their total panel size).
Panera Data from Inbox Insight
This birthday email from Panera consistently sees Excellent engagement from their subscribers, as do most of their regular emails. The birthday email has an average Read rate of 53.42% over the past 30 days. In comparison, the average Read rate for non-birthday emails (removing welcome emails and password resets) is 34.45%, representing a 55.07% increase in Read rate for birthday emails.
The birthday emails also saw better User-Marked Spam and ISP Spam rates than normal campaigns. What stood out to me most, however, was that the Deleted Unread rate and the Deleted After Reading rate for the birthday emails were significantly lower than the rates that typical emails saw. This means that subscribers were not only reading these emails at a higher rate, but also saving them in their inboxes at a more frequent rate, likely as a reminder to themselves to visit Panera for their “special surprise.”
Panera Birthday Email
Sports Authority
Subject line: Happy Birthday! Enjoy This Special Reward
From line: The League by Sports Authority (
Offer: 20% off my next purchase, good for the month of my birthday
Unlike with Panera, Sports Authority doesn’t seem to have a regular sending schedule for their birthday emails.  I saw emails from Jan 7 (Monday), Jan 29 (Tuesday) and Feb 26 (Tuesday).  Each instance of this campaign was sent to about 1% of their total panel size, which was surprising to me as I would have expected larger sends based on their less frequent sending schedule.  Perhaps they do not have birthday data for all of their subscribers, which is something they could work on collecting via a preference center.
Sports Authority’s birthday campaigns also see consistent Excellent engagement, whereas other Sports Authority emails see anywhere from Below Average to Excellent engagement. The average Read rate for their birthday emails was 42.45% for these three campaigns seen in January and February. Average Read rate for Sports Authority non-birthday emails (minus welcome campaigns) during the same time period was 21.05%, representing over a 100% improvement in Read rate for birthday versus non-birthday emails.
Like with Panera, the User-Marked Spam and ISP Spam rates for the birthday emails were lower than for the regular emails, as was the Deleted After Reading rate.  The Sports Authority birthday emails, however, also saw a significant improvement in Forwarded rate (72% increased Forwarded rate for birthday emails over regular emails) and User-Marked Not Spam rate (20% increased User-Marked Not Spam rate for birthday emails over regular emails).  These increased rates show that subscribers are finding the birthday content and offer – 20% off your next purchase – valuable and are not only sharing it with friends but rescuing it from their junk folder.
Ann Taylor LOFT
Subject line: You say it’s your birthday? (Your gift is in the mail)
From line: LOFT Card (
Offer: Birthday gift coming in the mail, good during the month of my birthday
Using the data in Inbox Insight, I can see Ann Taylor LOFT sends their birthday email to subscribers on a regular schedule – once every three weeks on Fridays. This campaign is consistently sent to about 70 panel subscribers, or about 1% of their total panel list.
Like Panera and Sports Authority, the LOFT birthday emails also saw Excellent engagement. Regular LOFT emails see mostly Average and Above Average engagement.  The average Read rate for Ann Taylor LOFT birthday emails in the past 30 daya was a whopping 67.22%, whereas average Read rate for non-birthday emails (minus welcome and re-engagement campaigns) was 17.35%.  This is a 287% increase in Read rate for birthday emails versus non-birthday emails!
As we saw with Panera and Sports Authority, the LOFT birthday emails saw lower User-Marked Spam rates than regular LOFT emails did.  Interestingly, the LOFT birthday emails saw slightly lower Forward rates than regular emails, but this makes sense as the email content was simply letting the subscriber know a gift was  oming in the mail (not really forward-worthy content).  
We saw lower Delete Unread and Delete Without Reading rates for the birthday emails than for regular LOFT emails, which shows again that recipients are holding onto these emails, likely in this case as a reminder to check their snail-mailbox for their birthday gift.
And the Winner Is...
Using data from Inbox Insight, we can see that the common belief that birthday emails typically get better engagement and read rates than regular, non-birthday emails holds true.  If you aren’t currently sending a birthday email to subscribers, what are you waiting for?!
So who was the winner of my three birthday emails?  In terms of Read rate, Ann Taylor LOFT was the obvious winner.  But, it’s now almost two weeks since my birthday, and I still haven’t received my gift in the mail, and by now that gift, if I ever do receive it, will have expired.  That is certainly a poor customer experience.
I did use the offers that Panera and Sports Authority gave in their birthday emails.  I actually went to Panera for lunch on my birthday with some colleagues, and was able to redeem my “special surprise” – a bakery treat of my choice. I forwarded the Sports Authority email to my husband to use, which he did almost immediately … and he actually bought something for me instead of himself!  
We can see from the Sports Authority birthday email forward rate that others are sharing this offer with friends and family as well.  So in terms of ease of use and forward-worthy content, I declare the Sports Authority email the winner!  It’s clear from the Inbox Insight data that subscribers are finding these emails valuable, as they are reading them at a 100% improved rate over regular emails, are forwarding them at a 72% improved rate, and are rescuing them from the junk folder at a 20% improved rate.  These are rates to be proud of, and something that other email marketers can take note of.

Obama email optimization strategy delivering upto x6 performance

$500 million is a big sum by anyone’s measure. Now imagine using email to deliver most of that money in just 18 months. Toby Fallsgraff and his team raised a sum not far off that amount for the Obama campaign last year. In fact, the digital department on the Obama campaign accounted for the bulk of the election funds raised from donors.

The strategy behind this incredible success involved something the email team called “Frankenstein testing”. I was fortunate enough to catch-up with Toby and he shared a few details of his strategy.

