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The Great Email Debate Topic #2 - Single Opt-In or Double Opt-In

Be sure to vote on the next best practice: single opt-in or double. Every vote counts so tell your colleagues!

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The Great Email Debate - Topic #1 - The Opt-In Box: Checked or Un-Checked

At last week's Email Evolution Conference, the Great Email Debate sparked a ton of conversation.

We'd like everyone to have the opportunity to weigh-in on the three topics we established as best practices. This week, vote on the first topic, the opt-in box: checked or un-checked, and post your comments here.

Next week we'll tackle single opt-in or double opt-in and the following week we'll wrap up the debate with a question about keeping or deleting inactives.

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Will There Be a Huge Brawl On Stage At the Email Experience Council’s 2nd Annual Event?

Well, I hope so. It's about time an email event had some drama and excitement. I have been going to industry events for years now and they are all the same: some great speakers, some not so great speakers; lots of buffet food, box lunches and good ideas.

But this year, the Email Evolution Conference (EEC09) promises to be different; at least in one session: The Great Email Debate. In this session, rumor has it that six of your favorite digital celebrities including Greg Cangialosi, Dave Hendricks, Peter Horan, Bill McCloskey, Kara Trivunovic, and DJ Waldow, are splitting into two sides and creating a Family Feud-esque scenario like no other.

We will finally see the mud flying as this group takes on tough questions like: Is it single opt-in or double? Do you remove inactives from your list? Do you precheck that box for opt-in?

I can't wait to see some candid conversations about topics that we all face every day. I will be moderating the session, but I will warn you, I am a hockey fan so seeing some blood or a good hip check as we address these issues won't make me sad.

This is only one of the many exciting sessions planned for EEC09.

If you are not yet registered for EEC09, you should be. Use discount code JAN09 and pay only $999* for the full conference (that includes one pre-conference workshop of your choice).

See you in a few weeks!
Jeanniey

*Only applies to new registrations.

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2009 Tips & Predictions

Test, test and test again.
- Spencer Kollas, StrongMail

View your campaigns through the eyes of your recipients. Test out your from name, subject line, creative, call-to-action, etc on subscribers who are *not* in your office or affiliated directly with your product/brand.
- DJ Waldow, Bronto Software

"Focus on reducing opt-in friction by testing and optimizing preference centers and other points of data collection – new signups will be especially critical to your business in 2009."
- Nicholas Einstein, Datran Media

Predictions for 2009:
1. Preheader text will be used by the majority of email marketers.
2. More email marketers will launch preference centers, giving subscribers more control of the content and frequency of the emails they receive.
3. Marketers will experiment with videos embedded in emails.
- Chad White, Smith-Harmon

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2008 Retail Email Subscription Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

Sponsored by: Message Systems

The Direct Marketing Association's Email Experience Council signed up to receive promotional emails from 120 of the top online retailers tracked via the Retail Email Blog. Findings indicate a trend toward richer subscription processes.

One highlight of the report shows that the percentage of retailers using only a one-click sign-up from homepage method to collect email addresses declined to 51% this year from 63% last year. That shift accompanied increases in the amount of data collected from new subscribers. Research also demonstrated that the number of retailers providing sample emails and allowing subscribers to choose email topic preferences was up.

"The old adage applies here—you never have a second chance to make a good first impression," says Dave Lewis, chief marketing officer of Message Systems. "Your opportunity is to convert a prospect's initial interest into a long-term, brand loyal relationship. Your challenge is not to 'kill' that interest (and the opportunity) with an intimidating or intrusive subscription process."

This year retailers are also putting more focus on list hygiene. Thirty-eight percent of retailers ask subscribers to confirm their email address by re-entering it, up from 27% last year. Also, 5% of retailers now use a confirmed (double) opt-in process, up from 3% last year, which also improves list quality.

Retailers are also taking greater advantage of their email sign-up process to promote other channels such as direct mail, blogs and RSS feeds. For the first time this year, research indicates that retailers are promoting SMS subscriptions, social networks and widgets along side or within their email programs. While the percentage of retailers promoting those new channels is currently small, it signals a new trend which is expected to grow significantly over the next year.

"Communication behaviors and preferences have changed," says Lewis. "Virtually all of us utilize multiple channels of communication, both online and offline. And how we want companies to communicate with us depends on the nature of the message, where we're at and our personal preferences. Yet, companies have badly lagged in their ability to deliver messages through our channels of choice. So I'm very pleased to see this trend developing, even if just in its infancy. It means we're moving beyond defining 'relevancy' just in terms of the content of the message. It means we're getting closer to realizing the direct marketing mantra of delivering the right message at the right time in the right place."

