Nov 25, 2009

3 years of jail for Spam's Godfather.

Alan Ralsky, 64, also known as Spam's Godfather has just been convicted to 3 years of jail.
Convicted for fraud, the affair's originated from Spams he sent with 3 accomplices in 2004 and 2005.

These spams aimed to manipulated the stock prices on the Chinese market by having people buy stocks they had bought and therefor increase their value.

The 3 accomplices were also sentenced prison:
Scott Bradley (48) (Alan Ralsky's step son): 51 months
John Brown (45): 2 1/2 years
How Wai John Hui (51): 4 years and a $500 000 fine

Nov 16, 2009

Email Service Provider iPhone apps

How to be a cool ESP?
Be on top of the trends and use all fashionable ways to stay in touch with clients.

After the blog thing (all ESPs have blogs as far as I know), the social media thing (having a Facebook page and a (or several) twitter accounts (if you are curious here's my Email Marketing companies twitter list), it is now highly fashionable to have an iPhone app.

Not that it's useful in any way (even though one might argue that it's always handy to be able to see one's latest statistics on the go), but it's starting to be a big trend.

Among ESPs iPhone apps let's mention:
Exact target

There are more probably, these are only the ones I know of and excluding the iPhone's Safari compatible apps.
If I missed on any major ESP iPhone app, please feel free to comment, I'll be glad to edit the post.

Nov 11, 2009

New postmaster website at cox just released their new postmaster website.
It is as always full of useful information about best practices to successfully deliver to cox hosted emails and a list of SMTP errors among other cool stuff.

The website is available here

Nov 3, 2009

CSI: Emailing

As in Miami, Las Vegas or Manhattan, experts investigate in email marketing to identify malicious activities.
While the CSI experts in the TV show use DNA and fingerprints to get to the murderer, the CSI email marketing spam filters identify spam sources according to sending IP and sending domain.

As someone with no fingerprints nor DNA would be suspicious (or even not living actually) in the eyes of the CSI experts, spam filters ask for a minimum of identifying features to treat you as a regular and honest email broadcaster.

Let's list them once more so everyone is up to pace with it:
SPF, DomainKey and the newly used DKIM.
All this information MUST be found in the DNS settings of your sending domain, failure to provide this information will place you on the suspicious side of the incoming emails.

But, as any other identification process, it has its down side:
If you are a clean, best practices compliant sender, it will open many doors for your emails, if you are more of a dark side of the force kind of email sender, your reputation will probably cost you big time.

This leads me quite naturally to the point I wanted to make today:
When in real life, your fingerprints and DNA can identify you among millions in a good or in a bad way, the traffic incoming from your sending IP(s) and sending domain will be monitored, analysed and kept in the records to put you in a box: good or bad. Don't spoil it all.

Of course some might argue that it's possible to broadcast with a shared set of IPs and shared sending domain, yes it is but do not dare believe you can fool CSI experts so easily (especially Grissom), the links inside your email can also tell on you and to be honest, would you really want to share your reputation with a stranger?

Oct 31, 2009

Canadian Anti-Spam Act (a.k.a. Bill C-27) update.

The canadian Anti-Spam Act discussed several times on this blog recently, has passed committee review and was referred back to the Canadian House of Commons, intact, at 17:30 Monday.
It should now be quite soon that the Canadian people have their own anti-spam bill.

Here are two posts on my blog discussing the subject:
Canada to pass an anti-spam act
Canada towards an anti-spam act

If you want to learn more about the background of this law and its upcomming challenges, I advise you to read Matt's post on EmailKarma.

Oct 30, 2009

Spam me please

Hello all,

I'm currently analyzing spam and how it reaches our inboxes.
I am also checking the way users are protected by ISPs.
To do so, I have created several emails that I post on the web to see how spammed they will be according to where they are posted or registered.

Please note this is not a benchmark I'm doing, it's just to get some information and a better understanding of spam propagation.

Here's the list of 'honeypots':

Oct 29, 2009

New look for the blog

Hello all,
It was finally time to change the look and feel of the blog.
The update is now over, there might be a few tweaks to be made in the following days but nothing major.
I hope you like it as it is now :-)

Responsys Acquires Smith-Harmon Inc.

