All About Email - The Last Word in Email Publishing

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The next big hurdle!

Something new and potentially devious has just appeared in the world of email marketing. It relates specifically to delivery, and to those addresses on your database with a gmail, yahoo or hotmail suffix - it's called engagement filtering, and it's the latest weapon in the war on spam.

Engagement filtering will judge your email based on how well it engages the recipient - how they react to it - clicking links, replying etc - the first time that filtering has been based on positive behaviour.

If engagement levels are low, then so will your sender reputation be.

This poses all sorts of challenges for email marketers - to be seen as a good sender and avoid widescale filtering by the big 3, you need mechanisms in each and every email you send which prompt either response of clicking. In other words, your copy has to be very engaging and relevant.

Now, many people say this is a good thing - the industry is forcing email markeeters to do a better job. Fair point.

But at the same time, it effectively prohibits the sending of passive announcements.

It's another typically reactive measure by the big 3 to the spam problem. It's not the answer, and I suspect all it will mean is a lot of legitimate emails will fail to reach recipients.

Which given that 74% of hotmail users say the reason they have a hotmail account is to channel all commercial email to, doesn't make much sense.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's the end of email, Zuckers

So Facebook's new product is signalling the end of email, is it?

I suppose you have to salute Mark Zuckerberg - after all he does dominate the world of social media.

But Facebook is hardly making any money, it's rivals are collapsing around it, and presumably he needs plenty more investment to carry on. So statements, and products such as his new chat mail are inevitable - but perhaps to be taken with a pinch of salt.

His comment, for example, that subject lines are so formal is a good example of where he is going wrong. Subject lines are vital in deciding what messages to read, and when.

Zuckerberg may be a visionary. He may be predicting the future. But in doing so he is missing the present. Email, even in it's purest form is still an evolving tool - both for ordinary communications, and for business marketing.

Very few businesses have Facebook predominant audiences, but most have email based ones. Very few companies have so far really worked out how to use Facebook as a marketing tool with any great degree of success. Quite a lot are getting the hang of email.

Facebook still blurs too much the distinction between private and business - it's use during office hours is frowned upon by too many right now.

So here's to you, Mr Zuckerberg. The only way you can be a presence in the email market is to try and change it, and we salute you for trying. But the end of email? Not yet, methinks.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Upping the preview pane impact

The importance of making the right impact in the preview pane cannot be overestimated.

So many companies still insist on dominating this valuable real estate with a web type banner, which doers little more than show a repetitive picture, and at best slightly add to the branding of the email.

With images disabled in so many browsers nowadays, the impact of this banner is in fact a negative one – especially as many companies also neglect to recognise the value of compelling alt text – mind you, some browsers disable that as well. What a battle.

There is a simple answer – we now recommend it to all clients – and it is working.

Summarise in no more than two lines the key message of your email, and place that at the very top – above any images, web versions etc – so it is the very first thing readers see.

Try it – it works!

Want to discuss?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Incentivised database growth

Using competitions and incentives to get people to sign up to receive your email information is a tried and tested formula - inasmuch as it does generate response.

But how valid is it in the modern marketplace?

Sign up competitions are two a penny - to stand out, organisers are increasingly forced to offer expensive prizes - and I wonder how often they really show a worthwhile ROI?

For starters, people who sign up are doing so primarily to win the prize, not because they specifically want to receive your marketing emails or newsletters. Expect a heavy initial unsubscribe rate, however well you do in engaging them with your first send out. It's not a reflection on your email or it's content, simply on how the recipients were gathered. But it is a reality. If 40% unsubscribe initially, and another 30% in the first few weeks, was it worthwhile?

Then there's the issue of how quickly you get in touch with them. Many companies, especially those who choose to gather their emails on bits of paper, often wait months before actually using their newly found database. They might as well have not bothered, as most will have forgotten signing up, why they signed up, and why they might want to continue receiving your information.

Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting abandoning competitions and incentives as way to grow your database.

But I do think it should only be a small part of your strategy for database growth, and if you do do it, make sure you follow up quickly, and effectively.

Want to talk more about this?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I have been thinking about unsubscribes this week.

Clients tend to look at unsubscribes from a very personal perspective. They fail to take into account any number of factors - such as how the database was gathered in the first place. If it came together through an incentive programme, then a good percentage of the database will be there because of their interest in the incentive, not the subject the client wishes to communicate to them. It's only natural to get a high unsubscribe rate with that.