Other key findings from the study include:

● After falling from 27% in 2006 to 8% last year, the percentage of retailers using sign-up incentives rebounded to 13% this year, despite growing concerns about the quality of subscribers that are attracted by sweepstakes and other incentives.

● With recent evidence suggesting that putting privacy policies front and center during the subscription process actually reduce sign-ups, only 36% of retailers mentioned their privacy policy this year, down from 45% last year.

● Despite quicker subscription fulfillments overall, 29% of retailers took 15 days or longer to honor opt-ins or failed to honor them all together. That figure was the same as last year.

Get the Full Report
Visit the Whitepaper Room to download the full 39-page report, which is free for eec platinum members and available at a discount to eec gold and silver members. Not a member? Learn more about becoming a member of the Email Experience Council.

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MAKE IT POP!: Email Takes on the Economy

We all know that America's economy is hurting and that a lot of people (even those who aren't personally feeling the crunch) are worried enough to slow down their virtual and in-store shopping trips. Retailers aren't lying down and waiting for the storm to pass, though. Let's take a look at some of the interesting marketing emails that have been delivered by retailers working to push through the slump.

Creative Sales. Many retailers have responded to slow spending by getting more inventive with their sale techniques and infusing great deals with a sense of urgency.

Old Navy's "Early Columbus Day Sale," with its 1,492 items priced at $14.92 or less, takes the cake for creativity in the sale category. Who would think that Columbus Day could feel like cause for retail excitement? It's early and limited-time, so it feels urgent, too.

Threadless also has a sweet deal with a deadline, selling Girl's Tees (usually $18) starting at just $12 until Oct 12. The urgency and the significant savings strengthen the sale.

Moosejaw's sale email generates extra excitement with its exclusivity, sending each subscriber their very own secret code that yields one of (what we must assume is) a selection of discount offers.

J. Crew and Horchow are just two of many retailers who have been pushing limited-time free shipping messages over the past couple weeks. J. Crew's include the cute seasonal touch of asking subscribers to enter code "ACORN" at checkout, and both Horchow and J. Crew have sent multiple reminder count-down emails.

Straight Talk. Some have opted to confront the economic downturn head-on by mentioning it and even joking about it.

Restoration Hardware sent a one-day-only "spend $400, save $100" voucher with a bailout theme on October 2. They may have missed the mark—as a joke, it's a bit off-color and politically-slanted. They were using current events creatively, which can be clever, but they probably should have played with something less controversial and stressful for many subscribers.

Overstock.com launched a new Real Estate service on October 2, which they introduced in a letter at the bottom of this email beforehand. In the introductory letter, they remind subscribers that Overstock.com is committed to helping subscribers save money, and the letter makes their new service seem on-brand and sincerely subscriber-focused.

Splendora also takes a branded attitude towards the economic crisis that is gutsy and dismissive, urging subscribers to check out the upcoming trends that they'll be able to shop after this "little rough patch."

Spend and Save. In line with Restoration Hardware's discount approach (but without the bailout theme), Bloomingdales, Boden and Neiman Marcus, among others, offered limited-time, "Buy More, Save More," offers (as Bloomie's called theirs). These not only encourage higher spending; they also encourage spending NOW, before the offer expires. The messages warn subscribers that their offer isn't waiting for Wall Street to stop reeling, and neither should you.

Many retailers are feeling the squeeze, and we're sure to see more and more unique approaches to email as the situations unfold.

Still spending,
Lisa Harmon and Alex Madison of Smith-Harmon

–>Read other Make it Pop! posts.

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An Interesting (But Still Poor) Method to Ask for Permission

A few weeks ago, I received an email with what I would call a pretty weak subject—"NMFN's Financial Strength." Even though I was not expecting this email, I still opened it as I recognized the "from" name, John Haywood.

The email itself was pretty terrible. The only real call-to-action was the attached PDF. Attachments in a mass mailing? Red flag! Near the end of the email, in bold was the following:

"Your transmission of electronic mail to this address represents your consent to two-way communication by Internet e-mail. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from any computer on which it exists."

