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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
 

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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

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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” (info@acme.com) for your welcome emails, newsletters come from “Acme Brand XYZ” (marketing@xyz.com), and transactional emails come from “Acme Alert” (do-not-reply@trx.acme.com).  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

 

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2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award Finalists

On behalf of the DMA/eec Awards Committee, I am excited to announce that we have a winner of the 2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year award! It was indeed a very tight race.

I hope that many of you will be able to come to EEC13 in Miami to see the winner announced on Friday morning, February 8th.  Our 2013 finalists are... (in alpha order) …. (drum roll please)….

• Ryan Phelan of Acxiom (formerly Blue Hornet)
• Morgan Stewart of Trendline Interactive
• Sal Tripi of Publishers Clearinghouse

Adding to the difficulty in choosing a winner, this year, some of the nomination submissions were simply beautiful tributes.  Many were absolutely in the spirit of the tribute to the late Stefan Pollard. Stefan was an amazing person and a real mentor and educator in our industry – and an active DMA/eec member. Hiring him in 2005 to work with me was one of the best and most rewarding decisions in my career. He made me a better marketer, thinker and I’d like to think even a better person. In this Award, and with the support of the entire DMA/eec community, Stefan’s legacy lives on.

Just a word about how the Award selection is made.  First, we solicit nominations for people who fit the Award qualifications from the DMA/eec community and email marketers at-large.  Nominations are made freely by the nominator – often someone who has worked with the nominee, or has been touched by them.  We then ask our Awards committee to review and vote on their top picks. Every award committee member makes three selections.  We select the top vote winners, and then have a final round of one vote per committee member.  Committee members who were nominated recuse themselves in the final round.  This year, we had a clear winner.

As Chair of the Awards committee, I want to personally thank all of the Committee members for their hard work:  Joel Book (Exact Target); Jack Hogan (LifeScript); Greta MacDonald; Stephanie Miller (DMA); Ryan Phelan (Acxiom); Meg Reynolds (REI, 2012 Awardee); and Sal Tripi (Publisher’s Clearinghouse). (Please know that Ryan and Sal were honestly and enthusiastically nominated by others – and  not allowed to vote for themselves, as much as they wanted to! )

Hope to see you in Miami Beach (swim suits optional)!

Loren

Loren McDonald
Chair, DMA/eec Awards Committee and VP, Industry Relations, Silverpop

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Take the DMA Pledge – The New Data Driven Marketing Institute

DMA Acting CEO Linda Woolley embraces the power of marketing to transform our world. “Marketers have the power to transform politics. Marketers have the power to use big data to get exactly the right items to the right location at the right time,” she said during her recent keynote address at the DMA2012 conference.  One of her oft quoted stories is that Walmart and Kellogg’s use weather forecasts to ensure enough strawberry pop tarts are sent to Florida before a big storm. The data shows that when there is a storm, sales of pop tarts goes up.  This is data driven marketing, just as much as any email campaign.

Marketers have the power to feed the poor, save the environment, change the world, she said at the event. We can predict customer intent by making educated guesses about that is needed when. “Big data is almost an understatement,” she said. Consider that we approach the production of a zetabyte of data is around consumer and marketing transactions, which is a LOT of data. It’s a 1 followed by 21 zeros. Linda said that $168 billion will be spent on products marketed in the US this year – that represents 52.7% of all US expenditures. Marketers and the companies they support account for 9.2 mm jobs in this country.

No kidding, the business of marketing is fueling the economy in new ways. That is a great way to think about how important it is to participate in our industry and do what we love to do.

Linda also showed a new video that the DMA created on how consumers rely on the data embedded into their daily life. They are “Thrilled and delighted to have that data help them connect with products, brands, people, causes and elected officials,” Linda said.

However, Linda warned us that the FTC has started going after data brokers – which is really all of us – anyone who uses data to do marketing to anyone else. The FTC wants to legally require us to allow consumer permission for every transaction. This would be the end of customer centricity. Imagine checking into a hotel that you frequent often, and the registration clerk asks if you have ever stayed before. Unfortunately, privacy zealots have scared Congress with their hyperbole, Linda said. “They’ve frightened people with the idea that if you buy a deep fryer you will be denied health care.”

However, if marketers fight back hard enough, we can show Congress the value of data driven marketing. This is where the DMA comes in.

Linda asked for each of us to join her and the DMA in taking a pledge to support the mission of the DMA to advance and protect responsible data driven marketing. Please do take the pledge today and ask others in your organization to do the same.

Linda herself pledged that the DMA will work tirelessly with every direct and digital marketer to make sure that the future is a world where we can give customer what they want , when they want it. Where marketers can play a significant role in social causes. A world where products and people get where they are supposed to be, on time.

“Together, we can transform how Congress thinks about marketers and data driven marketing,” Linda said. “we will make sure they – and consumers – understand that what we do improves lives, benefits the economy and strengthens our society.”

I hope you will take the pledge with us today – and provide us any feedback on what you need to ensure the DMA serves you the best way we can.

As Linda said last week, “We are DMA. And we’ll be there for you!”

-Stephanie Miller, VP, Member Relations, The DMA

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Marketing's Top Five Challenges Identified (and more!)

In a recent poll* of some of the top marketers in the country (client side, vendor side, agency side, thought leaders, former clients and colleagues), the following question was posed:

What Are the Top Five Challenges You or Your Clients Face Today?

Below are the top five answers along with ten extras we just couldn't leave out.

This year, email and digital marketing seminars and conferences abound: EEC, Sherpa, MAAWG, EIS, DMA and dozens of others.

Each of these conference committees works hard to try and bring relevant content to attendees.  A lot of of these events are expensive, and these are hard economic times.  The committees try to secure speakers, panelists, keynotes and content, in addition to paid attendees and new membership.  Whast do the attendees want?  What are they looking to learn?  What can thought leaders provide?

As a marketer, new technology and marketing channels are critical.  As a vendor, exposure to new prospects, technology and social integrations are key for lead generation and PR.  As a business, you have an opportunity to learn about solving your own challenges and explore companies who might have solutions, and to learn about new channels and technology everyone says is critical, but you don’t exactly know how to put them all together, or just don’t know much about a specific channel…and you are charged with learning it now.

