Oct 31, 2008

Email Strategics - Step 4 - Broadcasting

Today, more than ever, sending emails is just half the job, you now have to make sure your email reaches the inbox of your contacts.
Half of this is choosing the right ESP or broadcasting solution. You really want to check the following before signing with a broadcasting solution:
- Does the platform support configurable retry and bounce time frames?
- What is the level of delivery granularity available (e.g. system sends x messages per second/minute/hour to support specific requirements of domains like Comcast)?
- How can delivery parameters be altered if receiving certain gateway-level SMTP responses?
- How reliable is the abuse desk
- Does the ESP have Complaints Feedback loops with the ISPs
- How complete are the reports (detailed reports per ISP, deliverability statistics, over time statistics,...)
- targeting options
- Online action triggered emails
- Post tracking possibilities
- Behavioral targeting options
All this features will help you manage your DB which is of course the second half of getting to the inbox (see step 1)
Indeed, to get through to the inbox you need a clean (if possible double optin) database, a good technical solution, a good IP reputation (that you will achieve over time if you match the email standards) and a correct HTML creative (you can check your creative quality with the Spam Assassin tool).

When you broadcast emails to a high number of profiles, you need to monitor the following:
Complaints, harbounces, softbounces, spam traps, inactive profiles, unsubscribe rates.
These elements will be, at the end of the day, what will make the difference between ending in the junk mail folder or reaching the inbox.
You also need to keep somewhere in mind that ISP have a good memory (around 60 days), if add a new list of profiles that either trigger a lot of complaints or hardbounces or Spam traps, you will probably impact your delivrability for weeks, even months.
That's why I always advise my clients, when adding a new list of profiles to their DB, to split this new volume and progressively adding it to the existing list.
This way, incidents will be minimized due to the low percentage of unknown profiles in the total volume of the broadcast.

A last advise would be creating a bunch of emails on the main Freemails/Webmails of your list and add them to each and every send out (starting of course with the tests).

Always remember as well to analyze how well your campaigns perform on each ISP (comparing open rates for example), if one or two are lagging behind, then probably, you are not delivering properly on these ISPs.

Email Strategics - Step 1 - Database
Email Strategics - Step 2 - Segmentation
Email Strategics - Step 3 - Email Creative
Email Strategics - Step 5 - Landing Page
Email Strategics - Step 6 - Analyzing statistics

Oct 28, 2008

Email Strategics - Step 3 - Email Creative

Once your target is ready you have to work on your creative (it can be done the other way around but both are very closely linked).

Sender ID and Subject line:
The first elements of your creative to which your target will be exposed to are the following:
The sender name and the subject line!
These elements will trigger (or not) the email's opening. It might on the other hand trigger a negative reaction (Spam complaint for example).
The sender name especially HAS to be recognized by the user, be very explicit on who is sending the communication (You).
One funny thing though: studies prove that having a girl name in your sender name helps a lot, women feel more confident and men ... are men :)
For example nice sender ID could be "Jane - Your_company_name (jane@Your_company_name.com)"

You also have to keep in mind the fact that your users' inbox is probably full of incomming messages, you have to get his attention.
Some ways to do so are:
- A personalized subject line (adressing the user directly by his name might help get his attention).
- A subject line not too long to avoid it to be cut in the middle by some webmails.
- If you advertize on a time limited offer, don't hesitate to mention it!
- Avoid as long as possible CAPS, special chars, and exclamation marks.
For example a nice subject line could be:
Anton, on today's happy hour, get up to 50% off on IT products.

On a general point of view, the creative has to be attractive but of course not a lie.
If you tease the user with a "50% off" subject line, but the creative only shows "30% off" offers, you will probably not transform the opening into a click and maybe lose the user's confidence.

Once the client has opened your email, he will be first exposed to the creative images not displaying (unless whitelisted).
Your creative has to contain sufficient text information to get the user to display pictures. Don't forget as well to add images alts to avoid living the images spots 100% empty and to give some extra information on the image content.
A "view email online" text link at the top of the email is according to me usefull as well.

- Concerning the looks of your email creative, it depends on the kind of target you aim at: the age, gender, job function or any type of information you segment on, might have it's importance on the way your creative must look like.
General advice concerning email creatives are:
. The most important information of your creative has to be placed at the top of the email crative (first thing seen by the user).
. Always use image alts.
. Keep a good image to text ratio.
. Keep it concize, do not drown your user in too much irrelevant information, a NewsLetter has to be attractive, not to list ALL the products available.
. Do not hesitate to test the creative with the default security setings on the main freemails, outlook, outlook 2007, thunderbird,... you might have some bad surprises.