A couple of things jumped out at me. First—and not really critical—"Internet e-mail"? Huh? I'm pretty sure that since the turn of the millennium, we just refer to it as "email." Anyway… Second, I'm not sure that I "received [the email] in error," but I certainly never gave John permission to email me at work.

However, I thought nothing of this odd non-permission-based email and simply dumped it in my trash folder. But, nine days later, I got this:

I immediately recognized the sender—John Haywood again—which led me to open the message. However, as an email marketing account manager, I was especially intrigued by the subject line "Action Required for Subscription Confirmation - Northwestern Mutual Financial Network." My initial reaction was that at least the subject was clear, direct, and actionable.

A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE EMAIL
1. "Thank you for your interest in News Brief…": I never indicated that I was interested! This does not count as explicit consent (opt-in).
2. Two links - Confirm or Decline Subscription: I like this part. Clear and to the point.
3. "Note: This final confirmation step….": I like that this section tells me what will happen if I "confirm" or "decline"; however, what happens if I do nothing? What if all I do is open the message? What about if I had just deleted without opening? What about if I marked it as spam? Will they count this as a confirmation? (I chose to "do nothing"—let's see what happens next!)
4. Privacy Policy: The privacy policy does a nice job of explaining my rights, but is a bit confusing. Their definition of opt-in "requires that a person or entity request to be included on an email list." Based on their own words, I never opted in!

TAKEAWAYS
1. Permission is easy: Ask for it. Make sure you get it (explicitly). Double check to ensure they were serious (confirmation). Welcome them.
2. Be explicit: Tell me why you are emailing me, how often you'll be sending, what it will look like, and how I can unsubscribe.

—DJ Waldow of Bronto Software

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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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Your Most Frequently Asked Questions - Answered!

From the eec's Member RoundtablesAre the basics of email marketing leaving you stumped? Don't know where to turn with your most pressing email marketing questions? The wait is now over! The Email Experience Council's Member Initiatives Advisory Committee has established a comprehensive list of Email Marketing Q&A's that will assist even the most seasoned email marketing veteran in answering some of the industry's most pressing questions.

Questions range on topics such as permission, deliverability, list rental, Can-Spam requirements, and engaging consumers. From questions such as "Can you give me a list of spammy words to avoid?" to "Do I need to get permission in order to send emails to customers?" there is something interesting for everyone.

Personally, my favorite QA is "Everyone on my list has opted in so why am I getting spam complaints?" The accompanying answer is a solid response to a question asked by many in the email world, but this issue will more than likely forever remain as one that we email marketers will continue to ask, study, and try to solve for ages to come.

By no means are the contributors to the Q&A lawyers or legal advisors but most have been in the trenches of email marketing for long enough to know the answers to the questions everyone wants to know but are too afraid to ask. In addition, many of the answers are accompanied by other valuable resources to further enhance your knowledge on particular subjects.

Not seeing your most burning questions on the list? Send them to us! We'll be continuing to post Q&A's periodically so email us your questions and check back later for the answers.

—eec Members Initiatives Advisory Committee chair Lauren Skena of Epsilon

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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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How We Improved Our Newsletter Subscription Process

Last November I wrote about The Forgotten Pages of Email Marketing, those lonely and neglected pages in your email processes that haven't been updated in two years or more or—gasp!—haven't been altered from the default template set by the vendor. Unless you routinely subscribe to, unsubscribe from, forward, etc. your emails or manually check those pages, these lapses are difficult to detect—that is, until they're pointed out to you by one of your subscribers. That's what happened to us recently, courtesy of Benjamin Fitts of CustomCardGuy.com, who emailed me saying:

"I've been enjoying your blogs and plan to join the eec later this week. The funny thing was as I signed up for your email from the emailexperience.org blog I realized you guys are committing a faux pas! When subscribing I get a nice page that tells me I should be expecting a confirmation from you shortly. The problem is that when I get the confirmation email and click the link, I get the exact same message letting me know I should be receiving a confirmation email shortly. ;) I'm sure this is just a mistake on your part but I wanted you to know how silly it seems for an organization helping us with email standards who can't get the basics right."

We immediately checked things out…and he was dead right. Our sign-up confirmation page and subscription confirmation page for our confirmed opt-in process were the same, which was definitely confusing. Because of the duplication we also missed out on the opportunity to confirm that they were subscribed and to tell them to expect a welcome email. While reviewing the process, we decided to make a few other changes as well.