From the poll* of ~300 people – marketers, vendors, clients, former clients and agencies, the aggregate top five challenges for 2012 are (drum roll please):

  1. Internal bandwidth and budget on marketing, vendor and IT sides – clients and vendors are looking to “up their game” with limited resources.
  2. Marketing integration and optimization with new technologies into their existing platforms (and lack of knowledge base in new channels) – Mobile and Social lead the pack right now -and integrating email marketing with other traditional, and new channels.
  3. List/Customer Acquisition and eAppend via any channel (the latter has truly become a 4-letter word these days.  It has 7 letters, actually).  How can I grow my list in accordance with the law and not lose a good portion of my list if I port vendors?  How can I utilize different channels to grow?  How do I acquire solid new customers?
  4. Managing multiple “partner/vendor” contracts (sometimes 5 or 6 at a time) and those vendors’ unique abilities, and the failed efforts in wasted bandwidth to try and integrate them  with IT, their CRM databases and marketing into one email or other platform, including call centers.
  5. Privacy: Interpreting Privacy Policies from social groups and global rules (EU, APAC, etc., Google, FB, Twitter – they have all been in the news, as has SOPA, ACTA, PIPA), yet internal bandwidth issues remain.  Clients do not have time to filter through 40 articles, nor read the laws.  And how do they have to change their web privacy policies to conform?

    This wouldn’t be complete without the next ten:
     
  6. RFP help.  Or RFI help.  Email Service Provider Comparisons. This happens, quite often, in three areas of involvement on the client level: procurement, IT and/or marketing (or a combination).  They often work against each other with different goals, or have problems coming to fruition with marrying their multiple goals, cost-efficiently.
  7. Mobile: Everyone has seen slides and knows the potential positive impact.  Some have seen case studies, but they don’t know how to go about it.  They look for aggregators, efficiency and ease of use.  QR codes and how to utilize them is included.
  8. Loss of experienced professionals due to economy, and replacement with lower-paid/less expensive and less experienced staff who has to learn the “game” all over again – back to marketing 101 educations, diversification and separation of “duties” (e.g., a Social Media Manager, an Acquisition team, etc.).  Often working toward common goals, but at cross-purposes in the leadership/budget chain.
  9. Combating declining channel effectiveness, and how to measure and test for increased adoption and engagement.
  10. Utilizing analytics to full advantage.  All analytics, and how they can be integrated (from each channel) easily for a “one view.”  What do they all mean and how can I make sense of them and how do I marry them?
  11. How to build effective messaging in a highly competitive marketplace.  How to leverage the ability to profile data for more relevant dialogues across all channels.
  12. Utilizing analytics to full advantage.  We have web analytics, integration analytics, email analytics, social analytics, mobile analytics – basically this was a “HELP!”
  13. Video.  How can I integrate video into my channels?
  14. Increased use of triggered/automated email or other channel messaging – mostly with implementing automation, updating systems to handle, or creating the right rules and programs.
  15. Testing.  Putting together a cross-channel testing methodology, including frequency/cadence.


And outsourcing is an issue as well.  To outsource or not to outsource?  A good question.

Email marketing is quickly overtaking a larger slice of the overall marketing budget as a cost efficient and effective channel.  Immediate visibility into data is key.  With companies becoming more competitive, each looks to grab as much of the "pie" as possible, increasing their capabilities and partnerships to alleviate some of the pain marketers feel, and be more "channel-ready."

While many of the above challenges seem iterative, these are the many of the topics that were the most pressing.  Everyone agrees email as an effective channel is not going away.  However, the commonality is that marketers feel the pressure to have all channels at their ready in a complex marketing stream and clients want help with streamlining this process and utilizing every resource they have to optimize every channel.  Together.

 


*This was an internal study conducted by information era marketing + consulting, llc (EIMC) in 2012, and represents a compendium of marketers’ and thought leaders’ top challenge opinions in a limited study.  Of ~300+ surveyed, response rates were ~48%.  This was a private study, and is proprietary to IEMC, llc.  Dori Thompson is a results-driven executive consultant with 19 years of experience in direct and online marketing, ecommerce, sales, strategy, and research.  She is also the co-chair of the eec Speakers Bureau Advisory Committee.

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Consent Matters: What the Canadian Privacy Legislations (CASL) Mean to Email Marketers

Wow, that hour went fast!  The estimable Shaun Brown, partner, nNovation LLP, a law firm based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, spoke about the new Canadian privacy legislation – referred to as Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL – an acronym that many speak like the word “castle”) – that has many email marketers confused on compliance requirements and timing.  Listen to the November 10th webinar (and we highly recommend it) for free here.

Brown compared CASL to something many of us already know – the U.S. CAN-SPAM law of 2003.   Bottom line:  In many areas – permission, notice, coverage and risk – CASL is much broader.
  • Scope:  CASL covers not just anti-spam, but also anti-malware, anti-hacking, and through related amendments to other legislation, control of content and misleading information, as well as privacy of personally identifiable information (PII) (harvesting, dictionary attacks).
  • Application/Jurisdiction:  CASL covers any message sent from or accessed by a computer in Canada (regardless of where the sender is located).  We are talking about all electronic messaging – email, instant messaging, SMS, social – plus anything new that comes along.  (Fax and voice are covered by Canadian do no call regulations.)
    1. Note that there is no minimum number of messages. So sending one message is enough to put you under jurisdiction of the law.
  • Coverage:  CASL applies to commercial activity, defined pretty broadly.  For example, Brown said in the webinar, if you are promoting a person who normally promotes a product or service or business opportunity -  even if you are not specifically promoting that product, service or business opportunity in the message -  then your message is covered.  
    1. Note also that any message sent to seek consent is considered commercial – so you can’t send a request for consent. There are no exceptions for research studies, for example. “This will have to play out in the courts in deciding what is ‘commercial,’” Brown said.  “I would not be surprised if this was challenged.” As the law is enforced, Brown says, we will have more guidance on what is considered “commercial” under the Act.
Compliance with the anti-spam aspects of CASL encompasses three broad categories:
  1. Prior consent – defined as either express or implied.  Both are acceptable for all situations and of equal value.  (Implied does expire, though.)
      a.    Express: Must include clear notice and the provision of a set of prescribed info from subscribers when providing consent.   The owner or any authorized user of the email address must give the consent.
      b.    Implied:  The Act deems implied consent when there is an existing business relationship (e.g.: a customer who has purchased in the past two years, or if there is a contract or a subscription which has been active in the past two years.)
      c.    Once consent is implied (e.g.: a purchase), you generally have two years to send messages in compliance (or obtain an express opt in).  An express consent never expires, and is valid until the individual withdrawals consent.
  2. Information
      a.    Must include contact information for the sender and the subscriber.  It is not clear in the law what this must include.
      b.    Regulations are expected to define this further.
  3. Unsubscribe
      a.    An unsubscribe opportunity must be provided in all messaging and be available for  60 days post delivery.
      b.    Unsubscribe requests must have no cost, and use the same means by which the message was sent (unless impractical), either via replyto: or a link.
      c.    Must be processed “without delay” (and within 10 days) with no messages sent after the request.  This aspect may also be defined further with regulation.  “Senders must be able to demonstrate that you put forth a best effort to act on unsubscribe requests quickly, with the intent to stop messages,” Brown advises.
CASL was created with both public and private enforcement opportunity.  The Canadian Radio & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is charged with enforcement.  This is a civil enforcement agency, there are no criminal provisions.  There is a private right of action available to any individual impacted.