- The creative not only has to be nice, it also has to comply with all the email standards:
. Try not to exceede 600 pixels, this makes it possible to see the message correctly in the preview window of mailboxes such as Outlook without having to scroll horizontally.
. Avoid the use of CSS, this is not read by Gmail and Outlook 2007
. Centering the message is recommended
. Code all the characters with accents or special characters (€ = €) in HTML. In general, it is required to comply with the W3C specifications.
. In order to customize the content of your message, you must forecast text areas, not images. Take care of the size of those text areas in order to prevent any misshaping of the message due to customization fields too long.
. Some webmails delete the body tag : Do not use it to insert an image as background or to define font colors.
If you need to insert images in background, use tables instead
. Do NOT use absolute positions inside those tags : the display will be broken in some webmails.
. Use fixed sizes within the tables instead of percentages.
. Rather use the attibute target=’_blank’ in order to open a new window when the reader clicks.
. Give names your links.
. Cut your images in order, do not send a big, single image.
. Prefer plain text to text in an image.
. Name your images and use alt tags.
. Specify the images size : width and length.
Some extra information on email standards are available (broke down by ISP) on the email-standards website.

Email Strategics - Step 1 - Database
Email Strategics - Step 2 - Segmentation
Email Strategics - Step 4 - Broadcasting
Email Strategics - Step 5 - Landing Page
Email Strategics - Step 6 - Analyzing statistics

Oct 23, 2008

Email Strategics - Step 2 - Segmentation

As I wrote in the first step of my "Successful Email Strategics guide", database quality is the first step to success along with knowing your type of database (the way it reacts as a whole).

Then, when you know your database, you can focus on knowing your clients/users.

All means are good to improve the amount of information you have on your profiles:

Declarative :
As much as you can, getting information from your profiles is a good way to know what they "look" like.
Don't hesitate to ask them some questions on the subscription form.
IMOO the minimum required (basically because it's the only way to find out is to ask) is : the first name, the last name, the date of birth, the country and maybe the postcode.
If you are afraid you might lose some profiles in the process, you might not make the fields compulsory but having this kind of information will allow you to target and to personalize your communications.
After these need-haves I guess you probably need further information depending on your industry.
Some will want to have the marital status or the gender or the annual income (always remember financial information and GSM numbers are the harder to get from your profiles).
Once the subscription form is set and leads are coming in you can now start to use your DB for email communications.

While doing so you will probably lose profiles (people unsubscribing, hardbounced emails, mailbox full,...) then your DB will start to lose part of its value. One thing I advise you to do to limit this loss (and maybe even increase your DB overall value) is to track as many things as you can:
Online transformations, clicks on types of links, favorite themes,...
You must then compile all available behavioral information for future use.

Segmenting your DB:
With all this information available, you then need to segment your DB.
Segmenting has to be something planned and thought of.

Step 1: Goals
The first element you have to take into account is to determine your goal. Is it to improve the campaign R.O.I.? Is it to improve your brand's awareness? Is it to increase trafic on your website? Is it to make an announcement?
All these goals (and plenty more) will have to aim at different targets, while R.O.I. increase will have to target medium clients (the high range clients will be hard to push and the low range clients are less receptive), making an announcement will target highly reactive profiles, regardless their usual transformation rate and even the client typology.
Knowing what you want to do is the one and only way to do it.

Step 2: Available targeting options
Second thing you need to think about is what targeting options are available, of cours you will have a hard time trying to segment on a criteria you only have filled in for a few profiles.
If some data is missing, then you can probably try to find a way around.
Want to target French people, but not everyone typed their country in the subscribe form? Then select profiles where country = France and add to the segment people who's email ends by .fr
Even though this is not a 100% sure way to filter, you will probably have a low risk and increase your target.

Step 3: Targeting and adjusting
According to what as been decided in steps 1 and 2 you then have to work on your targeting and get things done.
Once the segmentation is done, count the number of profiles in your target and maybe adjust it by adding or removing targeting options according to the goals you have.
Database scoring is a good way to estimate how well a campaign will perform so you don't over or under estimate your volume and reach your goals each time.

Step 4: Analyzing and action taking
Once everything's set you can broadcast your campaign. Then the most important thing is to analyze your results and improve your database knowledge according to your campaign's results.
Each broadcast gives you information on your DB, you need to take each and every information into account to continue building a successful strategy.
Elements you need to analyze EACH time you broadcast (especially on segments):
- Open rate
- Click rate
- Transformation rate (if available)
- Unsubscribe rate (a very good indication on how this particular communication was accepted by your target)
- Complaint rate (cf. Unsubscribe rate)

With these elements in mind, every campaign will increase your overall efficiency instead of slowly killing your DB.

Email Strategics - Step 1 - Database
Email Strategics - Step 3 - Email Creative
Email Strategics - Step 4 - Broadcasting
Email Strategics - Step 5 - Landing Page
Email Strategics - Step 6 - Analyzing statistics

Oct 17, 2008

Wake up !