Three things that were key to success:

  • List size – the campaign did have a big quality database to leverage
  • Email frequency – OK, so a lot of email was sent
  • Test and optimization – up to 6 times more revenue was produced per campaign by testing

I’m going to share with you their approach to the test and optimization piece of the puzzle. In Toby’s own words “we did as much testing as humanly possible”.

The fundraising emails were all about getting donations and so copy had to do most of the work persuading donors to open their wallets. The process used is as follows:

  • A team of 18 writers created 4 to 6 different body copy messages for every campaign.
  • Each body copy variation was sent out to test audiences with three different subject line choices.
  • Large test cells of 50,000 contacts were used to determine winners quickly.
  • The most important evaluation metric was simply the number of donations.
  • The test cells were usually sent around 7am and a winner picked about 60 to 90 minutes later.
  • The winner went to the remaining database, but some segments received slight variations on the winner depending on their donation history.

You may be wondering how 18 writers could be afforded. Simple, the uplifts seen more than paid for them. On the ‘I will be outspent campaign’ of June 2012 the winning campaign raised $2.5m and a projected $2.1m more than the worst performing cell. That pays for the copy writers and the 10 analytics engineers checking over the results.

Occasionally although there was a winner, none of the emails performed to the level expected and in these cases the whole send was canned. The mentality was not one of send unconditionally.

Businessweek reported the different subject lines tested for the June ‘I will be outspent’ campaign. I quizzed Toby about a missing part of that story. The importance of the message body copy combined with the subject line.

The body copy plays a vital role too; the subject line can’t do all the work by itself.

In some cases a generic subject line was used to allow an evaluation of the body copy alone, such as use of the subject line ‘Hey’. This could be matched and make sense with any other body message.

However, an important learning was that the combination of subject line and body copy was found to be important.

Toby explained these Frankenstein tests. The best bits of messages from different test cells were combined in the hope of creating monstrous results (cough, sorry). A winning subject line was taken based on open rate and then combined with winning body copy message based on donations. Obviously this could only be done when the subject line was not so specific to the body that it would not have sense.

The new combined messages were the Frankenstein’s and these then tested too.

What was interesting was that the Frankenstein’s’ mostly didn’t turn out to be winners. Sometimes yes, but mostly not.

So the combination of a great subject line with great body copy was not necessarily a great email – often it lost in a head to head test with the control segment.

The insight here is that the subject line impact is much more than just getting the open. How the subject line frames the subscribers thoughts and how they perceive the whole message as a result of the subject line plays a big role.

Subject lines must be optimized for the action and not just the open.

You’re surely curious by now about some of the actual subject lines tested. Here’s twelve from the June ‘I will be outspent’ campaign:

  • I will be outspent
  • Some scary numbers
  • If you believe in what we're doing
  • Last call: Join Michelle and me
  • Would love to meet you
  • Do this for Michelle
  • Change
  • The most popular Obama
  • Michelle time
  • Deadline: Join Michelle and me
  • Thankful every day
  • The one things the polls got right…

The top one is the best performer, raising $2.5 million and the bottom the worst. Keep in mind that the subject lines had different body copy associated with them, so the subject lines can’t be evaluated on their own. Since as the Frankenstein tests verified, the combination of subject and body message is important.

Finally, I should be clear it wasn’t just subject lines and body copy that was tested, other items tested included; calls to action, donation amounts, text formatting and emphasis.

Tim Watson - Email Marketing Consultant Zettasphere  Acknowledgement: My sincere thanks to Toby for taking the time to share this information with me.

  Tim Watson

  Founder, Zettasphere


Can the Origins of Email Intelligence be Traced Back to Enron?


The watershed moment for email intelligence was…the Enron Collapse? Believe it or not, yes—the massive cache of internal email made public after the Enron 
investigation did indeed fuel the first deep explorations of email data.
Last month Return Path CEO Matt Blumberg guided Email Evolution Conference attendees through a history of email intelligence, from studies of how information flowed across Enron’s executive ranks, through email’s Dark Ages, and into the modern era of email innovation. If you check out his presentation (below or here) you'll also learn the key phrase that insider trading investigations search for, and why inexplicably bad subject lines raised millions for President Obama’s re-election.
Matt Blumberg EEC 2013 Presentation

How the Obama campaign succeeded with low open rates

Obama Campaign Email Blogs Word Cloud

There is little doubt in my mind that email was the No.1 non-political contributor to Obama’s win in the 2012 US Presidential race.  75% of the $934 million raised by Obama was attributed to digital and nearly all of that $700 million was raised through email1.  That fact alone is phenomenal.

But it’s not until you start to drill down into the data to find out why Obama’s email campaign was significantly more effective than Romney’s that the exciting insights start to appear.

Marketing pundits from all channels have offered their opinions. Just look at the word cloud based on the top 15 blogs about Obama’s email strategy - targeting, testing, creative, subject lines - everything but the two biggest contributing factors: list size and mailing frequency.

Why have these been missed? Because it is relatively easy to get a sense of a campaign’s creative, subject line strategy, frequency and, to some extent, personalization by simply subscribing to a list. What you can’t find out is how large that list is or how much segmentation is being done. That makes it almost impossible to know how many emails are actually being sent. Enter eDataSource …

Scratching below the surface with eDataSource

So, we recently took out a subscription to eDataSource and let our analytics team loose on their web-based tool that combines active monitoring of over 800,000 consumer inboxes with a library of millions of digital marketing messages from thousands of brands. This impressive breadth and depth of reporting gave us everything we needed to find out what really made Obama’s email strategy so effective.

First up was to prove my prediction back in October that Obama would win because he was sending significantly more email to more people. Using the Federal Election Commission, we were able to attribute all donations over $250 to each campaign for the 79 weeks running up to the election. We then plotted this against the corresponding weekly send volumes taken from eDataSource in graph 1.