Right now, the law is not in force.  It was passed in December 2010 and regulations were published for comments this past summer. The Government is still working through those comments (there were many!).  No timetable is published for a second set of regulations; however Brown expects something by early 2012.   The government is also setting up a Spam Reporting Center, which will be a website to gather evidence and monitor trends as well as provide consumer education.

Key differences from CAN-SPAM
In preparation for enforcement, Brown recommends three primary areas for marketers and senders:
  1. Check your lists. Do you have consent – and evidence of consent?  The burden is on the sender to prove consent.
  2. Check location of subscribers where possible.  The law doesn’t care what the domain of the address is, or if the sender has a clue where the recipient is.  If the message is received on a computer in Canada then it applies.  If a sender does make an attempt to gather this data, This may be a factor in exercising the due diligence defense, where no one can be charged if they have shown due diligence to comply.  “Be sure you have a business objective in NOT complying with the Canadian legislation,” Brown says.  Note that reconfirmation of some permission grants may be necessary.
  3. Watch for regulations re: content of messages. The regulations will clarify the information required when obtaining consent as well as when sending a message.

As with any legislation, the devil is in the details.  The Email Experience Council recommends that you have legal counsel review the law and determine the next best steps for your organization. In the webinar, Brown gave his thoughts on some key business issues and applications:
  • Liability of service providers.  Telecom/ISPs are generally going to be exempt from liability under the anti-spam provisions where they merely provide the telecommunications service allowing the message to be delivered. However, it’s not clear if this applies to email delivery service providers.  “If you are merely providing a ‘do it yourself’ service and the customer manages the list and the unsubscribe, then it may be that the delivery provider is covered under the Telco exemption,” Brown says.  “This may be different if you offer a full service offering.”
  • Ownership of the message, for example, placing ads in an editorial newsletter or providing the name of the email delivery vendor in the message itself is not directly addressed in the law.  “In my view it doesn’t make sense from any perspective to say that the ESP is sending on your behalf, for example identifying the ESP in the message,” Brown says.  There were a number of comments on this as the regulations were reviewed this past summer, and Brown hopes that some clarity will be offered in future revisions.
    1. This brings out the question of where an agency or service provider is vulnerable by trusting their client.  If the agency or ESP sends unsubscribe data to the sender, is the agency responsible if the client doesn’t take action?  “The law is broad, so if you are aiding or causing company to avoid compliance, then you are potentially responsible.  The way to manage risks like this is to inform your customers of their obligations, make sure you have the appropriate language in your agreements, and ensure the relationship agreements are clear who is taking responsibility for managing unsubscribes requests,” Brown advises.
  • Transactional messages.  The legislation does not refer to “transactional” messages.   The law does cover some types of messages that could be considered transactional (e.g.: service notices or warranty information).    The law states that these types of messages require an opt out.  “This somewhat confuses the issue, by listing out messages that, in many cases, are likely not commercial electronic messages and therefore not covered by the Act to begin with,” Brown explained.
  •   Point of Sale.  What if you ask verbally for consent at the POS?  Brown says that the original draft regulations from the summer declare that consent must besought in writing only.    However, this may be removed based on the amount of comments against it. “I would like to think that if you are entering this into a system form, and there is a date stamp, that this would meet the evidentiary burden under CASL,” he says.
    1. There is no legal requirement to send a follow up message, but “It’s always good idea to remind people of their subscription and why they have provided consent.  It’s more of a relationship issue than a compliance issue,” Brown says.
  •  Is list rental dead?   A properly compiled permission based list is quite valuable, and the law does not forbid the rental of them.  “It’s not dead, but CASL places a higher onus on list owners and senders to make sure it’s done properly,” Brown says.
    1. The act of appending is not covered under CASL. It is likely covered under privacy laws, particularly if you are making changes to PII footprint without consent.  There may be some situations where appending data is allowed under CASL.   If you have a business relationship – e.g. purchases in the past year – then this append may be in compliance with the CASL legislation.
  • Mobile Access.  No one anticipates that certain one-off situations will be covered under CASL (e.g.: a US citizen goes to a coffee shop in Toronto and checks his Gmail account).  Brown expects that the government also did not intend to the law to apply to Blackberry users worldwide when accessing email (e.g., through RIM servers located in Canada).   “I think the intention is not to apply the legislation so broadly,” he said.  It’s not clear how data centers for companies that are not Canadian based will be treated – although Brown expects that they will need to comply just as if the entire company was based in Canada. Messages sent from those centers will be “Canadian” under this law.
Many thanks to Shaun Brown and nNovation LLP for an excellent presentation and generous review of so many audience questions. nNovation LLP is a pre-eminent Canadian law firm that advises companies, industry associations and other private and public sector parties in their business relationships and practices, and in connection with a broad range of Canadian regulatory regimes. With several years of experience both in the public and private sectors, Shaun’s practice focuses on emarketing, ecommerce, privacy, and access to information.   

Thanks also to the eec's Deliverability & Compliance Roundtable, led by Matt Rausenberger of Return Path and Dennis Dayman of Eloqua, for sponsoring and organizing this event.

If you are not an Email Experience Council member, please join us for free access to these kinds of event and resources.  If you are a member and would like to join one of our member Roundtables (committees), please email Ali.


- Stephanie Miller
eec Co-Chair




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Top 10 Takeaways From Video Email Webinar

The eec hosted a webinar this month highlighting the role of video in email.  Luke Glasner of Red Pill Email moderated and Justin Foster of LiveClicker and Rory Carlyle of Carlyle, Inc. contributed to the panel discussion.  The audience was engaged throughout as we learned about video email best practices, case studies, and technical requirements to achieve strong deliverability with video in email.  Download the webinar recording.

Top 10 takeaways from video email webinar:

1.  Video is a growing trend that email marketers need to pay attention to.  Video viewing time increased 26% year-over-year in the USA from August 2010 to August 2011.  180 million people, or 86% of the US Internet audience, viewed online video in August of 2011, according to comScore.  Marketers are taking notice, with video ad spend projected to increase 22% from 2011 to 2012 (eMarketer).  An August 2011 report by Forrester Research showed online video was perceived as the channel most poised to increase in effectiveness over the next three years by interactive marketers, behind only mobile marketing and created social media.

2.  Using video for video's sake is not a good enough reason to use video with email.  Marketers need to decide whether the application of video creates additional value for subscribers before deciding to employ this tactic.  Simply using video because it is "cool" is not a good enough reason; marketers need to first consider whether the storytelling power of video can be used to more effectively entertain, engage, or excite subscribers, build trust, stir the imagination, or persuade the subscriber to take an action vs. other techniques.