Let's continue with the series of events in the 'small' world of ESPs, Responsys just announced they bought Smith-Harmon.
Responsys is known to be a global provider of on-demand marketing solutions on email, web, print, mobile, and social media channels.
Founded in 1998 the acquisition will help Responsys "strengthen the company's ability to help marketing organizations with the strategic planning, creative design, and execution of integrated, cross-channel marketing programs."

Sherpa knowledge for all

Marketing Sherpa jsut released their new Email marketing benchmark report for 2010.

This report contains a lot of very useful information, including an entire Chapter dedicated to "Email Economics in a Recessionary Economy".

I can only advise you to download this - free - report on the sherpastore and to read it thoroughly.

Oct 28, 2009

New ESP in France

ContactLab, an Italian ESP just opened an office in Paris, France.

Well implanted in Italy it's a big challenge for this company attacking a market where ESPs are already numerous and well implanted (Cabestan, Experian CheetahMail, Emailvision and eCircle just to name a few).

Let's see how this new pure player can get hold of pieces of the French cake.

As I speak about ContactLab, let's mention their latest study the 2009 E-mail Marketing Consumer Report which is available in several languages including English.
The report is available here

Oct 24, 2009

Canada towards an anti-spam Act

I already talked about this back in February on a blog post called Canada to pass an anti-spam act.
The first elements of this act have been discussed this week in Standing Committee Meeting which will reconvene on Monday.
It is good to hear that Canada (last of the G8 countries not to have an anti-spam act) is speeding up.

More information is available on CakeMail's blog and Retunrpath's blog

Oct 14, 2009

IBM + Outblaze = Lotuslive iNotes

IBM bought back in April Outblaze's messaging assets, they are now launching Lotuslive iNotes, a new email service.
The new postmaster and abuse emails are both

No changes yet to the Outblaze services (Feedback Loops, email hosting,...) but it's likely that at some point a lot of things will be merged.

Talking about feedback loops, those already registered to Outblaze's FBL will start receiving feedback from the lotuslive domain (on the email).

A dedicated FBL program will probably soon be available (and will then be added to my list of available feedback loops).

Postini down (again)

Computerworld made a post talking about yesterday's troubles on Postini protected emails.
Apparently some emails were blocked when they shouldn't have and all mails (or close to) were delayed.

The issue impacted mainly U.S. accounts.

This probably had an impact on yesterday's email marketing campaigns broadcasted on Gmail (but not only) domains.

You can read the original post here

Oct 13, 2009

Returnpath's gloomy and scary tale for halloween

A very nice post on returnpath's blog tells us about an old blacklist (, left for dead but with its IPs re-attributed to someone else who, fed up of receiving still lots of queries for the blacklist has set it to reply the IP is listed on all queries!

I can only advise you to read the post, enjoy

Oct 7, 2009

The FTC approves Adobe's deal to buy Omniture

What a week for the e-marketing world!
After Experian who buyed United MailSolutions last week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission approved Adobe Systems's deal to buy web the analytics firm Omniture for $1.7 billion ($21.50 per share).

This deal is supposed to help measure web activity on flash websites.

More (economical) information on the Reuters website

Oct 6, 2009

Internet ad revenues are going down for the first half of '09

The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) just released a study on their website about Internet Ad revenues for the first half of 2009.

If the Internet ad revenues ($10.9 billion) are going down by 5.3% versus the same period last year, the decrease (blamed on the economic crunch) is less important than on any other media around.

For more information you can download the report here

Oct 5, 2009

Experian buys United MailSolutions GmbH

Experian continues it's shopping among European ESPs, the latest: United MailSolutions (former Falk MailSolution), a german ESP, they just bought for an undisclosed sum.

We can probably imagine it will have a great impact on the German market (mainly).

For more information you can read the official press release (Date 01-Oct-09).

It's not the first time Experian buys a "local" ESP to gain shares of the market, they already bought EmailingSolution a couple of years ago to grow CheetahMail to the French and Spanish markets (being back then "only" operating in the USA, England, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Oct 3, 2009

Spamhaus and snowshoe spammers

A very interesting post has been made on wordtothewise on Spamhaus' new black list.

This blacklist is supposed to identify spammers using their own (instead of compromised) IPs to send out spam.
Of course we are talking about a huge number of IPs there.

The post explains fully the concept of snowshoe spammer and the new blacklist's principle.

Very interesting blog post, a "must read" as I reckon.

Oct 2, 2009

Q3'09 Spam & Virus Trends from Postini

Google posted today the Q3'09 Spam and virus trends as monitored by Postini.