Donations Received vs Emails Sent

Graph 1: Donations Received vs Emails Sent

The trend lines tell the story more succinctly than any blog: the more emails each campaign sent, the more donations each campaign received. If the purpose of each campaign was to generate revenue, then it was frequency and list size that had the biggest impact on performance.

What I couldn’t predict was what we found when we dug deeper into the data - the send volumes for each campaign had a striking correlation with the probability of each campaign winning based on the opinion polls …

Obama - the President who ignored open rates

On graph 2 below, we pulled the send volumes and open rates for both campaigns in the two month run-up to the election and compared these to Nate Silver’s Poll aggregator for the 2012 election. His algorithm has correctly predicted the winner of 99 out of 100 states in the last two elections, so it gave us a highly accurate winning probability at each point during the campaign.

Graph 2: Email send volumes vs Probability to Win (Romney volumes scaled up by x15)

Graph 2: Email send volumes vs Probability to Win (Romney volumes scaled up by x15)

As Obama ramps up his send volumes early in the race, his probability of winning increases. Romney also increases his frequency at a similar rate but, because his list size is 15 times smaller, his growth has little effect on the polls. List size matters.

When Obama reduces his send volumes by 38% his probability of winning drops by 42%. By contrast Romney’s campaign grows by 180% and his chances of winning increase by 160%.

In the final push, Romney reduces his send volumes and with it his probability of winning. But his open rates improve by an impressive 14%. Obama takes the opposite approach and aggressively increases his send volumes, which improves his probability of winning.

And Obama’s open rates? They plummet by 14% to a campaign low … and he wins the election.

Obama’s email strategy? Send more, raise more

Had Obama chased open rates would he have lost the election? Well, what we do know is the best way to achieve that goal, as shown by Romney, is to reduce send volumes. Of course, send volumes don’t win elections, donations do. So we set about finding a correlation between send volumes and donations to add weight to our theory.

Graph 3: Open Rates vs Volumes vs Probability to Win

Graph 3: Open Rates vs Volumes vs Probability to Win


Graph 3 plots annual donations against annual send volumes and open rates for the Obama campaign. The correlation between send volume and donations is undeniable – in fact, they are close to an exact match. The general trend is for a steady increase over the year until a drop off at election time.

But more interestingly – and this may surprise some people – the relationship between open rates and donations is an inverse one! Or, to put it another way, the higher the open rate, the lower the number of donations.


Because, broadly speaking, there is an inverse relationship between send volumes and open rates. The more email you send, the lower your open rate is likely to be. But if doubling your send volume only results in a 15% fall in your open rates, then you will be significantly better off.

So why is revenue so closely linked to send volumes? Because people cannot engage with an email they do not receive. Replace the word ‘email’ with ‘opportunity to donate’, and “an extra email send to 1 million people” becomes, “let’s send another 1 million opportunities to donate”.

While relevance, engagement, creative, subject lines, testing and targeting all played a part in Obama’s success, they pale into insignificance when compared to the impact of reach, frequency and list size. And best of all? With email, you can optimize all of these at near-zero marginal cost.

But does it work in retail? Hell yeah!

Obama’s campaign is one of the few examples of a noted sender admitting that increasing frequency works. The data backs it up, too. But does it work outside of the rarefied world of political fundraising? The answer is “hell yeah!”

With the help of EDS Analyst, you too can find out if you are being out-mailed by your competitors. If the answer is “yes”, then they are probably out-selling you as well – and we shall be digging down into the data for that particular topic in the coming months. Keep your eyes peeled.

If you’d like to know more about how we use EDS Analyst to optimize email strategy, then get in touch.  And if you want to replicate Obama’s success for your own email program, then feel free to use these strategy ideas from this post from our blog: FIVE reasons why open reach will revolutionize your email marketing.


Dela QuistDela Quist

CEO, Alchemy Worx

1. Joshua Green, The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails, 29 November 2012,


Teach a Man to Phish . . . And Make Him a Millionaire

In his recent Predictions & Unpredictions for 2013 blog post, Return Path CEO Matt Blumberg talked about how brands’ marketing and security functions will need to join forces to fight phishing. One key reason is that phishers and spoofers are continually getting smarter, applying an impressive range of best practices to make their emails ever-more compelling and believable.