3.  Video is proven to be an effective tactic to boost email campaign performance, but only when best practices are applied.  Simply using the word "video" in the subject line of email has been demonstrated to help achieve increases in open rates of up to 20% vs. an identical message body without the word "video" in the subject line.  Video in email examples illustrated a 200% increase in CTR in a controlled A/B split in one example, 67% higher CTR v. average campaigns in another.  Still, if best practices are not used, video can annoy subscribers, distance marketers from subscribers, and even drive up negative metrics like unsubscribe rates.

4.  Video does not alter the fundamental rules of smart email email marketing.
Relevance still rules.  Marketers need to think about who to engage with video; use of past clickthrough data, web analytics data, or customer demographic data are all possible sources of valuable targeting information.  Knowing which subscribers have watched video in the past can be especially helpful when developing segments for video email.

5.  Video production does not need to be difficult or expensive; marketers can make it so.  There are several techniques that can be used to minimize the amount of time required to generate videos for campaigns, such as: 1) use existing content developed in-house or by partners (just make sure you have permission) 2) If your brand is tolerant, carefully assess the production values you really need to accomplish the goal of the campaign.  It is possible to create HD video content in-house, with a full camera setup and set, for $4,000 - $5,000.  Hiring a professional or an agency is also an option, but many marketers make the mistake of thinking that video has to be expensive, when in reality video is only expensive when the marketer's production requirements make it so.

6.  Choosing which technique to use for leveraging video "in" email is a creative and cost decision.  Period.  There are benefits and drawbacks of each method of including video in email.  Concerns over deliverability, campaign send speed, or mail client support should not dictate the decision of "in" or "with" because technologies exist in the market to detect what email client a subscriber is using, and then automatically serve a compatible version of the video asset, animated .GIF video, or still image directly in the email based on what the mail client supports.  If a marketer has a creative aversion to using any of these creative treatments, it is easy to exclude the use of that treatment without having to cut the list.  Further, deliverability concerns can be alleviated simply by employing best practices in coding email messages.

7.  If using video in email, internal education is key.  Not all mail clients support full video in email, including Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010.  If you use one of these programs at your place of work, consider setting internal expectations so that stakeholders know what to expect.  While video in email support is not yet consistent across mail clients, as of June 2011 an "average" B2C marketer could expect to deliver "full" video in email to approximately 37% of the list, animated .GIF video to 50% of the list, and static image to 13% of the list.  Your results will vary based on your list's composition.

8.  Email marketers need to treat video as more than a "one off" experiment.  Since we belong to a metrics-focused industry, many email marketers choose to "one off" test video in email to see if it "works."  This is a terrible mistake because it does not allow the marketer to understand what about the video is driving results.  There are many different types of video content; some videos will work better than others.  Therefore, it is important when testing video to at minimum test over a series of campaigns (I recommend at least 3).  Only by looking at video in the context of several campaigns will marketers begin to discover what works and doesn't work for the brand.

9.  Know the lead times involved.
  Most email marketers have not used video with email before.  If it's your first time, consider planning the video a full two months prior to the campaign launch.  Since video requires different techniques and tools to create and encode, try to give yourself a buffer and a Plan B far in advance.  If you already have access to video content, plan on adding an additional three to four hours per campaign for any testing or troubleshooting.

10.  Follow best practices.  Among them: 1) set the subscriber's expectation for video by calling the video out in the subject line (this is especially important for animated .GIF videos, which auto-play)  2) Use a "play" button in the video "player" to signal the subscriber can play the video.  3) Highlight in the email what "happens" when the video is clicked.  Because watching a video requires the subscriber to invest his scarce time, it is important to communicate the value you are promising up-front to prevent disappointment 4) Serve a "right click to play" message as the first frame of the video for Hotmail users (because player controls aren't supported yet in Hotmail) 5) Keep animated .GIF videos to 30 seconds or less.  Since animated .GIF videos don't support sound, they are most effective as "teaser" content.

BONUS TAKEAWAY:  Be clear with your campaign goals up front and do not over-hype or over-promise results.  Video email is still new and best practices are still emerging.  In my experience, the marketers that have gone on to be most successful with video email are those who took the time to learn about video in email, took the time to educate their managers and peers, and treated video email as an "experiment."  If you promise the moon, you'd at least better be able to jump off the ground.




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Our New Cross-Channel Integration Roundtable

Thoughts from the first meeting of the Cross-Channel Integration Roundtable
co-chaired by Jeff Chamberlain of Aprimo and David Hibbs of Responsys.

The charter of the Roundtable is to explore cross-channel integration to provide education and/or information that would help eec members and the larger email marketing community in pursuing this goal.  Here are the themes to what we are trying to accomplish:
  1. Address the needs to “get started” by helping marketers understand the initial steps that might lead to integrated marketing leveraging an existing email channel.
  2. Utilize email marketing best practices to help inform what we decide to provide to the community.
  3. Look at simple tools that are easy to apply rather than just focus on deep insights or case studies that are interesting but don’t inform clear action for marketers.
Our initial group (still welcoming new members) had a discussion on cross-channel integration. I’ll introduce the team through the discussion summary.  eec Vice Chair Stephanie Miller of Aprimo kicked off the call and started us down the road to group discussion.

Challenge #1 – What is Cross-Channel Integration??

Jeff Chamberlain of Aprimo suggested that cross-channel integration spoke to presenting a marketing message via multiple communication channels to address the different needs driven by preference, buying cycle stage, etc.

Sheryl Biesman of Pharmavite pointed out the channel also refers to distribution from a CPG perspective so we need to be clear about integrating communication channels or distribution channels.

Dwight Sholes of Sholes LLC offered the perspective to focus on direct channels (those designed to directly influence action or response such as email marketing or direct mail as opposed to awareness like print ads or signage).  We accepted the fact that there is a large definition of cross-channel integration and that we would narrow down our target as we come up with different projects…which led to some discussion/brainstorming on possible projects we could do to pursue our charge as a group (trumpets blaring charge heard in the distance…). 

Here is a sampling of the ideas discussed:
  • Focus on nuts & bolts…how to get started…benchmarks…how to get it done.
  • Provide metrics for how to measure success and case studies on how it has been successful.
  • How to get it done easily.  Much of the material out there is intimidating on getting the resources (people, money) to get going.
  • Create a checklist to help people know they are addressing the right issues - a Cross-Channel Maturity Audit
  • Help people learn how to unify a single communication piece & communicate it across multiple channels.  Keep in mind how a message differs for different channels.
  • Help people test.  How to choose the right channels.  How to choose the right campaigns for testing cross-channel integration.
  • Focus on how to best combine traditional and new marketing channels (e.g. email marketing and social media, blogging and events)
  • Since we are doing this for email marketers, maybe we should investigate whether one channel (e.g. email marketing) should be the hub of your cross-channel marketing strategy.
This would force us to think through the aspects of cross-channel marketing and define some logical next steps.  It could be a good way to gather status and thoughts from others.  Let's do it!