Hoping to inspire you to review your own subscription processes, here are the improvements that we made:

1. Sign-up Confirmation Page. After signing up for our newsletter, you're taken to a sign-up confirmation page. It originally said:

"A confirmation email has been sent to your inbox from enews@emailexperience.org. To confirm your subscription please click on the link enclosed in that email."

We made some minor tweaks to make it clear more quickly that the subscriber needs to take an additional action. The new wording is:

"To confirm your subscription, please click on the link in the confirmation email that we just sent to you from enews@emailexperience.org. Thank you."

2. Subscription Confirmation Email. The only change we made to this email, which is triggered by a sign up, was to change the subject from "New subscription to Email Experience Council Email List" to "Please confirm your subscription to the Email Experience Council newsletter". The previous subject line seemed like it was intended for the email administrator, not a new subscriber. Plus, the new subject line again reinforces the message that an additional action is needed to complete the subscription process.

3. Subscription Confirmation Page. When you confirm your subscription by clicking on the link in the subscription confirmation email, you're taken to the subscription confirmation page. This was the element that our previous process lacked. Here's the wording we devised for this page:

"Thank you for subscribing to our weekly newsletter. A detailed welcome email has been sent to you from enews@emailexperience.org. Please add that address to your address book to ensure that you receive future emails in a timely fashion. Thanks and welcome to the Email Experience Council community."

It thanks them for subscribing, tells them to expect a welcome email and asks that they whitelist us—very concise and to the point.

4. Welcome Email. We had redesigned the body copy of our welcome email many months ago, so that copy was fine. However, we hadn't scrutinized the subject line enough. It said, "Welcome to The Email Experience Council," which was very misleading because while all eec members are eec subscribers, all subscribers are not members. So we changed that subject line to "Welcome to the Email Experience Council community!" which echoed the final line of the subscription confirmation page.

Thanks again, Ben, for helping us do a better job of practicing what we preach.

—Chad White of the Email Experience Council

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DOUBLE DOG DARE: Add an Unsubscribe Link to the Top of Your Emails

Sometimes people need a nudge to try something new, edgy or against the conventional wisdom. So here you go, we dare you—NO, we Double Dog Dare you—to consider this challenge from DJ Waldow of Bronto Software:

Add an unsubscribe link to the top of your emails where it's more easily seen. Why is it that the vast, vast majority of unsubscribe links reside (hide?) at the bottom of the email message? Is it because as consumers, we've been trained to scroll to the bottom of the email to unsubscribe? Or is it that as marketers we don't want to do anything to suggest that subscribers should opt-out? Consider the likely positive benefits of adding another unsubscribe option to the top of your emails: Would this give more people faith that the unsubscribe link would work and therefore reduce the number of spam complaints? While it would surely increase the number of unsubscribes, would you lose active subscribers? Your inactive subscriber are most likely to act on the new, more visible opt-out link, which would give you a more engaged subscriber base that's cheaper to mail and administer.

You may have a more specific business reason to make the unsubscribe link more prominent as well. For example, you may want to add the additional unsubscribe link if your spam complaints are too high, particularly if you have lots of younger subscribers (which tend use the "report spam" button to opt-out). Also, if you see your spam complaints rise after sweepstakes acquisition campaigns or during the holidays when you increase frequency, adding a more prominent opt-out link will likely reduce those complaints. I dare you to test this on a small portion of your list (and share your results).

If you take up this dare, let us know how it went by commenting below. 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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AOL (AIM) Understands Email Marketing (Not!)

As I rolled into work this morning, I logged into my Gmail account to see what random emails came in over the 6-hour window of time I was sleeping. Lo and behold….a message was sitting unread in my inbox.

The message was from "AIM Member Message" and had the subject line "What's New with AIM?" If I wasn't the type of person who opens every email (if only to critique them from a best practices standpoint), I would have "junked" this one immediately. Who is "AIM Member Message?" Why not "AIM" or "AOL Instant Messenger?" If you are going to have a terrible From name, at least wow me with the subject line, right? "What's New with AIM?" Boooooooring.

Two strikes for AOL before I even open the message. But, again, I open everything. Maybe they were banking on that fact. Maybe they didn't really spend any time thinking about the From name or subject line. Maybe they don't have a dedicated team of email marketers who are thinking about email as a strategic tool. Maybe it's a combination of all three or "none of the above." Who knows? Either way, it's not a great start.