Consider this example that I received recently from “Yorkshire Building Society” (YBS):
YBS Phishing Email
It is highly effective because:
  • The subject line inspires real concern (especially if you really are a YBS customer!)
  • The “Friendly From” is believable (see inset)
  • The sender domain is correct (because the real sender is spoofing it!).
  • Branding is consistent with the real YBS website.
  • The language is professional sounding and there are no spelling mistakes.
  • There is a strong, visible call to action – “Click My Account Activity”
  • The disclaimer and contact details all appear to be 100% correct.
I submitted the email to Return Path’s Inbox Preview rendering and content validation tool. The results weren’t good news:
  • It generated a perfectly respectable Spam Assassin score of only 1.5
  • It only identified one potential spam trigger word – “Disclaimer”
  • It even rendered well on most major mobile devices!
Worse news for YBS is that this wasn’t just a random, once-off occurrence – it is clear they are under concerted attack. Using Return Path’s Anti-Phishing Solutions (APS) toolkit, it could be seen that the amount of suspicious email activity being sent using this domain has increased by over 500% during the past 30 days. Because of how rapidly these attacks can be deployed it is essential for brand owners to have real-time access to intelligence that allows them to identify attacks, proactively block them, and then take down the sender.
I then started wondering about the response rates these emails generate, so I used Return Path’s Inbox Insight email intelligence tool to look at engagement levels. This data represents a 90-day snapshot of recent activity:
YBS Inbox Insight Data
Key observations include:
  • Nearly 1 in every 20 of these emails successfully bypassing spam filters successfully delivering to recipients’ inboxes.
  • Average Read Rate for these emails is 3.66%. This is is particularly startling given that:
  1. YBS is a relatively small player in the UK with approximately 1% market share. Assuming that non-YBS customers will almost certainly ignore these emails because they are not relevant, Read Rates for the remainder can be inferred as actually being much higher.
  2. In a number of instances the Read Rate is higher than the Not Filtered rate, implying that recipients are recovering these emails from their spam/junk folders and responding to them!
  • An authoritative report produced by Cisco Systems shows that on average 99% of phishing emails get filtered, with the remainder generating a 3% open rate. This implies the YBS phishing emails are highly effective, out-performing the Cisco benchmark by a factor of 6.
  • Cisco also calculated the commercial impact of a phishing attack at $250 (£155/€190) per compromised recipient. Using the report’s average click-to-open rate of 5%, with 50% of clickers giving up personal data, we can extrapolate the Inbox Insight data to infer an estimated commercial impact in the UK of over £1M pm – for this single scam alone!
Now consider larger players in the UK financial services sector such as HSBC, Santander, and Lloyds TSB. Attacks against these businesses are taking place on a scale that is up to 30 times greater than the YBS example. These following examples further reinforce the levels of gullibility which exist among many email recipients, and explain why phishing is such an attractive proposition to cybercriminals: 
Phishing Examples Lloyds TSB

Spoofed Brand: Lloyds TSB
Date Seen: 29th December, 2012
Subject Line: “Your account benefits all in one place”
Read Rate: 17.39%
Phishing Example HSBC
Spoofed Brand: HSBC
Date Seen: 13th January, 2013
Read Rate: 5.08%
Phishing Example Santander TSB
Spoofed Brand: Santander
Date Seen: 10th/11th January, 2013
Subject Line: “Funds Was Transferred to Your Account Online”
Read Rate: 5.63%
It can also be seen that even phishing attacks that ought to be less effective still generate remarkably high response rates. Consider the following example, where average Read Rates of over 3% are being obtained, despite the obvious spelling mistake in the subject line!
Phishing Example HSBC Spelling Mistake
And before email senders from the non-financial sector get too complacent, let me quickly add that I have seen similar examples from well known retail, telecommunications, and casual dining brands too – the threat is most definitely not sector-specific. I’ll be looking at examples from these sectors in upcoming blog posts.
So what should email senders be doing to ensure that their brands are not being critically damaged by these attacks? Good steps to take include:
  • Read our Anti-Phishing Guide which contains actionable advice on how to achieve brand protection and secure your email channel.
  • Make use of Return Path’s APS suite of tools and services to:
Guy Hanson



Reminder that Email Data is Hard to Interpret

This blog post from DMNews editor Ginger Conlon is a great reminder that even when the data suggests that someone is in the target market, that there are still factors that impact the satisfaction of our subscribers. Getting to a “segment of one” sounds great in concept, and many campaign management applications do promise it, but it also requires a pretty sophisticated read of the data – all the data. Yes, while Ginger is more educated about targeting and segmentation than your typical retail customer, she responds with all the righteous indignation of a consumer when she feels she gets something irrelevant.

Can we call our programs a success if MOST of the people in a segment are satisfied and take action? Or, is it only success when EACH of them are happy?  We are doing direct marketing, not branding or social influence, right? The latter is our goal, and I suspect most of us settle for the former. Do you?

If you have any thoughts or feedback on this – please post below or at the DMNews article.


Stephanie Miller
VP, Member Relations


DDMI Update: It’s Time To Take DMAAction!

Day in and day out, DMA’s Government Affairs team is on Capitol Hill advancing and protecting data-driven marketing and fundraising. Since the start of the 113th Congress in January, DMA has been focused on educating policymakers about how you use consumer data responsibly to benefit your customers and the economy as a whole – going on the offensive to stop attacks on the use of consumer data. But attacks on our data-driven way of life are still coming hard and fast:

  • Representative Hank Johnson is saying that app stores “threaten the physical and financial safety of consumers” – and introduced the APPS Act to limit the collection and use of data through apps.
  • The FTC is taking action against a mobile device maker for failing to follow data governance best practices and putting “sensitive information about millions of consumers at risk” – and will be looking over the company’s shoulder for the next twenty years.
  • A movement to strengthen existing European data protection laws is gaining steam, with a key European Parliament Committee joining the growing list of groups to endorse a plan that would give consumers the “right to be forgotten,” allow access and deletion of all consumer information, and require breach notification in 24 hours.
  • The States are getting in on the action too by pursuing bills that would set up conflicting standards in Maryland and California for marketing to children, and new regulations limiting online behavioral advertising.

DMA is doing everything it can to fight these attacks. Now it’s time for YOU to join the offensive in three easy steps.

1. Take DMAAction at DMA in DC 2013 – March 12-13
Every year, the DMA Government Affairs team hosts a “deep dive” on critical issues affecting the data-driven marketing community. We’re extending a special invitation to join us in Washington, DC on March 12-14th for DMA in DC 2013. You can register using the code “INSIDER” to save $200 off the conference price. You won’t find this kind of intimate access to a line-up of industry experts like this at any other event – including a Keynote Address by Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill. The Federal Trade Commission is THE regulator for email marketing.

2. Get Smart on Data Governance – March 14
You are already leveraging Big Data to reach and engage your customers or donors. But are you really prepared to deal with the increasingly complex regulatory and governance challenges that come with being a Big Data organization? Stick around after DMA in DC as DMA Education presents “Marketing Data Governance: A Strategic Briefing for Senior Executives,” designed to help you think critically about data breaches, marketing data management; and how you can to take action and implement a data governance plan that includes all the key players in your organization. Register together for DMA in DC and the Data Governance briefing and save hundreds!