Something funny just came to my inbox this evening...

Relay.fr a French e-magazine and e-books store just sent me an email to incent me to buy e-books on their website.

Was it humor or just a quite incredible random pick but it turns out that among the e-books they present in the newsletter, 2 of them are just miles off what you would expect to be good choices:
- Psychology of the great traders.
- Earn money in the stock market.

If it's humor, then some might say "not very funny", if it's just random, then OMG...

Spam this !

Hello everyone,

I am currently making an analysis of volumes of spam received according to several elements.
One of these elements is posting an email on a website.
If you want to post these emails on one of your webpages, please feel free to do so.
anton.webissued@gmail.com and anton.allreg@gmail.com

I'll post my results on this blog in a couple of months time.

Oct 16, 2008

Email Strategics - Step 1 - Database

A few months ago I made a post listing the important elements one needs to have an efficient email strategy.
One of the most important (if not THE most important) is the database quality.

When I talk about database quality, I think about email address quality, profiles quality, profile elements available and of course your own knowledge of the database profiles.

Email address quality:
First thing is having a high quality addresses list, if you have too many hardbounces, softbounces, traps or disposable emails (like @spamgourmet for example) you will have a poor open rate and a very hard time getting your email communications to get through to the inbox.
Some checks can be made on the signup form (such as email structure or domain check) but you probably want to add a double optin process just to make sure only active and exact email addresses can be registered.
A double optin process means sending a confirmation email with a link to validate the subscription.
The lead will only become active once the email has been clicked.
One last advice I might give has nothing to do with the registration process but the optout one.
If you want to avoid people complaining on your broadcasts, then please make sure your optout process is as straigtforward as the optin one.

Profiles quality:
Having only website registered profiles or a client list is nice but often it's not enough, you probably want to launch lead generation campaigns, the available means are plenty: affiliate programs, lead generation companies, coregistration, sweepstakes, database rental,...
You have to be very cautious on these profiles you get, they might be of poor quality, I advise you to keep track of the lead's origin so you can analyse your campaigns' results and get rid of poor origins and focus your attention (and cash) on your highest performing origins.
Whatever the origin is you need to analyse the overall performance of your database and purge the old, inactive profiles from time to time.

Profile elements available:
Having a list of emails is nice, having information related to these emails is of course better.
Having information concerning your profiles allows you to segment your database according to geographical information, gender, age, job title,...
The more information you gather concerning your contacts, the more precisely you an aim your emails at clients and prospects.

Database knowledge:
Knowing individuals in your DB is not the only path to success, knowing the DB as a whole is also important.
Depending to the type of profiles you have, the DB will not react in the same way according to the time and day when you send your communications.
Some DBs have higher open rates on week days whereas some DBs have higher open rates on the week-end. Finally you can try and identify groups of people that have different behaviours and split your communications according to these pieces of information (this is of course some kind of segmentation as before but might not be in any way related to any information data contained in your DB).

I hope this post will help some of you to have a better understanding of DB management.

Email Strategics - Step 2 - Segmentation
Email Strategics - Step 3 - Email Creative
Email Strategics - Step 4 - Broadcasting
Email Strategics - Step 5 - Landing Page

Email Strategics - Step 6 - Analyzing statistics

Oct 8, 2008


As said by the WuTang : Cash Rules Everything Around Me
This includes of course giving money to my employer (Cabestan), ZenithOptimedia estimates that advertising expenses should slow down on 2008 and 2009, the French institute of statistics (INSEE) announced on their side that Firms’ investments have slowed as well and that it should get even worse if the banks just shuts down the robinet.

Fortunately enough, email marketing remains a highly profitable means of communication and especially cheap.

But if the crisis continues, there might be no more point in sending advertising to cashless users or companies.

I think it's more than ever important to have the best communication process as possible and aim correctly at your consumers.

I personally am kind of optimistic that the stock market will bounce and that capitalism will survive, but after all... who knows? :)

Oct 7, 2008

Watch out who you work with !

One thing about third party email is that you associate your name to the list owner (if you rent a list) or with the advertiser (if you broke your DB).
In this kind of case you really need to watch out who you work with (and that becomes a real nightmare if you authorize email campaigns on an affiliation program).

While the ill impact of working with bad list owners (identified by users are spammers) and associating your brand to them is quite obvious, I think people under estimate the risk of sending third party email campaigns on their list for known ill advertisers.

The best example is an insurance comparison site in France that had real bad email practices for several years, now, whenever I receive advertising for this company from another list, I often unsubscribe directly from the third party program or from the entire program sometimes (and I'm that close to click on the report spam button).

Not taking into account the marketing pressure feeling you get concerning a brand even though you receive it from diferent sources.