All About Email - The Last Word in Email Publishing

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I want to complain

Last week I received 2 pieces of blatant spam - both sent from NZ, and both emenating from companies who were large enough to know better.

As much out of curiosity as anything else I decided to complain about these.
After a fair bit of searching, I finally found a web page where I could submit my complaint. I had to register - that took 20 minutes, and when I was finally able to submit, the site broke down!
4 tries later and it finally worked. I was told that my complaint might or might not be investigated.

I have not heard anything since.

It's good to see NZ is serious about stopping spam!

If you want to try, the page is:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas is coming, my Inbox is getting fat

I am subscribed to email newsletters from all over the world. It goes with the territory. So late November is always an interesting time, as marketers who have ignored my requests for their email newsletters all year wake up and flood me with special offers, solutions to my Christmas conundrums etc.

What fascinates me is the absolute lack of planning in this - nothing for ten months then three in a week. Did I sign up to receive it? Often, I can't remember. This year I bought my presents early, so they have missed my custom. Shame in some cases, as a few have some good ideas.

If they had spent the year teeing up their seasonal bonanza, I might have factored them in to my reckonings - spent a few dollars with them.

Most of these marketers are suffering from a syndrome that seems unique to email - the "that's what I do" syndrome. It does not exist in other media where campaigns are planned. Email marketers seem to assume that their behaviour is typical, and structure their actions around this assumption, in the process making the proverbial ass out of me and themselves.

Christmas gets earlier each year. If someone bothered to tell me in September that they would have some fantastic Christmas specials, and to watch out for them in November, then I might do so.

It is the besetting curse of email marketing that the immediacy of email, seems to have been assimilated into its planning. "Lets do". A planned and structured campaign will always work better.

More on these Christmas emails shortly.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A cautionary tale

I heard a very sad story this week. We used to have a client - a small event, and we worked with them for 4 years. During that time we helped them build a database of interested parties – all properly opted in – of just over 10,000 people. It became a significant factor in their marketing and ticket sales, and the event went from strength to strength. We built them a professional website, and advised them on content, and driving traffic to it.

All in all it worked really well for all concerned. The organisers were not necessarily that expert in digital dialogue, but they were smart enough to appreciate what we were doing.

Then there was a change in the senior event management. We were not sure about working with the new chairman and decided to withdraw. We did however offer our advice for free to enable them to continue using email successfully – we also offered to guide them through the new legislation – but we never heard back from them.

It transpires they handed over the email side of things to their new web designers – similar field, so they were of course well qualified to manage it (not).

The new people changed everything – look, name etc and sent out a long and boring email under the new brand. Right at the bottom they asked the recipients to resubscribe – unnecessarily as all recipients were properly opted in, as well as having an exisiting business relationship with the event and its organisers.

They broke 2 major rules (and lots of minor ones):

1. You never use an email to deliver a major branding change – you might instead use an email under the existing brand to warn of the upcoming changes.

2. You never hide an important call to action – you make it the focal point of the email.
And this is where the story gets really sad. The database shrank from over 10,000 to around 300 – 4 years of work destroyed in one moment of autocratic management and professional incompetence – there’s no other way to describe it.

Shortly afterwards, the event was cancelled.

The moral of this story is simple. Email is too important to be handled by amateurs. Cost cutting in email will come back to bite you. If you are going to do it, do it properly.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

And still it comes

Today we have heard about the latest mercy spam which is flooding our inboxes - poverty stricken East Europeans begging us to engage in dialogue and then hand over all our hard earned cash.

Ok - this spam comes from overseas, so our much vaunted anti spam act cannot be held accountable - but our major ISPs can - once again they are failing to prevent spam, despite:
a) investing heavily in anti spam software and
b) continuing to ignore the introduction of whitelists and authentication

OK, I know the sort of people who fall for this type of spam trick are also still trying to invest in Bridgecorp, but really, decreasing the amount of spam we get without impinging on legitimate email is not that hard - just a case of admitting the current solution is not working and accepting that there may be a better way.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Test, test, test

Last week we did the unthinkable and sent out an email without a working unsubscribe link. At best it is poor practice, at worst, illegal!

How did it happen? We have a rigorous testing policy. Every email that goes out is tested for link functionality, browser rendering etc.

Well, it seems that one of our developers was making some upgrading changes, and during the process, the auto unsubscribe function slipped off the frame template. No-one noticed - after all, it gets input automatically, and is not even considered as part of the normal testing process.

It has been a very welcome wake up call - complacency is the enemy of great email - so we, and so should everyone, will revisit our testing procedures to ensure such an error never happens again!