3. Contact Your Congressional Leaders – Today
Make your voice heard even before you arrive in Washington! Personal letters and emails are one of the most effective ways that organizations can influence law-makers. Before the legislative fights begin, help DMA start things off on the right foot by introducing the data-driven marketing community to Congress and educating legislators about the important benefits that our industry provides to consumers, communities and the American economy. DMA makes it easy for you to say hello and welcome to your Members of Congress. Just click and take DMAAction today.

Rachel Thomas
Vice President, Government Affairs
Direct Marketing Association


Email Marketing for Valentine’s Day: Insights from the Online Flower Industry


Valentine’s Day usually sneaks up on me and on some occasions, I completely forget about it.  But this year it was hard to forget because starting in early January, I received an unusually high number of email reminders from various marketers, especially ones urging me to buy flowers for that special someone.
I decided to investigate my increase in volume of Valentine’s Day flower offers and see if the results would be similar to the Cyber Monday analysis where Amazon was able to double volume of Cyber Monday emails and still have a good level of engagement.
I used Inbox Insight to analyze the Valentine’s Day email marketing strategy for one of the largest online flower sites.
Doubled Volume Results in Below Average Engagement
I found that this online flower website more than doubled the number of Valentine’s Day email campaigns it sent in 2013 versus 2012 however, the result, from an engagement perspective, was poor. In 2012, the Valentine’s Day campaigns received average engagement but in 2013, these campaigns received below average engagement. The actual breakout by engagement benchmark is below:
2012 Valentine’s Day Campaigns Results for Major Online Flower Site
Above Average Engagement – 38% of Valentine’s Day Email Sent
Average Engagement – 38% of Valentine’s Day Email Sent
Below Average Engagement – 24% of Valentine’s Day Email Sent
2013 Valentine’s Day Campaigns Results for Major Online Flower Site
Above Average Engagement – 16% of Valentine’s Day Email Sent
Average Engagement – 40% of Valentine’s Day Email Sent
Below Average Engagement- 44% of Valentine’s Day Email Sent
In fact, in 2013, the closer the Valentine’s Day offer was sent to Feb 14th, the worse the engagement seemed to get.
Why did this happen? I found one key difference was the Online Flower site’s campaign schedule in comparison to Amazon’s Cyber Monday campaign schedule. 
More Sending Days in 2013 Leads to Subscriber Fatigue
Unlike Amazon shortening the duration of Cyber Monday campaigns from 8 days to 5, the Online Flower website increased the number of days it sent Valentine’s day offers from 15 days in 2012 to 22 days in 2013. See the charts below for more details.
As you can see from the first chart, in 2013, the first Valentine’s Day offer was sent more than a month before February 14th and the emails steadily increased. In 2012, however, the majority of the emails were sent within 10 days of Feb 14th.
It’s clear that figuring out the optimal volume and campaign schedule length is very tricky. If you send offers too early, subscribers may not be ready to make a purchase. If you send too many offers, subscribers may become disengaged. In this case, it appears that our online flower website was more effective in 2012 with a strategy of sending a smaller volume of emails over the course of a shorter period of time just. In 2013, it is possible that because subscribers started receiving Valentine’s Day campaigns so early, when the volume picked up closer to February 14th, they were just oversaturated.
Margarita Golod
Director, Product Marketing

Online Interviews from Key Players at EEC13

This year was my first trip to the Email Evolution Conference in Miami Beach Florida. I know, you’re thinking how tough it must be to pick up and fly down there from Toronto, but you gotta do what you gotta do. While there I had the pleasure of interviewing several email marketing thought leaders. Today, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite videos from the event. You can catch all the interviews at http://www.GetResponse.TV.

Dela Quist
Dela is always provocative in his thinking on email marketing. If there’s one guy in this whole business who keeps the rest of us on our mental toes, it’s him. He’ll challenge any idea and plays the devil’s advocate so well; you swear you can see horns growing out of his head. In this interview he explains the logic behind what is known as the “Open Reach Metric.” This is a metric which, according to Dela, will fundamentally change how you do your email marketing.

Jonathan Margulies
Jonathan Margulies is a Partner at Winterberry Group and he feels we don’t have the optimum terms to best illustrate what we do and what we want to do with online marketing. You know the term, multi-channel, but is it really accurate? Jonathan doesn’t think so! He believes that the term “omni-channel”   or if you prefer “omnichannel” marketing is more fitting. In this video he explains why using better terminology is critical to the marketing industry.

Sundeep Kapur
Sundeep Kapur is a marketing thought leader and all around nice guy. What I love about Sundeep is his genuine enthusiasm for helping others understand email marketing and online marketing in general. At his blog, Sundeep dispenses wisdom and insight on a daily basis. In this video we talk about the top 3 challenges facing email marketers this year and what you need to do to meet them.

Stephanie Miller
Stephanie Miller, VP of Member Relations DMA, is simply an amazing person. She loves email marketing and is devoted to helping email marketers navigate the rapids of legislation and succeed. The Email Experience Council (part of the DMA) has a lot to offer you if you are an email marketer. In this video, Stephanie lays out what’s in it for you and why you should be involved with the EEC too.

Matt Blumberg
Matt Blumberg, CEO of ReturnPath and Chairman of the Board with the DMA and the perfect guy to ask what are the biggest challenge is in 2013 for email marketers. Funny I should say “biggest” because as it turns out, Matt wanted to talk about something you’ve likely been hearing a lot about lately, “big data.”

