Email Marketing The Marketeer

Email State of the Union

Michael Seaton of The Client Side Podcast, and ScotiaBank sent off some questions about email to a group I’m in and I thought that they were interesting enough to share with everyone (along with my answers, of course). Just to set the stage, this year is my 10th anniversary of email (damn, I am so old!). I still have a can of spam trophy for my 1,000,000th email back in my days at DCI.

Here some of the issues/topics I will address with the panel:

1. Personalization – examlpes of good / bad.

The key here is not to screw it up. Not personalizing is no crime if the message is still relevant, and looks better than something that starts “Dear Pujabu (sp?),”

2. Is the audience listenting? Are email metrics on the rise or

Yes, many people think (and many pundits say) that email is dying. Nothing is further from the truth. Spam may be losing it’s edge, but relevant emails are more powerful than ever.

3. Net generation – when this huge cohort hits the workforce and
begins to emerge as a force in the consumer economy, will email fall
into the catagory of “my parents technology?

Not until there is a viable corporate substitute. Yes, some of those crazy kids use MySpace over email, but would you move your corporate website to a MySpace page? I didn’t think so.

4. Has any new technology (RSS, IM etc..) emerged as is the killer app
in terms of database targeting, personalization and measurement as
email brought to the table?

Nothing out there currently beats an email that has individually coded links to website landing pages. RSS is too early on the adoption curve and IM is more expensive as it is not asynchronous (2 people need to be on at the same time).

5. Is email now part of the traditional maketing mix – has it shed
it’s “new channel” status?

It has in the sandboxes that me and my buddies play in. Print is now a rare luxury.

6. How is it being used effectively as an integrated part of the
channel mix?

It easily substitutes for print at a greatly accelerated timescale (quicker to create, cheaper to send, instant feedback).

7. What are key trends / differences in B2B B2C that you have seen –
either good or bad?

I’d say B2B is more effective as it tends to be more niche. It’s very common to see smaller lists outperform larger ones by a factor of 3 or more. B2C can be tailored to niche customers, but if not then it’s just another broadcast that will be ignored.

8. Social Media and email – discuss…

Just another integration point. For those that are not yet living RSS the only way to stay involved as the conversation continues is to get pushed something. The easiest something is email.

Email Marketing

Chris Baggott Starts New Enterprise

Chris Baggott of Exact Target is off to start something new on the blog front. Should be interesting to watch…

Email Marketing Lead Generation Productivity Booster SEO and Paid Search in Boston

So I went to the Hyatt Harborside (right next to the airport with a nice view back on the Boston skyline, small place though) for the Salesforce event today. It was time well spent, even if just for getting to hear from a product manager directly. He was able to explain Apex in about 5 sentences better than anything I’ve read anywhere.

Apex is a language that you can query and script Salesforce with. It’s a new language that looks alot like a mashup of SQL and Java. They key is it runs on Salesforce servers. The product manager was a hardcore admin in a prior life and was talking about how they would set up a linux box out in the dmz to query SF and do cool stuff – for example hit the database once a day and round up all the contacts that sent in POs and send them the thank you message and kick the accounting system to send them an invoice. Sort of like Automated Procedures for Goldmine folk, but on steroids.

My hopes for finding a SF/Adwords ninja were dashed when I was one of the few (maybe only?) guy to raise his hand when they asked who was using it out of the probably 200+ people in the room. Either I really do have superpowers, or I was the one-eyed man in a room full of blind people.

Some other interesting stuff – ConVoq has webinars integrated into SF including VOIP, Dreamfactory has some project management and even SCM stuff that I need to check out. SalesGenius can tell you when your contacts are visiting your site (and also did a cool lead gen that got me a $5 Starbucks card). iNeo had some interesting stuff that automated the creation of landing pages. And one of these days I’ll get a chance to become an ExactTarget customer again, their integration is very cool and would take some labor out of the cycle and standardize outgoing messages.

Overall it’s time well spent to see what the next round of features will be. Also a major brainbuster – I gave Salesforce kudos for their ideaExchange – basically a Digg site for features for the product managers. I didn’t realize that this fit into a master plan for them of having startups create apps in apex – using ideaExchange as the perfect customer survey tool. They even have office space in the valley for these people to use, and of course VC will be trolling weekly. Brilliant! I’m buying shares this week.

Email Marketing Lead Generation Productivity Booster The Marketeer

HTML vs. Text

Today I finally got around to examining test results of my HTML vs. Text email experiment.

For anyone that missed the earlier post – there are two basic “flavors” of email – HTML, the same language that web pages are made up from (which displays pictures and includes links), and just straight text. If you’re old like me you’ll think of this as what the paper that came out of a typewriter looks like (link for the children). In the dark ages at the dawn of time (1996), all you could do was text. Then email programs added html support and email got a lot more exciting.

Then the PPC crowd showed up (pills, porn, casinos) and emails got a little ugly, and people realized that when your email program shows you a graphic, it’s being pulled from a server and you are leaving a footprint (the sender can tell that you opened it). This is why in the latest version of Outlook and other mail programs may have you go through an extra step to see the graphics for senders that the program doesn’t recognize.