Did I mention that I can't remember ever receiving an email from AOL (not in my Gmail account anyway)? So my next question (zinger) is how did they get my email address? Followed by…why the random, seemingly out-of-the-blue email? Oh right, they wanted to tell me "What's New with AIM." Too bad I don't care or more importantly, never asked to be emailed by AIM. Good thing they put the disclaimer in fine print in the footer.

Now…to the message. On first glance, a decent design for images off. Three text links—one "Find Out More!" followed by two "Start Now!" At least the valuable disclaimer/opt-out shows up with images off.

Moving onto the message with images on, I realize there are several key calls-to-action that are now viewable. So much for a nice design with images off. First off, apparently this is the AIM Newsletter. Who would've known? What *is* the AIM Newsletter anyway? A weekly message? Monthly communication? Whenever-they-feel-like-it email? Looks like they want me to download AIM. Funny thing is that I already have an AIM account. In fact, I've had one since AIM first launched sometime in the late 20th century. AOL collects a ton of data (I assume). Shouldn't they have already known that little tidbit? How about segmenting the list…targeting emails?

Continuing down below the fold, it looks like they want me to "start using [my] free AIM Mail Account." Again—been there, done that. My AOL username dates back to the dial-up days of 1995.

Finally, at the very bottom of the email—well below the fold—I get some neat new information: Mobile AIM! Yes. I can now access AIM on my mobile device. I guess it's about time to purchase that smart phone. I've been told they are pretty cool.

Unfortunately, I'm no longer shocked or surprised when a multi-billion dollar company does not understand the basics of email marketing. In the email ecosystem, industry experts often get dinged for hammering "email marketing 101." Marketers shout, "We get the fundamentals. Show us the new stuff!" But then…we get emails like the one from AOL/AIM/AIM Member Message.

Thanks AOL for keeping our jobs easy….

—DJ Waldow of Bronto Software

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Enterprise: Great Intent, Poor Execution

I rented a car from Enterprise for the May 2008 Email Insider Summit on Captiva Island in Florida. Enterprise has been my vendor of choice for the past 5 years because of their incredible customer service and comparable prices. As far as I'm concerned they are ozone layers above the rest.

However, as an email marketing account manager at Bronto Software for the past 3 years, I've evolved into a consumer with a critical eye toward marketing—email marketing specifically. I think about email all the time and am always fascinated on how companies communicate and execute on their email marketing campaigns. Enterprise was now on the clock. So…sit back, buckle up, and read on to learn more about my Enterprise email experience.

Half asleep due to boredom, I muddled through the normal car rental stuff—license, car model/size, etc. Then, after I signed away my life (and declined the optional insurance) the Enterprise guy asked me for my email address. Suddenly, he had my full attention. Of course, I asked why he needed my email and what he would use if for. Very politely, Mr. Enterprise informed me that they send out occasional updates on Enterprise specials. Sign me up!

I was immediately impressed that not only did he overtly ask for my permission, the salesman also began to set some expectations (frequency). It would have been hard to set content expectations in that particular venue, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

When I arrived at my bed & breakfast on Captiva Island and found a wireless connection, I checked my Gmail for the Enterprise welcome message. D'oh. Strike one. No email from Mr. Enterprise. Good thing my expectations for welcome messages were pretty low. A recent study by Return Path showed the dismal results on welcome messages (60% of companies surveyed didn't bother to send one!).

The good news? The very next day, Enterprise sent me a confirmation email. Yay! The from name was "Enterprise Plus" (okay) and the subject line read "Activate your Enterprise Plus membership" (love)—clear and to the point. The message with images off was not so great, but that's a post for another day. Images on was pretty good, not great, but at least it gave me a few opportunities to activate my account. Not bad, Enterprise. My faith in their email marketing program was returning.

I figured I'd put them to the test…see what happened if I did *not* confirm by clicking "Activate Now." So I opened the email, but didn't confirm. In fact, I didn't even click on a link. Lo and behold, one week to the day later, Enterprise sent me another email. I know what you are thinking (and what I was hoping): A reminder to confirm my interest in their email marketing campaign. Nope. This one came from "Enterprise-Rent-A-Car" (makes sense) and the subject read "David, speed your way to savings from Enterprise" (okay), but the content (Enterprise Regular Email.jpg) had nothing to do with activating my account. It was just the normal Enterprise email. Actually, the call to action offered me at 15% discount on NASCAR.COM Superstore. Okay, I'll admit, I am going into year #2 in a Fantasy Nascar league, but come on Enterprise! You didn't really know that. Then…on June 10th, another Enterprise email. It was the exact same email - same subject line, same copy, same offer (Nascar.com), with a different From Name (Enterprise Plus). In case you forget, at this point, I have still not confirmed my opt-in.