And so there you are…our first challenge…define the aspects of a Cross-Channel Maturity Audit.  We’ll dive in at our next meeting in November.

Intrigued and want to join us?  Contact Ali at the eec.


- Jeff Chamberlain, Cross-Channel Integration Roundtable co-chair
VP, B2B Solutions Marketing
Aprimo

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Successfully Working Remotely is A Shared Responsibility


Email marketing, like any career, is likely to include working and collaborating with people who are not in the same physical office.   If you are the remote person, you probably have concerns about keeping in touch with others on the marketing team or in your department, and if you are managing people who are remote, you have to pay special attention to keeping them in touch with the rest of the group.

In an eec Member Initiatives Advisory Committee meeting on the Career Paths project last month, we discussed the impact of this dispersed workforce, and how it affects an email marketing team.

Angela Baldonero, VP, People of Return Path, reviewed four broad trends for career development among the diaspora:

  1. Technology keeps us connected, and enables a broad dispersion of the workforce.  However, it also causes some practical issues. For example, we have an employee in Berlin reporting to a manager in California. It raises the question:  Is Skype enough?
  2. Social interaction is good for the business.  Bringing on people in new geographies can be challenging for on-boarding as well as collaboration.  It's harder for new people to be remote.  However, people who have already built relationships in a core office and then move away can be successful in a remote environment.
  3. Dispersion affects the talent development lifecycle.  For example, the key needs of top talent are relationships and recognition and it's hard for people to build relationships if they are not there.  Lots of good work happens when you are in the same room – including discussing the creative for the email campaign while you look over my shoulder, or brainstorming subject lines by the coffee machine.   Plus, it's hard to "make your mark" if you do not have access to casual interaction, and the only time you "see" colleagues is in formal business meeting situations.
  4. It is easy to confuse connections with relationships.  It's easy to have connections. It's harder to build relationships.  However, it's relationships that drive recruitment as well as career advancement. Geography supports or inhibits relationship depth and meaning.

 

As the group discussed these ideas, we realized that these are challenges for workforce, but also for proving the value of email marketing within the organization.  We can't earn the respect we need for resources and a seat at the table just from the numbers; the relationships matter, too.

Other impact areas:

  • Geographic dispersion and even business unit silos within the same geography also affect the collaboration and governance of different brand/business unit email programs.
  • Participation in eec meetings is a way for geographically or functionally isolated professionals to network and be educated. It's also always helpful to hear that other marketers have the same challenges!
  • Remote employees don't have access to impromptu conversations which can help your career and move your projects forward.  Baldonero quoted, "A lot of work gets done when you talk about nothing."  Relationships are not built just talking about business and trust is built when you know the whole person.  If you just talk business, you may actually have less trust, because you only know one aspect of that person.
  • Sometimes there is a perception that if you are working at home you are not working as hard.  Jennifer Carmichael of Tenet Healthcare noted, "Some remote employees work harder or longer hours because they're 'always on.'"
  • Relationships drive loyalty and the extra effort needed to get something done.  If I need help with a project or getting something run up the flagpole, it's a lot more successful to stand in that person's office, than to IM them.

 

In all this, we discussed that building relationships is a shared responsibility.  If you work remotely, you need to make time for making these connections since they don't happen organically. This is both the responsibility of the individual and the organization.  If a business hires people remotely for email marketing or any task, there needs to be a commitment to support this relationship building.

Some ways to build your own long distance relationships or help make it easier for remote employees to engage:

  1. Stay an extra day when you do visit the office. Make time for coffee and hello's.
  2. Corporate social networks can help facilitate information across offices.
  3. Seek out similarities – find the connections outside the office with your colleagues. This might mean taking a bit of extra time on the phone or in an email to get to know the person.
  4. Managers can facilitate team building prior to the business meetings. Build time into the weekly phone calls or hold quarterly in-person meetings that have time for socializing.   "This is a great idea that I can implement tomorrow," Carmichael said.
  5. Conferences like the Email Evolution Conference are a good way to meet new people.   However, we are all busy; we have to make time for establishing these connections.  Nancy Atwood of Anchor Computer said, "In some ways, we are victims of technology – we can work all the time and we are always connected. So the "doing the work" is taking priority over "building a network."  We invest our time in replying electronically rather than establishing a personal connection."
  6. Corporate HR or someone needs to accept some level of administrative support and education, as well as the remote employees themselves.  Be proactive. If no one is reaching out to you, reach out to your manager or the HR team, Baldonero recommends.
  7. Working long distance is a reality for most email vendor/marketer relationships. Many of these same principles apply to good account management and client service. "Think of your colleagues as clients, and that might change the way you relate to them," Atwood said.

 

Lastly, we discussed some things that the DMA/eec can be doing to help facilitate career growth and help us all build these relationships internally and around the industry:

  1. A member directory of names, company, industry, geography. Restricted access and "no sales calls."
  2. Local events for members to meet and network and learn from each other. Perhaps in cooperation with local DMA groups.
  3. Ensure there are strong networking opportunities prior to and during the main DMA conferences.


What are you doing to build relationships with remote colleagues, clients and employees?  What else would you like the DMA/eec to do to help the industry? Please leave your comments below or email Stephanie Miller at the Member Initiatives Advisory Committee.

 

 

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Gmail: Unsubscribes, Complaints and Engagement

 

Gmail reported in their blog this week that they have developed a way to provide their users with an opportunity to report spam and/or unsubscribe from emails they receive in their Gmail accounts. The article, titled "Unsubscribing Made Easy" is a positive change for Gmail, but still falls short of where most legitimate senders want to see.


Like many complaint feedback loops (also known as FBL's) offered by a number of ISPs, Gmail's new functionality is mostly a good thing. I applaud their effort, and it certainly helps when there is this cooperation and transparency in the sender/receiver relationship. It is better for everyone. This is why the Abuse Reporting Format was met with applause by senders when it arrived a few years back.


Here are the good parts. First, Gmail's new feature provides the subscriber with a chance to mark a message as spam, which should allow Gmail to better filter their email. Second, in addition to the option to just report spam, the end user may also choose to "unsubscribe and report spam." This second option apparently is just provided when Gmail deems the sender to be reputable. See the image below for an idea on what the subscriber sees.

Gmail Image
 

 

 

 

 

 

In his blog, Brad Taylor outlines the reasons Gmail pursued the development of this new feature.


"For those of you senders who are interested in this feature, the most basic requirements are including a standard "List-Unsubscribe" header in your email with a "mailto" URL and, of course, honoring requests from users wishing to unsubscribe. You'll also need to follow good sending practices, which in a nutshell means not sending unwanted email (see our bulk sending guidelines for more information).