There's a lot of interesting information.
Among other data, there is a link to Postini's best practices to optimize the spam filtering.

The post is available on the Google Enterprise Blog:
Q3'09 Spam & Virus Trends from Postini

Sep 24, 2009

Email marketing is like a night out in a club!

Let's think about it, sending an email and having the receiver to transform is a little bit like going out in a club to score.
Let me just call my email John.

John wants to score.
He is in his apartment downtown and is dressing up. If he wants to score he probably has to dress as well as possible to be the more attractive possible. This is the creative.

Once ready he heads to the club, this is the broadcast.

If he arrives there without any incident (delivery) he gets in the line outside the club and wait for his turn.

Then he gets to go through the bouncer (the spam filter) who will let him go in if:
1 - he matches the dress code (Tidy HTML)
2 - he never went in a fight in the club or got thrown out (Reputation)
3 - He isn't drunk and talking crap (content scan)

When he gets in (inbox) he spots a good looking girl he likes ifhe already knows her, she's a client, else, she's a prospect.

He gets close to her and then throw his pick up line (subject line). There are several types of pick up lines:
1 - If you lie about yourself, it's a scam
2 - If you are too mysterious, you might loose her attention
3 - If yo are too long you might be boring.
In a few words, your subject line needs to be as good as your pick up lines: short, punchy and interesting.

If the girl gets in the discussion with John, then he got a click, but there's a lot more to do to score.

He has to try to keep the discussion live and interesting and to gather as much information about the girl so he knows what she likes, what she wants,... that's web analytics.
The interesting thing here is that even if he doesn't score right away with that girl, the more information he will get here, the more likely he is to score on a later night when they get to meet again.

As I see it, email marketing is like trying to score with hundreds, thousands of persons in one go.

Sep 16, 2009

Don't mix up towels and dishcloths

This French saying is so true when it comes to email marketing !
If you own a database that you use to communicate with your clients and then all of a sudden, you plan to rent it, then it's probably one of the worst ideas ever to broadcast it on the same environment as usual (by environment I mean IPs and broadcasting domain or email mainly).

I recall a presentation I attended in Madrid where the hotmail representative explained that transactional emails shouldn't be broadcasted on the same IPs as the newsletter.
I do not agree 100% on this, I tend to believe that if your optin process is clean and that you treat your subscribers with care, the Newsletter shouldn't jeopardize your transactional emails' deliverability. On the contrary, transactional emails could slightly improve your overall (already good) reputation.

BUT, when it comes to sending information to your clients on one hand and sending advertising on the other: YOU HAVE TO SEPARATE BOTH.

According to measures I made roughly on my client's broadcasts, complaint rates are twice as high.

Advertising for your brand and advertising for a third party company are two different things and as such are percieved differently by your subscribers.

Why take the risk?

Sep 15, 2009 not handled by Outblaze anymore?

All of you email marketers out there who know Outblaze (and about email deliverability), know how harsh they are on filtering incoming emails.
Up to recently, was managed by Outblaze. Laura from the "Word to the Wise" blog noticed some changes on the MX settings of, now pointing to AOL.

This will probably lead to a lot of changes on the way emails are received or filtered on addresses.

You can read the original post here

Sep 12, 2009

New feedback loops at returnpath (Tucows)

Returnpath just announced on their blog that they released a new feedback loop for Tucows.
This feedback loop have been added to the Email-Ethics list of feedback loops.

I also added the Rackspace feedback loop to the list.

Sep 9, 2009 : it's done now!

As mentioned on a post I made in June on this blog to announce the end of the domain, email addresses stopped working a couple of days ago. The smtp error message received when sending to this domain now is:
571, [ prohibited. We do not relay]

You can now get rid of all email addresses still inside your DB.

Sep 4, 2009

Do not mail these domain names

Thanks to Robomail, I discovered a list of domains which clients are usually on cell phones, it is very important (even more than usual) not to send unsolicited emails to emails which domain is on this list.
The list is available (and updated) on the FCC website
You can download it here.
For more information you can also read this List of anti-spam laws article

Aug 27, 2009

Disposable email addresses list update

Hello there!

Just a short post to tell all of you I've updated the list of disposable email addresses domain list.

You can read it on the DEA - disposable email list page

Enjoy :)

Aug 8, 2009

Lightning never strikes twice the same place... or does it?