TAKEAWAYS:
1. In order to grow your email marketing list, take advantage of all opportunities to ask future and current customers: Enterprise nailed this one.
2. Send a Welcome Message immediately (set proper expectations around content and frequency). Enterprise bombed this one.
3. If you are going to send a confirmation email, make sure you receive an opt-in BEFORE sending more email. Enterprise was so close, but missed it.

—DJ Waldow of Bronto Software

*Earlier this week, Enterprise sent me a reminder email about my reservation for my Connecticut trip. Hmmm.

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MAKE IT POP!: What’s Your Preference?

I was inspired by ExactTarget's recently published whitepaper, Subscribers Rule. "Subscribers Rule" is—in ExactTarget's words—"acknowledgement that we, as marketers, bear a responsibility to deploy one-to-one marketing technologies in ways that put subscriber needs first."

I went for a jog yesterday in my "Subscribers Rule" t-shirt and contemplated great ways for marketers to begin empowering individual subscribers. My starting-point pick: the Communications Preferences Center. This is the landing page on your website that allows your subscribers to control what, when, and how you communicate with them.

FIVE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR COMMUNICATION PREFERENCE CENTER POP!:

(1) Let subscribers decide what information they want to offer.
Tommy Bahama asks only the most basic details upfront, then layers in the opportunity to identify optional detailed preferences. This allows subscribers to decide how much information they want to disclose—and how much time they want to invest in the sign-up process. Asking for too much upfront can result in a lost email address.

(2) Provide clear descriptions of your content options.
BabyCenter publishes a variety of personalized email newsletters. They make it easy for subscribers to choose which they'd like to recieve by posting descriptions and examples of each publication. Content selection happens at step three of their simple, three-step registration process. BabyCenter includes an explanation around each step to help subscribers understand how providing data is to their benefit.

(3) Allow subscribers to select their preferred message format.
As more subscribers view email on mobile devices, it becomes important to ask them how they prefer to receive their emails—in HTML or Text format. The New York Times follows a three-step registration process similar to BabyCenter's; however, because they reach out to more business customers using mobile devices, they include a format preference option. I like that they include a "What's this?" link to explain the difference between HTML and Text; it's silly to assume that the general public understands the difference.

(4) Give subscribers control over frequency.
While your biggest fans might want to hear from you every day, your sunny-day subscribers might prefer to receive email from you only once a month. If you have the capability to deliver on the promise, offer frequency as an option on your communication preferences page… and, as a way to retain over-mailed subscribers, on your opt-down page, like in this Saks example.

(5) Make the experience pleasant and easy.
I like Louis Vuitton's Communication Preferences Center for its transparency and conciseness. Options to subscibe, modify and unsubscribe appear within a left-land menu bar, and each page lives succinctly above the fold. As we'd hope for a luxury brand, the pages are well-produced and attractive; the newsletter sample screenshot is a nice touch.

Tommy Bahama also presents a well-branded experience, from the design to the copy. Rather than just picking up default verbiage, they make the text paradise-appropriate: "Tell us what inspires you, and we'll create an email experience that's as perfect as a well-planned vacation."

Paradise delivered!

As ever,
Lisa Harmon of Smith-Harmon

–>Read other Make it Pop! posts.

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Two-Click Survey Results: What Level of Permission to You Get from Most of your Email Subscribers?

The answer…
11% –> Double opt-in (have to check an unchecked box and respond to confirmation email)
26% –> Confirmed opt-in (have to check an unchecked box, plus they receive a welcome email allowing them to immediately opt out)
22% –> Single opt-in (have to check an unchecked box)
22% –> Negative opt-in (have to uncheck a pre-checked box not to be opted in)
20% –> Opt out (are automatically opted in and have to opt out to get off your list)

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

Also, visit the eec homepage to answer the latest Two-Click Survey question:
Which channel does email have the most synergies with?

–>See more Two-Click Survey Results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

–>Read other issues of the The Email Advocate.

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How Email Impacts Society

I want to share something inspirational that's happening in the email industry (Oh, and you can learn some best practices too!). It's a recap of the Email Experience Council's current Nonprofit Project. The project originated as a manner to enable peers and competitors in the email marketing industry to put business aside and work as a team to create the best email efforts for a good cause.