With an easy way to unsubscribe, everybody wins. Your spam folder is smaller, and senders don't waste time sending you email that you no longer want.

Update (1:50pm): If you want to unsubscribe without reporting the message as spam, click "show details" in the top-right corner of the message, then click "Unsubscribe from this sender."


It is this piece that leads me to a bit of concern on the implementation. If Gmail is doing their usual checks on authentication, reputation, content etc. to determine which senders are legitimate, why then force the end-user to either mark something as spam, or go through "show details" (which nearly no one will do) to unsubscribe? Why not also provide an unsubscribe button on the interface in addition to the "report spam" button?
I can understand why Gmail would forgo providing the email address back to the sender at the user's discretion. However, even the FTC has a study showing that unsubscribing from spam doesn't really lead to more spam. In the FTC's 2002 study, they report that "In no instance did we find that any of our unique email accounts received more spam after attempting to unsubscribe."

Gmail has the opportunity to educate their subscribers on legitimate and unsolicited email. Why not provide just an "unsubscribe" button for legitimate senders, and explain why they are doing it, rather than propagating the unfounded fear of unsubscribing?
Also, other ISPs have gotten around this privacy concern by not passing back the actual email address back to the sender. Many senders use other forensics to determine which subscriber complained so that this subscriber can be removed from the list.

Engagement Matters
We advise clients to look at all sorts of engagement metrics, and unsubscribes and complaints are equally as important as opens and clicks. When possible, I'd like to know the ultimate intent of the subscriber when they choose to get off of a list. I always say I'd rather have someone unsubscribe from my email than ignore me.

As for which email this is enabled for and which not, the folks over at Word to the Wise looked at this a bit deeper and do some testing. They found that:
"Conditions where the unsubscribe option is presented include:

  • The mail is authenticated
  • The sender has a good reputation
  • The email has a mailto: option in the List-Unsubscribe header
  • The recipients marks the message as spam"

Read more about their tests here http://blog.exacttarget.com/blog/the-exacttarget-blog/0/0/gmail-offering-unsubscribe-option or here http://blog.wordtothewise.com/2009/07/gmail-offering-unsubscribe-option/.


Either way, legitimate senders do benefit from this, but it is fun to dream of having both unsubscribe and report spam options available to subscribers.

 

- Chip House, Vice President, Industry & Relationship Marketing, ExactTarget

Chip is responsible for industry research and relations, and owns the targeted marketing programs that ensure the satisfaction and success of ExactTarget's client base.  Chip also manages the teams responsible for marketing research, deliverability compliance, and privacy initiatives.  As an established industry leader, Chip writes regularly for online marketing publications and was named to BtoB Magazine's 2005 "Who's Who in B-To-B" for being a vocal proponent of legitimate commercial email. Chip brings 20 years of direct marketing and twelve years of internet marketing experience to ExactTarget.

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Subscribers Have Their Own Ideas!

This special edition blog post is by eec Consumer Education Roundtable member Mindy Dolan, Director of Marketing for TailoredMail.

It's probably fair to say that most of us who are members of the DMA's Email Experience Council are passionate about email marketing in some sense or another. Sometimes we're so passionate about it that we assume everyone else in the world knows what we're talking about when we say the words "email client", "spam" or "phishing". But what if you asked your parents, grandparents or friend what those words meant? What do you think they'd say?

The eec Consumer Education Roundtable wanted to know just that in order to make sure we were speaking the right language when developing a new website to help consumers become more aware of email's do's and don'ts.

Working with Roundtable chairs Jason Baer of Convince & Convert and DJ Waldow of Blue Sky Factory, Roundtable member Stephanie Miller of Return Path put together a quick survey asking questions about email clients, spam and phishing. Roundtable members sent it to friends, family and Facebook/Twitter followers specifically looking for people OUTSIDE the email industry. More than 65 people took the survey.

What we found is that in general, people are catching on to email and the lingo used. They knew the harder terms like phishing, but no surprise, they don't think like marketers! When we asked the question, "What name or phrase do you use to describe the type of company that provides you an email address? Note that we aren't looking for the name of the company like Yahoo! or Cox, but the "category or type" of company that this represents." we got a mixed response. Most people outside of the email industry really don't know the definition of an email service provider or an email client. They just think of the company that provides them with an email address as Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc. There were some in the bunch who recognized it as an email service provider, but this helped us realize that when we are referring to an "email client" or an "email service provider", we need to be very clear and give examples of what we're talking about (i.e. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo!, etc).

And when asked how they defined spam, a whopping 76% of the participants responded saying, "Any email I didn't ask for, even if it's from a brand I know." So what do you think they do with that email once they see it in their inbox? Participants could choose multiple answers, and 71% of the participants said they'd delete an email they don't want, 39.3% said they'd mark it as spam or junk, and another 39.3% said they'd unsubscribe.

So what does this tell us? Our perception of what consumers know and don't know about email helps prove the need for an educational website that's written by email experts, but speaks to consumers in their language. Good thing we are building one!

How do we get this message out to consumers once the website is live? That's where our eec followers like you come in. We're looking for you to help us spread the message. Once the website is ready, we'll send you a link to the site, and ask you to add this to your email marketing messages, websites, and anywhere else you think consumers would be able to find it. In the meantime, if you would like to help us build the site, we can still use writers, editors and user experience support.

Help us get the word out and educate consumers about email! Contact Ali to join this Roundtable.

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Notes from the 08-09 eec Nonprofit Project - Agassi Foundation

The past year has flown by and as we approach the last lap of the 08-09 eec Nonprofit Project, the team wanted to share two key accomplishments—these are just two of many wins from the eec team and the Agassi Foundation since last July.

1.) New creative strategy and assets—convincing the Agassi team to transition from sending a digital version of their print newsletter to a more email friendly one was easy. But no one imagined the bump in response they saw! With open rates close to 40%, the new newsletter creative saw nearly a 390% increase in click thru activity. Check it out here.

2.) On the social side, the eec team looked for ways to help the Agassi Foundation add to their existing partnered presence in the "social" world with organizations like Athletes for Hope. Enter the badge download page: view it and download your own Agassi Foundation badge here.

Even though the 08-09 Nonprofit Project isn't over yet, it certainly has been rewarding for the team to help out such a great organization, cause and group of people. We'll be back at the end of the project with a full wrap-up.

*If you haven't gotten involved yet, now's your chance to sign up and do something—the eec just announced the 09-10 project - the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation (DMEF). Contact Ali for more information and to join the team.