Funny thing, I made a post this week dealing with how important e-marketing could become in Africa in the next years, in my plane back to Paris I read an article in a Tunisian newspaper emphasizing the increase in internet accesses in Tunisia and the road that has still to be walked to reach the other countries.

Here are a couple of figures for 2009 out of the article (reminder: Tunisia has 10M inhabitants).
- Number of internet users: 3M (+40% compared to last year)
- Number of people having a personal DSL connexion: 280k (+95.2% compared to last year!!!)
- Number of Tunisian websites : 8 727 (in june - not counting personal web pages and blogs) (+34% compared to last year).

Another interesting figure is that out of these 10M inhabitants, there is 8.66M GSM lines.


Aug 5, 2009

Email for Africa

Being on vacation in Tunisia this week, I had a very interesting discussion with a Tunisian friend of mine.

We were discussing how Africa was under control of different countries and depending on them for its growth.
Of course there are the old historical countries such as France and England and the decades (centuries) of Colonialism, but also the USA and more recently the Asian countries (China and India for the most).
Of course this dependency is paid by African countries with natural ressources, knowing Africa as a continent is full of wealth but it can't axploit it on its own for now due to a lack of infrastructure for the most.

When he told me all this, I asked: Why Africa leaves all these countries share a cake it could keep for itself?

He replied: It's due to a lack of means and ressources (financial that is).

Of course, all this discussion was triggered in the first place by Barack Obama's speech in Ghana on July the 11th when he declared that Africa had to evolve on its own and take the lead on their continent.

Knowing that new technologies are rising in Africa these days, African business will probably have to fight their way to reach consumers.
I'm pretty much sure the Email battle will have to be fought in this marketing war.

Knowing how late they are on the new technologies field, it will be a good time for experienced companies to settle in Africa and help local companies evolve and improve their marketing skills.

Could Africa be the next marketing "el dorado"?
I bet it will be.

Jul 26, 2009

Importance of getting your subscribers to add you to their contact list

First, as mentioned last week on this post, Gmail will now automatically display images on emails sent by your contacts, it also often helps to avoid being sent to the junk folder.
Now that Yahoo! allows users to filter messages between contacts and non-contacts senders, problems will probably arise.

A very nice post has been made on the AWeber blog on the impact of being in the Yahoo! contact list.

Before, Senderscore Certified senders tended to remove the 'add us to your contact list' text in the header of their messages, I reckon it will be back on most emails sent in a few weeks time.

Jul 22, 2009

Auto unsubscribe available on Gmail

Since Gmail got out of it's beta a couple of weeks ago, we are facing a rush of improvements :)

One of the latest is the "Unsubscribe from the list" button instead of simply reporting as spam.

For more information you can read the post on the lifehacker blog (which started a tsunami on tweeter):

You can also read the article on the gmail help site:

Gmail will now display images in messages from contacts

Good news for marketers sending emails to gmail users, your subscribers that added your sender address to their contact list will now display images automatically.

This was already possible by clicking on the "always display images from this sender" button on top of the message.

It will now be automatic for your faithful subscribers :)

More information available on the Gmail official blog:

Official Gmail Blog: Now displaying images in messages from your contacts

Jul 20, 2009

Truth comes from 'the street'

One of our clients sent the optin 'proof' following a complaint handle by our abuse desk.
This optin proof was sent to the complainer and his reply made sens to me and is - I believe - typical of people's feeling about email marketing lately...

The complaint was initially made on a campaign sent by one of our French clients (email was in French) and they sent the URL of the form on which the user registered (a prize winning competition) the date and time his information was submitted and his IP.

Funny thing is the complainer in his reply also makes a confusion between the initial list owner and the ESP - which of course is bad as well for the ESP's image.

Please note names and brands have been removed

I am sorry but I don't know French. It seems like you are implying that I opted in to your mailing list. But if I don't understand French, why do you think I would do that? On the other hand, did you hire a contract spammer to run an 'advertisement' campaign for you recently? I strongly believe it must be the [ESP name] ([url].net [url2].net and so on) because I have been getting a lot of French language spam from them lately and they probably created the 'opt-in' record for you. Nonetheless, by hiring them (if you did), you also stand to be termed a spammer and be reported to the major DNSBL services!

[the complainer]

Once again, as a company trying to get new profiles or as an ESP, please be careful when choosing your partners, providers and clients.
Your reputation could be linked to dodgy companies over a few weeks time, regardless how much you match best practices, and you don't want that!