John Caldwell
John Caldwell runs Red Pill Email and is a go-to guy for people looking for sage advice on email marketing solutions. He’s also an uncompromising voice for email marketing best practices. I asked John about the three most important things one should consider when choosing and email service provider.

Chris Baggot
Content marketing is a big buzz term in online marketing today, but what’s it all about? I was lucky enough to corner Chris Baggott of Compendium at EEC 13 to talk content marketing, demystify it and offer some tips on how to make it work for your business.

Ken Magill
Ken Magill is not known for pulling his punches. In my opinion, he’s email marketing’s answer to 60 minutes and the Colbert Report, all rolled into one. This is the first time I had the pleasure to meet Ken in person and I jumped at a chance to engage him on what Ken calls the “Conventional Wisdom Buzz.”


Jim Ducharme
Community Director
GetResponse Email Marketing


Congrats to Sal Tripi -- Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Winner!

And the 2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award winner is....Sal Tripi of Publishers Clearing House! It was a very close call among our finalists, including Ryan Phelan of Acxiom Digital Impact and Morgan Steward of Trendline Interactive. The Award was presented at the 2013 Email Evolution Conference last week in Miami. Sal's acceptance video is located here.

Incredibly deserving of this recognition and Award, Sal is a stand-out in the marketing and consumer privacy field.  Through his good work at PCH, Sal has helped build one of the most impressive and customer centric email marketing programs in the business. Plus, he is incredibly generous in sharing learnings, knowledge and success stories with the rest of the industry. He's been a long time speaker and writer for DMA/eec events, as well as other email conferences. A staunch advocate and industry expert on consumer data protection, compliance issues and marketing best practices. he's also willing to step up and give back to the industry, and Chairs the DMA Ethics Policy Committee which reviews, updates, and sets ethical guidelines for marketers; Chairs the Online Trust Alliance; Sits on the IAB’s Email Committee. 

We want to thank again, Loren McDonald of Silverpop & Chair of the DMA/eec Awards Committee and all the members of the Committee for their hard work and efforts throughout this process and of course the community for taking the time to submit your choices and for sending beautiful tributes for this distinguished award. The response from the community was overwhelming.

Congratulations, Sal! We're proud to have you awarded with this top honor.



Lisa Brown Shosteck

DMA/eec Team


Why we need common digital marketing statistics NOW

It is important to build towards mutual results, so we need common, standardized metrics. In my earlier post called “Email marketing, are we even talking the same language” I talked about multidisciplinary teams and benchmarking, but what other reasons are there that make an initiative like SAME a necessity?

The need for a common statistics is nothing new.

To illustrate this and keep things light, some biblical references. Do you know the stroy of Babel? According to this history, and long before there was google translate, people used to talk the same language all over the world. It was great. While having this common language (but not yet insight, regrettably), they were able to build a tower that reached to the heavens. What to do to stop them?

The only way to stop them from doing amazing things WAS to rob them of their common language, therefore being divided because they couldn’t understand each other anymore.

The word Babel actually means “confused”, one of the first online translators was called babelfish. (and yes there was even an oscar winning movie with Brad Pitt in 2006 called Babel). There are some lessons to be learned here, one of which is that once you have a common language you are able to achieve more, without it can become a confused chaos.

Using multiple ESPs

Maybe we don’t realize but there are plenty of marketers who work with multiple e-mail, CRM, lead gen, CMS and other marketing automation systems at the same time. Singling out ESPs this might already be more than one. Sometimes 5, 6 or even more email marketing systems are used on agency side and multiple on client side. Can you imagine! We see what the problem is there.

A common language is needed in and metrics and reporting is the place to start with. But even if you aren’t using multiple ESPs at the same time, there are still needs for common language in regards to the long term. One of them being customer insights and migration.

Common language in ESP migration

One third of ESP clients migrate from one system to another per year. And how can we compare with the old metrics if we don’t have the same (standardized) reports. Although ESP migration doesn’t always have to be a big headache, it often is a hefty undertaking.

Migration is very hefty, especially when you are seriously sending email and it is not the kind of thing you wake up wanting to do. Only to see the deliverability part done in email service migration right takes 7 or more steps.

Behavioral data doesn't have to get lost

You don’t want to destroy or leave behind the behavioral data and aggregated insights you have been building over the last period, just because of incompatible statistics. This is where the use of standardized metrics comes into the picture again, making sure your reference reports from previous year(s) keep their value.

When it concerns using multiple marketing automation systems, either at the same time or sequentially, standards can make the marketers’ life all that easier.

By Jordie van Rijn, an independent email marketing consultant, specializing in smart email marketing, event-driven campaigns and is the founder of a platform for selecting the best email tools.