In 2007, the eec selected the Women's Bean Project as their project focus. Stephanie Miller, from Return Path, volunteered countless hours to lead this initiative and its team on behalf of the eec. I spoke with Stephanie about this effort to get the inside scoop on the project:

WHO IS THE WOMEN'S BEAN PROJECT?
The Women's Bean Project (WBP) helps women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment by teaching workplace competencies for entry-level jobs through employment and by teaching job readiness skills in their gourmet food production business.

WHY WERE THEY A GOOD CANDIDATE?
The WBP was sending one-off donor and volunteer announcements from a database created in FileMaker.

The WBP came to the eec with the following needs and goals:

1. Efficiency: Communicate effectively and efficiently with donors, volunteers and buyers (online and offline).

2. Impact & Choice: Retain donors and buyers through a higher number of touch points—ensuring that each touch is meaningful but also reducing costs and the amount of staff time required for each. Also, allow each customer/donor to select the method of communication (online or offline) that works best for them.

3. Cost Savings: Continue to reach every customer, even as the number of buyers increases by 30% each year (raising the costs of printing and postage significantly).

4. Practicality: Launch and manage a program on a very small staff—literally one-quarter of one person was dedicated to email marketing for all three audiences (donors, buyers, volunteers).

HOW DID THE EEC VOLUNTEER TEAM LOOK?
It is a testament to the email industry and the eec membership that very quickly we had 15 talented professionals volunteer to help, and several vendors step forward and to provide tools and services free of charge. ExactTarget provided a free basic sending license and also graciously donated nearly 15 hours of support throughout the project. Return Path donated a free rendering and deliverability account. Other companies represented included Blackbaud, BlueHornet, Future Integrated Marketing, Industry Mailout, Leapfrog Enterprises, Merkle and Wolters Kluwer Financial Services.

WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED?
The team focused on six specific areas to create the program—content, design, infrastructure and list growth.

Content Strategy:
● Identified ways that email can support the WBP mission
● Developed a content strategy
● Debated and finalized permission standards (DOI)
● Developed a calendar for promotions around the holidays, including promoting some local events and fundraisers
● Advised on sending an email counterpart for the annual appeal to donors (direct mail)
● Promotional content recommendations: (1) special offers: 10% discount for National Soup Month; (2) developed concept, copy and photography for a Valentine's Day email that would have viral impact; and (3) developed a year's worth of promotional themes based on holidays in order to boost sales during non-peak months (e.g., soup sales in summer are very slow)
● Set up Google Analytics so WBP could measure success of the email program for driving sales and page views
● Helped train the WBP team to review campaign results with an eye toward optimization

Design:
● Developed wireframes for four types of emails
● Designed templates for newsletter, postcards, DOI/welcome and donor appeals
● Loaded the templates into ExactTarget and tested them
● Helped launch an inaugural issue—which included list hygiene and deliverability with an old file, as well as an opt-out strategy for the existing database

Infrastructure:
● Worked with the team to set up an ExactTarget account
● Upload the templates; Access the self-service training
● Testing and mailing
Course Correction: Aligning with with Yahoo! Store and cleaning up templates

List Growth:
● Starting point: 75% valid records
● Developed organic, offline and viral list growth ideas
● Recommended ways to optimize data capture on the website
● Reviewed the subscription flow for permission clarity and growth optimization

Wireframe Sample:

HOW DID IT TURN OUT?
Here's a quick rundown of the results:

1. We launched a program! It is practical, earns results, garners the praise and kudos of subscribers, donors and the WBP Board of Directors and has legs—the WBP can continue this email program when the volunteer team disbands.

2. Subscribers love it! The inaugural issue of the newsletter generated:
● 32% open rates
● 15% clickthrough rate
● 3.1% bounce rate on new data (25% bounce rate on old list data)

3. Subscribers are great WBP customers! Page views from email subscribers are two times higher than other sources.

For more details on our work with the Women's Bean Project and past Nonprofit Projects, visit the Nonprofit Project page on the Email Experience Council's website.

—Jeanniey Mullen of the eec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weekly Whitepaper Room Refresh

Every week the EEC adds new content to its Whitepaper Room. Here are the latest additions:

eROI: The Cradle and The Grave
Opt-In, Opt-Out & Feedback Loops

*Have a whitepaper you'd like to contribute? Email it to whitepapers@emailexperience.org.

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