- Chris Frasier & Rachael Anderson, BlueHornet
Agassi Project Team Leads

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ESPs: Implementing The Render Rate

The email marketing industry has never had a consensus around metrics, something that contributes to its reputation as an immature marketing channel. When I heard about the Measurement and Accuracy Roundtable at the eec I was excited to join the metrics conversation and help contribute to solidifying some table-stakes metrics.

Less than a year later we've come up with a proposal - one that represents a large step forward for email marketers. However, it also means a good bit of work. Many email marketing service providers (ESPs), email marketing vendors and individual marketers now have to start considering some new numbers.

This proposal not only calls out where everyone should eventually be, it also provides consistent names for related metrics. For us at ESPs, it means that we can immediately make it clear to our clients where we stand.

A great approach is to embrace an "Educate, Enhance and Evolve" approach. What does that entail?

1. Educate your clients on where they currently stand
Is what you've been calling 'Opens' now defined as the Action Rate? If so, then let them know, that doesn't mean you need to change the name right away, but you should provide a tool tip or a more detailed description in your help guides. Also link to the new standards, or provide your own copy of them within your application. This will empower them to do more with their data.

2. Enhance your current reports with some of the new metrics
You may have been showing just one number, the one you thought best represented 'Opens'. But we've opened the door, there are a number of different metrics which each tell a different story. By providing more of this information you allow your clients to dig deeper into their statistics and gain a better understanding of their recipients. Of course with more information comes more questions; be sure to provide detailed information about how these numbers are calculated as well as why they are important.

3. Evolve from the days of 'Opens'
That's right, the goal here is to stop reporting 'Opens' at all. Do we expect the industry to forget about 'Open Rates' by tomorrow? No, but we do expect the experts to start moving away from it soon. When industry leading ESPs follow suit it will help to create momentum and drive the whole industry forward.

By defining and adhering to industry standards we are enabling all email marketers to converse with the confidence that they are comparing apples to apples. This is a big step in the move towards getting email marketing the respect it deserves as a mature marketing channel.

- Adam Covati, Bronto Software

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Improve Email Marketing Success by Getting Back-to-Basics

Email marketers are always on the lookout for the next best thing. We always want to be recognized as "thinking outside the box." This kind of entrepreneurial spirit is what we're all about as we go off into the digital world. Some recent studies have suggested that around 95% of all email is really SPAM. At first glance, this can be a pretty scary number to us as senders. The reality is that this is a great opportunity for email marketers to take control of an opportunity. This means that you only have to compete with the 5% of messages that are legitimate. How do we take advantage of the lack of effective email marketing? I suggest we get back to basics and explore a different way of thinking about email marketing. Are you ready for a mind-twisting thought? Thinking "inside the box" is the new "thinking outside the box."

What exactly do I mean by this statement? I want each of you to take an honest and simple look at your email programs. First, ask yourself some foundational questions:
What am I trying to accomplish with email?
Who is my audience?
Why do my customers sign-up for email?
If I was a customer, what would be my expectation of the email I was going to receive?
Do I educate my customers on the benefits of my email program?
Do I have a frequency plan?
Are my messages relevant to each recipient?
Do I have a goal in mind each time I send an email?
What is my bounce rate?
What is my complaint rate?
Do I historically track my stats for comparison?
Am I testing with regularity?

These questions are the basic building blocks for any successful email program. These are also questions whose answers can pretty easily be pushed aside to be answered another day. Revenue pressures, the need to increase engagement and subscribers, perceived deliverability issues, and executive pressures are all factors that can cause us to get off track from time to time. A common misconception goes something like this. I send to 10,000 addresses today and sell 100 widgets. If I send to 20,000 addresses tomorrow, I will sell 200 widgets. This type of flawed logic gets us away from our basic questions and mission. Email marketing is about the recipient, not the sender. If you build a relationship with the recipient and give them something of value, the relationship will pay dividends.

When we hear about the "end" of email as a medium, it is that 95% of unwanted email that drives the perception. Now more than ever, it is time to focus on what your customers and prospects want to see. Bring your thinking back into the box of good marketing plans and communications, and see your results soar.

- Kevin Senne, Premiere Global Services

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UK Subscriber Study: Email Must Say Something Worthwhile

It's not surprising that a recent study of UK email subscribers finds that most email marketing is pretty terrible – it's irrelevant, untargeted and poorly timed. What the study really points out is that consumers notice.

Put out by Emailcenter, an ESP in the UK, the study polled British consumers about their inbox habits and preferences. The report (free registration required) is full of wonderful ideas to improve email marketing response and deliverability. One thing that struck me is the data to support what we know intuitively from our own inboxes: we all get a lot of email, and many marketers take a short term, aggressive approach to content and frequency. Luckily, all the factors that go into reversing this trend and improving both the subscriber experience and response rates for marketers are under the control of the marketer.

Almost 64% of the respondents in the Emailcenter survey say that only a quarter of the marketing messages they get are relevant to them. Just a half a percent of them said all of it was relevant. With targeting, segmentation and dynamic content technology integrated in most email broadcast vendors and all the in-house software solutions, there is no reason why email marketers have to compromise any longer.

Using segmentation helps solve another big challenge for email marketers: frequency. In the study, 62% said that high frequency is a factor in making them wish to stop marketing messages. More than half say they got more than expected at sign up – with 36% reporting they got "more" and 16% reporting "far more." We know from our Return Path data that high frequency and low relevance are key factors in complaints to the ISPs – which depress deliverability and lower response further. The Emailcenter report also has some good suggestions about educating executive management about the perils of overmailing.

Beyond too frequent messages, another 70% say that "no relevant products" was a factor in making them wish to stop receiving marketing messages. A sizeable minority, 43%, said that their requirements changed. Again, these are all factors that marketers control. Frequency is important not only because it encourages a "delete" (the rolled eyes of subscriber feedback), but it's also the most commonly cited reason for an unsubscribe request. And it's a big reason why subscribers click the "report spam" button, depressing inbox deliverability and lowering response rates across the entire file. A quick way to check if volume and high complaints are a concern for you is to check your sender reputation for free (free registration suggested for deeper data, but not required).

Subscribers aren't asking that much of marketers. Sixty-five percent said they signed up to get exclusive discounts. A full 75% of respondents said that "special offers" is a key factor in their response to a marketing message. Another 55% said "relevant products." My goodness! All we have to do to engage a majority of our subscribers is identify what products they are in market for and provide a compelling offer that makes them feel special and valued? Certainly that is within our grasp.

What happens when we push the limits? A full 75% of these respondents said they unsubscribe (this is much higher than the studies I've seen in the US, and more than twice that found in our US consumer study). Another 40% say they just delete – which is like an emotional unsubscribe and they are lost subscribers. Only 14% said they click the "report spam" button; again, significantly less than studies of US consumers – our own study last year showed 33% click the "report spam" button when messages are not relevant.