5 More Interesting Stats on Mobile Email Opens


We recently released our latest mobile email study showing that mobile devices, specifically smartphones and tablets, are now the primary way we open emails. While looking at the data, there were some things that stood out.
1. iPhone users were quick to adopt iOS 6. 
iPhone users adopted iOS 6 in less than a month and iOS 6 represents 66% of all iOS devices we saw people opening email on. Google’s Android users have adopted newer operating systems at a much slower pace. Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich was released in October of 2011 and only powers 27.5% of all Android devices. Gingerbread, released in 2010, is used on 56% of all Android devices.
One notable change to email in iOS 6 is VIP Mail which allows users to set specific email addresses as VIP. This feature immediately notifies the user when an email is received from a VIP contact, helping people unchain themselves from constantly checking their inbox (presumably because they are afraid of missing something important). Another fun fact from our friends at Marketing Sherpa: people check their phones 150 times a day and I would bet they nearly always check their inbox each time.
2. People opening email on the iPod Touch has been declining steadily the past year.
Email Opens on iPod Touch, Oct. 2011 – Oct. 2012
While the overall number of opens on the iPod Touch was very low compared to the iPhone or iPad, the open rate for this mobile device has been trending downward for the past year. I always wondered if people were using the iPod Touch as an iPhone without the Phone, like check email, use apps, etc., but it may seem like they’re using it to just listen to music, or perhaps they have an iPad for that. Whatever it is, they’re not using it to open emails, and I predict the iPad Mini will likely further erode consumption of email on the iPod Touch.
3. Apple iOS 7 spotting?
When looking at email opens, we saw iOS 6 being used to open emails in June 2012, and it was released on September 19th.  We saw a handful of opens coming from iOS 7 in October. While it could just be a miscategorization, it’s something I’ll keep an eye on in the coming months.
4. A holdout for iPad Mini
When looking at all of opens for iOS devices, the iPad has been seeing an ever increasing share of all email opens until October where it saw it’s first decline. Partly this is because of more people adopting the iPhone 5, and partly because the anticipated iPad Mini was coming out at the end of October. It will be interesting to see how iPad usage grows after the launch and the holidays. My prediction is that the iPad and iPad Mini will take turn course and continue it’s climb upward of total iOS email opens.
Total Email Open Shares – iPad and iPhone
5. And the only mobile OS where email open volumes declined is…
When looking at how email open shares have changed, while opens on an iPhone grew year over year, they made up less of the mobile open shares. WebOS saw the biggest drop, followed by RIM. As mentioned in the infographic, Windows saw the biggest increase (85%), but still makes up a tiny portion of all mobile opens at only 0.3%. Other mobile operating systems continued to decline as more people flock to Android phones and tablets, as well as iPads.
But to answer which OS saw the only decline in volume, regardless of relation to other devices, that goes to WebOS. It will be interesting to see how HP's strategy of turning this into an open source operating system plays out in 2013. But clearly since they aren't making specific hardware for it, it's being used less and less.
Want to know more about why and how people sare using mobile devices and email? Download our latest study!
By Tom Sather
Sr. Director, Email Research

7 Reasons Your Open Rates Are Declining


It’s a known fact that, over time, a subscriber will typically become less and less engaged with your brand’s emails, and your list will suffer from list fatigue.  There are many reasons that this can occur, ranging from subscribers not recognizing your emails in their inboxes, to your subject lines and content not exciting them anymore, to subscribers no longer trusting your brand.  Below, I’ve listed seven of these reasons, and what you can do to turn things around and increase your open rates.
1. Unrecognizable From Name
The From line is one of the first things a subscriber will see when your email appears in their inbox.  It’s important to keep your From line consistent and recognizable to subscribers.  I’ve seen brands use different From lines for each type of email, which may make sense to the brand, but not to the subscriber.  For example, maybe you are using “Jane Doe, CEO” ( for your welcome emails, newsletters come from “Acme Brand XYZ” (, and transactional emails come from “Acme Alert” (  Do you see how that might be confusing to a subscriber?  Sticking with a consistent From line, whether it be a company or brand name, will help subscribers to identify your emails in their inboxes and understand immediately who each is from, which will make subscribers feel much more comfortable opening your emails.
2. Uninspired Subject Lines
The subject line is your first chance to really grab your subscriber’s attention and draw them in, and you have just a few seconds to do so.  Your subject line should grab that attention immediately and entice subscribers to open, read, and act upon your emails.  If you have a boring, non-actionable subject line, subscribers are more likely to pass your email by and move on to the next email in their inbox.  Make sure you are getting the opens you deserve by making your subject lines actionable and enticing.  Move the keywords to the front of your subject lines so those words aren’t truncated in mobile devices.  Test different subject line lengths and also test using your brand/company name in the subject line to see what resonates best with your subscribers.
3. Deliverability Issues
If you’ve noticed a drop in your open or click rates, a deliverability issue could be to blame.  If your emails are being delivered to your subscribers’ junk folders, it becomes much more likely that they won’t even see your emails, let alone open and read them, since many people never check their junk folders.  In order to ensure your emails are being delivered to the inbox, it’s important that you keep your IP and domain reputation squeaky clean, send to a list of active, engaged subscribers, and keep your complaint rate, unknown user rate, and spam trap hits low.  To check the health of your IP, use Return Path’s free Sender Score tool.  Not sure if your emails are being delivered to the inbox or junk folder?  Return Path’s Inbox Monitor tool can help with that – learn more here.
4. Sending Too Many or Too Few Emails
List fatigue can occur when you send too many emails to your subscribers, thus over-saturating their mailboxes.  It’s important that each email delights your subscribers, and it’s hard to keep that up when you’re sending too frequently.  Plan out a realistic schedule with your team and find that sweet spot where you are delivering interesting content with each email and still staying in the forefront of your subscribers’ minds (hint: you’ll need to do some testing here).  For example, is it really necessary to send a daily email, or could a weekly digest be just as effective?  Also consider using a preferences center to allow subscribers to choose their own frequency.  When you give subscribers a bit of a break and make sure that every email is valuable, they will look forward to receiving the next and will open each with heightened anticipation.
Conversely, sending too few emails can also affect your open rate.  If you don’t send on a regular schedule, your subscribers may forget that they signed up for your emails and not recognize you as a trusted sender when they do receive an email from you.  It’s important to stay in touch with your subscribers in a consistent fashion so that the relationship can continue to develop and stay strong.  Of course, you want to make sure that you are emailing relevant, valuable content, but you should be able to do this at least once a month.  Sending on a regular schedule, say every first Monday or every other Wednesday, will allow your brand to stay on your subscriber’s mind, meaning that they will remember who you are when they receive an email from you, and that your brand will come to mind when they are looking for your service or product of specialty.
5. Content Doesn’t Resonate
It’s important to send your subscribers emails that are targeted and relevant to them, or else you will lose their interest.  Go back to your subscription form – what were subscribers promised when they first signed up for your emails?  What are the benefits of being a part of your subscriber list?  Ensure you are making good on these promises and giving them exclusive content in each email campaign.  Remind them with each email why they should continue to be a part of your list and be engaged with your emails.  And know that each subscriber is different in terms of their interests and reasons for subscribing.  A preference center will allow you to ask subscribers what they are most interested in and what they want from your emails.  Use this information to ensure each subscriber is receiving emails that speak to them, and make them look forward to your next.
6. Lack of Brand Trust
If your brand has been spoofed or phished, subscribers may have lost trust in your brand and not feel comfortable opening your emails anymore.  It’s your responsibility to gain their trust back and tell them what you are doing to make sure their information is protected.  Make subscribers aware of any certificates or personalized images they can look for in legit emails, assure them your brand will never ask for personal information in an email, educate them on how they can identify a spoofed email, and consider providing them with a dedicated phone number they can call if they suspect a fraudulent email.  To help identify and protect against future spoofing and phishing attacks, consider using a tool like Return Path’s Email Brand Monitor to keep track of all emails, both good and bad, being sent across your domains.
7. Unengaged List of Subscribers
If you are sending to a list of inactive subscribers, i.e. those who are no longer using the email addresses that you have on file, then you can bet your open rates will suffer.  After all, if there’s nobody using that email address anymore, how can you expect them to open your emails?  It’s important to continually run re-engagement campaigns or routine list cleanings on your subscriber lists to ensure you are sending only to the active portion of your list – those that want to receive your emails and will take time to open, read and act upon them.  This will also help to keep your list free of spam traps, as old addresses can often be taken back by ISPs to be used as recycled spam traps.  As a first step, run a query on your list to see how many subscribers haven’t opened, clicked, or converted in the past six months.  Then, develop a strategy to reach out to these subscribers and try to win them back.  If you need help with this, Return Path’s Professional Services team offers a great Win-Back project that can help you get dormant subscribers engaged again, and clean the dead wood from your list.
Have you experienced any other reasons for open rate declines?  Please share in the comments below, and tell me what steps you took to improve your open rates.  Are you struggling with other email metrics and don’t know what to do?  Download our Email Metrics Troubleshooter to learn possible causes and next steps.
By Joanna Roberts
Account Manager, Client Services



