All About Email - The Last Word in Email Publishing

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lies, damned lies and.......

Relatively accurate statistical measurement capability is a key component of what sets email aside from other media as a unique channel of communication.

A new site, Email Stats Centre ( provides a wide range of comparative stats for inspection. Quite how useful this will be in unclear, but like all email stats, they do provide benchmarks.

Most email stats are less accurate than we would like, but because their MO is relatively consistent, we can compare and contrast, and that is where the real value is.

The email stats centre offers a whole host of stats - categorised by some of the key factors such as Authentication, delivery, subject lines etc.

They appear to be taken exclusively from the USA, and often garnered from 3rd party surveys, but for the curious there are some interesting conclusions to be drawn - which back up many of the golden rules we should be following. Have a browse, but remember - stats are like a paint brush - the picture depends on who's holding it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The right club

As a mad keen golfer I invested heavily in a top of the range set of clubs a few years back. So heavily that it caused the better half to murmur pointedly about expensive jewellery. A year later she (again) pointedly enquired why I was not competing with Tiger Woods. When I explained it was because I was not good enough, she acidly reminded me I had spent a small fortune on clubs. "Surely they should make you better", she said.

I was reminded of this recently when a would-be client told me they were eschewing our services (good word that) and devoting their budget to a top notch DIY email platform.
Well sure, that's their decision, but is it a really smart one?

Of course a great email platform is essential, but nowadays there are lost available, and give or take a few gimmicks, most perform the necessary functions.

But like the golf clubs, they are only as good as the person managing them.

As each and every day, email is becoming more specialist. Delivery and impact challenges are growing. Without the right level of experience and expertise, your email cannot rely upon the platform to achieve your goals.

Design, copy, and coding are just some of the basics that require human configuration for successful email.

So yes, good clubs will give you an advantage, but you still need a great golfer to get the most out of them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Kitchen Sink

I love getting email newsletters - partly for the information, and partly so that I can assess whether they are well put together or not.

So whenever I see the opportunity to subscribe, I do.

Some newsletter sign up forms are very straightforward - name and email. I like those ones.

Others, however, want to know pretty much everything about me - kitchen sink and all. Quite why my postal address is a must fill in I am not sure - I only want email.

The answer is, I assume, one of two things; either the form has been created with no thought at all, or the publisher plans at some stage to utilise segmentation.

Now don't get me wrong - segmentation is a very valid, and excellent email marketing practice - but here in NZ it is practised by pretty much no-one - the old too hard basket again.

"We'll get round too it", say the marketing team, before getting distracted by another online survey email coming through on their blackberries.

So, segmentation; targeted communications - great things, but they need following through.

There is an equation for how you ascertain information about your audience when using email; attract, engage, interrogate is the formula.

First you attract them to sign up - do not make it a chore, keep the information to a bare minimum.

Then you engage them through a series of valuable and entertaining messages.

Then and only then do you try to find out more to enable segmented marketing. Those who are still with you will readily divulge the info you want, and benefit from you targeted messages you subsequently send.

Asking for shoe sizes, mothers maiden names and toothpaste preferences at initial sign up is a bit like hanging a sign in your shop window saying "we are not that interested in your custom" - don't do it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thinking about Spam

We are told that it's never been harder to get Spam through to recipients - ISP and desktop security options should mean that spammers face a virtually impossible task. But still it arrives.

My new Windows Vista system started really well, automatically diverting all junk email to a special, yet accessible folder. It took the spammers about 2 weeks to work out how to get round this and get into my Inbox.

But personally, that's fine - I welcome spam. As an email professional, I can learn a lot from it. What subject lines and body phrases and words to avoid, for example. Given the growth of Bayesian filtering, this is very important.

I would also rather spend 5 minutes a day deleting unwanted emails rather than run the risk of missing a genuine and important business or personal communication because it has been inadvertently filtered by a third party. I hate the thought of someone else deciding what I should and should not receive.

Unless email becomes a totally permission based network, where you can only send and receive emails from someone who has whitelisted you at ISP and Desktop level, then we will have to live with Spam, and personally I believe the benefits of free and open email far outway the negatives.

And remember, one mans spam is another mans welcome message - as a colleague once said, it's only spam if you are not interested!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The NZ Anti Spam Act

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was asked to make a submission on the proposed anti spam laws.

Now we all know that NZ is not a spammers haven, but it did seem like a good idea to put a legal framework in place to regulate the email industry, and clear out the poor practices which were widespread.

I duly bit the bullet and turned off Cold Case (yes, that's how long this series has been running) and made some notes. 2 weeks later those notes were 22 pages of neatly typed, thoughtful and well argued points which assessed the proposed NZ legislation from a 360 degree perspective, compared and contrasted with overseas legislation and experience and, I hoped, summarised both the problems and solutions very neatly. I duly sent it to the MED and waited - very much in the same way that I am still waiting for anything other than a standardised thank you message.

I took the time to study the other submissions - some were from industry insiders like myself. Some were from big commercial organisations whose networks were clogged up with spam, and one or two were from those good upstanding citizens who populate the letters to the editor columns and the Talkback radio shows.

I then studied the proposed legislation when it was published, and after it had been reviewed by a parliamentary committee whose qualifications seemed to be that they had an email address.

I was disappointed by it then, and now, as it is about to take effect, and I am equally disappointed - by its inadequacies, poor definitions, areas of omission and most of all by its failure to address the issues facing the NZ email market. Our website ( deals with the specifics of what the Act does do, and it would take too long to address all of its shortcomings, but let me say this: it will not reduce the amount of spam we get by one little bit. It has more grey areas than a British weather map on a summers day, and it is typical of any government legislation - it misses the point.

Nevertheless it is here now, and it will at least clean up the bottom end of the market - making sure everyone at least does the basics properly from now on.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Don't rely on passing trade

If I was going to open a shop, the one thing I would not rely on is passing trade - especially if I was one of many shops in the same location, most of whom had far more extensive resources than I to attract people to their shops.

So it always amazes me when retail web site owners, as one recently said to me, hope that people will stumble (he said find) on their site and recommend it to all their friends.

Yes, of course some will, but I think he was missing the point. If potential and actual customers do visit your site, then they are a precious resource. Find out who they are and they reach out to them and get them back to your site time and time again. If you have new offerings, or special deals, tell them about it. Do not hope that they will check your site every day.

One of the reasons that email is so good for doing this is that (Blackberries and other PDAs excepted), people are in situ when reading email - your website is just a click away. The click though rate from email is far higher than from other media - far far higher.

There is an argument that says people make less instantaneous buying decisions when browsing after an email prompt. Possibly this is true, but when taken in the context of the extraordinarily low conversion rates from other media, you still achieve more tangible business from email.

So if you have a site, and you want people to visit regularly, find out who they are, and use email to prompt them to the site.