Audiences usually fall into 3 categories - regular readers, occasional readers and grey readers - those who don't really read client emails at all, but can't be bothered to unsubscribe - reader lethargy. Those are the ones you want to unsubscribe, and a healthy number would be 0.2% per send out. Any less than that, and the audience are either very passionate about the subject (you can check this by looking at open rates), or are simply deleting the email in large numbers, unread.

Unsubscribes can be as good a metric for judging interest as can opening rates and click thrus. Email metrics are about trends, and a sudden fall or rise in unsubscribe rates can tell you a lot about the impact of the content of that particular email.

So don't take unsubscribes personally - they can tell you a lot.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Like the Grand National

Spam filters are a funny breed of technology - given at how many levels they operate - ISP, email programme, desktop etc, they have become like fences in the Grand National - very hard to negotiate.

They also lack coverage or commentary - so it is difficult to know if you have fallen, and if so, when or where.

Each filter is different and, it seems, increasing zealous - presumably in a bid to become the market leader.

AntiSpam - stops 99.9% of all spam (and lots of legitimate emails as well)

A client, fed up with her subscriber only emails getting filtered on an ad hoc basis, recently tried an experiment - she included every spammer phrase she could find, and the results were astounding - the highest open rate ever!

Made me, and the advice I had been giving her, look pretty silly.

The point is that it is a lottery nowadays - and suggestions for industry standards will only make it easier for spammers - they will have a much more precise definition of what they have to combat.

The problem with 3rd party filters is that they are deciding for you - at Inbox we have a no filters policy, and if that means we spend 10 minutes a day clicking delete in reply to those kind people who want to award us $30 million or enhance or gooleys, then so be it.

At least we get all of our email.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Innovate or die!

The economic recession of 2009 has changed many things. It has had a pronounced effect on result driven email marketing - mainly downwards.

Shocked by the downturn, and the impact it had on their income and asset values, many consumers entered 2010 with a new set of values - based around the principle of economising.

Even in my house, we vowed to make 2010 the year of economise without compromise - which in layman's terms meant drinking good red wine only once a week instead of the previous every day approach.

Email marketers who had been doing very nicely with their weekly emails, found very quickly into the new year that sales generated by emails were down, thus disproving the old adage "if you do what you did, you'll get what you got"

Consumer spending patters and motivations are simply not the same as they used to be, and any retailer who ignores this and just hopes for a return to the old ways will be found out.

To adapt your retail strategy to meet the new market, and to try and boost demand for your offerings, there is a need to innovate in the way you sell them.

Of all retail channels, email is surely the best suited to this - the ease, and low cost of changing your emails, the volume and way in which content is presented etc is great. Compare it to a store refit, even a website redesign.

Email also allows much smarter and more personalised marketing - use these capabilities to the full. Segment your database, and don't be afraid to try different approaches for different segments. It costs nothing, it produces quantifiable and instantaneous results - results you can learn from and amend your future outreach accordingly.

A client and I had a reasonably strong difference of opinion recently over a subject line for an immediate call to action email - I suggested we split her database down the middle and see whose line got the better opening rate.

As it happens, she did - 39% to 35%. The point is, we knew instantly - not so much about the respective merits of our creativity, but in fact more about what sort of subject line motivated her database to open their emails.

So for 2010, for retail email marketers, if you do what you did, you'll get less than you got.

Innovate - don't be afraid - and with email you have the perfect medium.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What will 2010 mean for email?

It's a tough question, especially because in many ways, email has dropped off the radar as a hot topic - especially in New Zealand.

Has email become boring? Has it been so overshadowed by the current obsession with desperately trying to find some justification for social media sites as valid marketing tools?

There are two reasons why a medium of communication might be topical - technological development, and development of impact.

Email is a relatively complete medium - highly functional, yet simple. But it's technological advancement will depend upon advancements in supporting platforms, hardware and transmission capabilities. As such, email is probably on of the most mature web based concepts available.

So for email to become big news in 2010, it is going to have to make an impact - by increasing ROI for email marketers.

Which brings our wheel full circle - again. Email, like any tool, is only as good as the hands it is in.

We can all send emails, we can all operate DIY bulk email programmes, but unless email marketers finally get their heads around the fact that email is a unique medium requiring unique knowledge, experience and expertise to operate successfully, then the only place email is going in 2010 is backwards.

And that would be a shame.