Who Won the Stefan Pollard Award? Join us at EEC13 to find out!

The annual Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year award from DMA/Email Experience Council will be given at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami on February 8th (Not yet registered? Join us for great keynotes and amazing case studies and new ideas at Use code MACDT for a great discount.) This year, we had a number of nominations from many of you – our eec community – and the three winning candidates are all amazing marketers and “email geeks” – just the type of people that continue Stefan’s legacy of talent, generous contribution to the industry and effective mentoring.  
We circled back with 2012 Award Winner Meg Reynolds of REI. She is still shining and humble in receiving this honor from the DMA/eec community. 
Meg:  I have been so honored to receive the Stefan Pollard Award. I’ve since moved on to a role at REI that is not focused on email marketing, but I rely on those same experiences all the same. 
SAM:  What are you doing now?
Meg:  I’ve found new challenges leading the Marketing Campaign Planning team at REI. I’ve learned a lot in the past year; it’s energizing working with many programs, channels and cross-divisional partners.  I’ve even learned a bit about myself. I’m still finding my way in a new professional community.  Hopefully that will come in due time, I’m a new kid in this role!

SAM:  Is it good to be “beyond email”?
Meg:  I do miss my email role and the confidence of knowing the ins-and-outs of a medium. I miss highly  measureable program performance and knowing whether someone is BS’ing me a little bit. And, of course, I miss a community of creative and passionate folks to turn to with every challenge. So give my best to that wonderful community. I continue to support it where and when I can. I open my time to young professionals and students about opportunities in digital direct marketing.
SAM: Any advice for email and other data-driven marketers for 2013?
Meg:  Respect your subscribers, enjoy your peers, and show-up when you are nominated for an award.  Even when you don't think there is a one-in-a-million chance of winning. All the best to the wonderful, supportive professional email community.

By Stephanie Miller, DMA's vice president of member relations



Register for “Inside the FTC…and Beyond” at DMA in DC 2013! (3/12-3/14)

Did you know email marketing might be at risk if you use consumer data? Come to DMA in DC 2013 to protect your email marketing practices. 

Right now…Congress, the FTC, and the States want to end your ability to collect and use consumer data, including email marketing.  Right now…DMA in DC is your forum for gaining the policy insight, advocacy tools and powerful connections you need to stop them. Register now and join us in Washington, DC, for…

DMA in DC 2013
Advancing the Data-Driven Way of Life
March 12 – 13, 2013
The Madison Hotel, Washington, DC

This year’s conference includes two stellar keynotes:

• Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill will share insight into privacy issues that matter most to your organization.  As the FTC continues to explore how marketers, including email marketers, use data to serve consumers and fuel the economy in today's data-driven marketplace, Brill will share her perspective on finding the balance between privacy and innovation – as well as her vision for the FTC in the New Year.

• State of Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler will detail his focus on privacy in a data-driven world.  Gansler has made privacy issues in the Digital Age central to his tenure as president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). Learn from his investigation of geo-location tracking, data collection, and data breaches. Hear how attorneys general across the country are taking action to ensure meaningful options for consumers – and how you can stay out of their cross-hairs.

Early Bird pricing has been extended to February 1, 2013, so register today!  The $200 you save today could save your organization in the future. 

For more information, click here.

By Stephanie Miller, DMA’s vice president of member relations