Keep in mind the key finding here: consumers notice what email marketers do. When we send something interesting and relevant at a good pace, they are happy to stay active with our programs. When we don't… well, then we've lost them, perhaps for good.

- Stephanie Miller, Return Path

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Build Yourself An Award Winning Welcome Program

Last month I was delighted to learn that one of my clients, Sony, won the gold award at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit in Miami for best automated series. The winning campaign was a serialized message stream developed to welcome, educate, and engage individuals who had just joined the Sony Rewards loyalty program. We executed the new strategy though a simple test plan to quantify the impact of the new messaging, and were quite pleased by the results.

The new messages, a series of three, sent over the course of seven days, enjoyed significant increases in click-through rates over the control group, and drove an exponential lift in site visits and online engagement. Sony has taken the learnings from this test and extended them through similar serialized message streams targeting other segments.

If you're not currently leveraging a multi-message or serialized welcome strategy, I strongly suggest you develop a plan to test one. The bottom line is that new members of your list have unique needs and are likely to be up to five times more responsive to the messages they receive during their first few weeks as subscribers. It simply makes good business sense to address these needs and ensure that messaging critical to your core business objectives makes its way to the inbox during this time when recipients are most likely to respond to it.

Where do I start?

  • We began the process of developing our new welcome program by reviewing the eec Welcome Email Checklist, a terrific resource that I highly suggest you download. It covers virtually all of the key issues and articulates best practices that we followed when developing our award winning campaign.
  • Once you've devised a new welcome strategy, test it appropriately - hold out control groups to receive existing messaging [or none at all], and identify specific success metrics that tie directly to core business objectives.
  • After analyzing test results and optimizing existing messaging appropriately, explore extending the program with additional messages sent during various stages of your customer [or prospect's] life-cycle.
  • If you have any welcome message success stories, please share here, look me up on twitter [@neinstein] or email me.

    - Nicholas Einstein
    Datran Media

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    DOUBLE DOG DARE: Start Your Email Program Over from Scratch

    Are you happy with the structure and performance of your email program? If you wish you could just blow it up and start over, we dare you—no, we Double Dog Dare you—to consider this challenge from Loren McDonald, vice president of industry relations for Silverpop:

    Start your email program over from scratch. Shut the door, turn off your phone, IM and Twitter, and get out a plain, old-fashioned sheet of paper or clean off the office whiteboard. Ask yourself these questions: What would I do differently if I could start our email program over? What am I doing purely out of habit or because everybody else is doing it? What do I wish I could do but I can't because I don't have the budget or backing from management?

    As you stare at the blank page or whiteboard, ask yourself these questions:

    List growth: Are we focused on quantity rather than quality? Are we using questionable acquisition methods just to hit some arbitrary list-size targets? Are we still using pre-checked boxes and single opt-in because my boss couldn't care less about spam complaints, list hygiene and delivery rates?
    List churn and inactivity: Do we understand how active our database is? From one-third to three-quarters of our list is likely inactive; so, what are we doing to reactivate those subscribers that have tuned us out? What programs do we have to deliver greater value to our loyal customers? What can we do to minimize unsubscribes, spam complaints and bounces?
    Design and format: Are our image-heavy emails with lots of administrative information located above the fold still the right approach? Is it time to start from scratch and have an email-design professional create a template that renders well on mobile devices and in preview panes with blocked images? Should we redesign our masthead and navigation links to better correspond with the actions our subscribers want to take?
    Welcome program: Is it time to chuck the text-only confirmation email for a well-designed, multi-message welcome email program?
    Message types: We've been sending the same basic emails for the last two years—our "Weekly Specials" email and monthly "Close Outs." Should we blow this up and let subscribers select different categories and frequencies? Can we add a slew of new email types—birthday specials, reminders, surveys, refer-a-friend promotions, geographic-targeted messages, educational or tip-oriented emails, etc.? Can we wrestle the transactional emails away from IT and design them to cross-sell and up-sell?
    Batch-and-blast: Is it time to stop whining, "How can I move to a lifecycle-, behavior- or trigger-based approach when it's all I can do to get the weekly batch-and-blast emails out the door?" Could I swap one or two batch-and-blast emails a month so I can start testing some more targeted approaches?
    Metrics: Are we tracking the right performance metrics? Our open and click-through rates are doing well, but my boss doesn't seem to care and wonders why we spend so much time on email marketing. Is it time for me to tackle proving the contribution of email to lifetime customer value, cost savings and direct ROI?
    Incentives: Have we gotten hooked on incentives —free shipping and 10% off? Should we test some targeted emails sent only to people that clicked on specific links and use no or reduced incentives to see if we can improve our margins?
    Preference centers: Our unsubscribe page is so ugly and doesn't offer any alternatives. Can I get some design and Web resources to create a worldclass unsubscribe/preference page? Speaking of preference centers, can we continue without one?

    If you take up this dare: Let us know by commenting below. Did you overhaul your email completely or just tweak it here and there? What's the first thing you would change about your program if you could? Finally: Which of these changes, if any, could you actually make in your present program? And if you have a Double Dog Dare for the eec community, let us know about that, too.

    –>See more Double Dog Dares.

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    Help Us Educate Consumers about Email

    From the eec's Member RoundtablesEmail is perhaps the most transformative technology yet devised. It has changed the way we communicate, work and shop. Yet, despite its ubiquitous nature, widespread confusion remains about email in the minds of consumers. Issues of permission, privacy, technology and volume are pervasive with regard to email in a way that simply doesn't exist elsewhere in marketing. When was the last time you complained to DirecTV about getting channels for which you didn't opt-in?

    The eec has taken on the sizable challenge of educating consumer users about all things email, and we need your help.

    On Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 2pm EDT, DJ Waldow and I will be kicking off the newly formed Consumer Education Roundtable. The mission of this roundtable is to help consumers separate myth from fact and become better, safer and more responsible users of email. In doing so, we aim to provide an important feedback mechanism for the email industry, to assist them in understanding consumers' challenges and opinions regarding email. (Because let's face it, it's awfully easy for email professionals to lose sight of how tricky email can be for inexperienced users).

    The first project (and it's a doozy) for this new roundtable is to build the definitive website where consumers can learn key truths about email topics such as opting in and out, phishing, inbox management and other elements critical to a successful and positive email experience.

    We have secured volunteers to build the actual site, but we very much need eec members to assist in content creation. Again, our first roundtable conference call will be on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 2pm EDT, and will be devoted to determining overall features and functions for the new site, and discussing specific assignments and timelines. This strategy brief outlines our current plan for the new site.

    If you have a passion for making sure consumers understand our industry, please consider joining the new Consumer Education Roundtable. We'd love to have you. To join, simply contact Ali Swerdlow at ali@emailexperience.org.

    —eec Consumer Education Roundtable chair Jason Baer of Convince & Convert

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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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