For text email the basic rule was “Put the important links at the top.” For every line you have to scroll, another reader gives up and very few make it to the bottom of the message. HTML changed that. You could have an image call attention to a link and it could outperform others.

Enter 2007, things are changing. Many people are using devices like blackberries that prefer text only email. Many email clients and spam defenders block HTML. Many of the Vertical Publications I advertise with have switched back to text email. And so the challenge was thrown – should our HTML email switch to text?

I hoped that HTML would win because the tracking data is valuable to me – who opened and who converted. Text can only tell you about conversions. My list was split – 75% sent the control (HTML) and the other 25% text. I also had a second list I was testing for additional data that was sent the HTML list.

The Result: HTML Victorious! Both messages performed well on the first links but improved layout in HTML is the critical factor. By using two columns we draw attention to attention to the lead stories in both columns. The lead story in the second column outperformed the same story down at position 4 in the text message by 7X. This begs the question – ok, so you get more bites from HTML, but did more text messages get through? The fact is, without graphics to track, I don’t know. But I do know this – at best my deliverability is 90% (number sent – bounces and unsubs I got). At worst it would only be as good as the open rate for the HTML message – 20% (otherwise there’d be no need to test). Even if text sends perfectly (90%), that’s only a 4x improvement over HTML, not enough to offset the 7x benefit of the layout. Layout beats deliverability, HTML wins.

Your results may vary.

Daily Life Email Marketing

God Bless Amazon Wish Lists

Or more importantly the people in Seattle that added that functionality to Amazon. It was a regular Christmas, me sitting around doing a lot of reading and plenty of visitors up here at the farm.

Of course the burning question that has not changed since I was 6 years old – “Tell us about the loot!”. Amazon has made the holiday a lot more satisfying. I got my nephews stuff that they were psyched to get, as opposed to being the weird old uncle getting them an ugly sweater or whatever. The lovely Carin got me a rare german Rick Astley disc (sorry, I’m a child of the 80’s), the type of thing that would be impossible to find in a pre-Amazon era.

I never got around to recording an M Show, probably tomorrow, not a lot worth chatting about on the Marketing front – except that Land’s End has been pummeling me with email, you’ve got to love a vendor with the guts to send me a reminder about holiday shopping on Christmas day.

I hope your holiday has gone well and you are enjoying your time off.

Email Marketing The Marketeer

HTML vs Plain Text Email

I sent off an email campaign yesterday and finally got around to testing a full-color HTML message vs a plain text one. I’m an old enough fart to remember how open and click-throughs exploded when images were added to email so this could be the coming of the full circle. Trying to get a plain text email out proved to be quite a challenge, there’s no way in ConstantContact to just click “Text Only” (but I thought of a workaround for that, of course 1 day after moving hell and earth to get it out via an Outlook mail merge, which is another horror story of it’s own adding to my December from hell).

So in the spirit of the Rocky Balboa release today, I’m wondering if there are any opinions out there on who will be triumphant, the champion or the challenger?

Daily Life Email Marketing

Holiday Battles

Yesterday was consumed by 3 items: an email campaign, an unbelievable story involving our corporate holiday gift (when it’s done I will tell this tale, for now all I can say is that I want to jam a coffee cup so far up someone’s (*&@#$ that they can taste it), and my evening trying to get my Second Life avatar not to look like a blue Celine Dion.

A lot of those moments when I sit back and remind myself of a quote from Winston Churchill (or maybe Roosevelt?), something about “All that matters is persistance, that’s the only way things get accomplished”.

My open rates for the email campaign are a little bit low, I’m averaging mid-twenties, ConstantContact is saying the average across all their customers is 37%. I’m thinking that since many small businesses use CC that there are a lot of small lists that perform better (like my M Show mailing list that has something ridiculous like 60% open 50% clicks). The good news is the clicks are twice the CC average, and most importantly I always see a good list of Company names that have some F-1000 cache.

I’m at CaseCamp Second Life tonight, but I’m sorry, it’s sold out. I’ll probably record my session and post it later.

On the plus side Shel Holtz picked up my Web 3.0 video, and then Steve Rubel posted his link in his daily links – thanks to both of them. Not bad for a newbie blogger!

Email Marketing Lead Generation Productivity Booster The Marketeer

Email is as dead as direct mail

That is – not dead at all. Today was a big email day for me sending out two blasts. I’m currently using ConstantContact which is the best value for the price – free to start and not expensive after that. I’ve used ExactTarget, which is a great product (and perhaps in my future due to integration with, and in fact Chris Baggott from over there is coming out with a book next year and if some of my pieces make the editoral cut I’ll be published there.

Contrary to what you may hear, email is very much alive, just as is direct mail as I can tell from the 35 catalogs that have come in through the mailslot at home in the past week. Perhaps no longer the silver bullet, these tactics still deliver.

ConstantContact has some benchmark figures across the service that are interesting: Global Bounces are at 18.3% (although probably understated since I get some Out of Office messages direct to me), opens at 37%, and clicks at 8.9%. I do better on bounces, lower on opens, and much better on clicks. My personal mailing list (for The M Show, listen now!) has under 1,000 names but performs at a level of magnitude much greater (9x cleaner 4x clicks). This is quite normal for smaller lists, I have more stats on that but I’m not going to dig that up now, leave me a comment if you want more.