Jul 12, 2009

Not performing the same on all domains?

If your ESP's statistics tool gives you (as it should be) a view of the statistics broken down by the most represented domains in your broadcast, then you might from time to time see quite huge discrepancies between domains.

Why would that be?
Well there's several reasons that could be possible here...

1 - You went strait to the junk folder.
If SMTP logs indicate SPAM refused emails (SPAM bounce), there is no message sent back to indicate the fact your messages were delivered to the junk folder.
A very low open rate/click rate compared to other domains could then be explained by a junk filtered email, this is often true if you have a lower complaint rate than usual on these domains (people usually don't complain when a mail is ALREADY in the junk folder.

2 - Bounce messages issue.
Sometimes (but it's somewhat very rare) domains don't send back delivery error messages (bounce messages) to the broadcaster. This can either be due to a hardcore blacklisting or to a temporary issue.
In this case, your open/click rate will be calculated on the total volume of sent emails although some of the message were not delivered.

3 - Images blocking.
Some ESPs correct the number of openings automatically to take this issue into account, some others (like Cabestan for example) just keep the exact number of openings. As you probably know, openings are counted each time images (including the tracking pixel) are displayed.
Therefor, domains blocking images potentially have a lower number of openers. This discrepancy should be lower on the click rate in this case.

4 - Junk email addresses.
Today, people have several email addresses (a personal one and a professional one at least). Some people also have "junk" email addresses that they only read once in a while. Usually these email addresses are created either on disposable email domains or on freemail domains.
This can be spotted quite easily when you have systematically low open rates on the same domain.

Google gives a list of twits to stay in touch!

For all you google or twitter fans (or both) or for all that want to stay informed about new things coming at google, google gave quite amazing list of twitter accounts you could follow.

The list is available here:
Official Google Blog: Google accounts on Twitter

Jul 4, 2009

Latest Spam trends

Google just posted an article about the latest Spam Trends (for Q2 2009)

They report that the takedown of 3FN had a lower (but still important) impact on the world's Spams.

All information can be read here:
Official Google Enterprise Blog: Q2 2009 Spam Trends

Email Marketing Gadgets

Once you have achieved a 99,5% deliverability, once you've split tested all you could on your email campaigns and that everything is optimized, when all your systems communicate together, when you track your users everywhere and that all systems and teams get the relevant information to be able to interact properly with your clients, there are still some things that you can add to your email strategy to enhance your clients' experience.

I call these gadgets, simply because they are absolutely not necessary but can be very nice to achieve this little something that will make you stand out of the pack

1) First gadget could be considered as a best practice (and might become one over the next years):
Although most people usually read their newsletter on a web browser or a mail reader, more and more people read theirs on their mobile device.
One thing I see more and more (even though most people STILL read emails the traditional way) is adding a second "view online" page.
The traditional view online link points to an HTML page. Well the second "view online" page could then be in text and the link should read: I you are reading this email on a blackberry, please click here to view the text version.

2) Second one is probably one of my favorites although it's probably not suitable for all kinds of email communications :
You (or your team) probably spend a lot of time editing the content of your newsletter, once this email has been broadcast, this content will be read by your openers; but after a couple of days it will die out.
One good way to continue use the benefit of this email content is to create an RSS feed of your email newsletter.
This way you will increase the value of all these brilliant articles you wrote.
This RSS feed could then also be an excellent alternate media to keep in touch with your company.

3) The third gadget is very trendy:
Add social networks publishing or forwarding possibilities to your emails.
As on blogs and websites, an email probably can be considered as an article, hence it's as relevant as anywhere else to add a "share this" button on your emails to post the emails (or link to HTML online page) to Facebook, twitter, linkedin,....)
I believe this has to be the next generation send to a friend process.

There's plenty of other gadgets (each ESP has theirs) but this has to be my top 3 yet.

Jul 1, 2009

Get new clients, keep them and increase their buying frequency.

This is the dream of any marketer and his worst nightmare as well (regardless the media they use).
Recently, a French survey* ran by Init and Thierry Spencer showed how little clients (at least in france) are loyal to Brands:

For supermarkets, 17% of respondents said they were less loyal to it than before. Brands are even in a worst shape when only 15% of respondents claim to be “totally” loyal to their Brands, when 21% of respondents conceded being less loyal than before.

In this nightmarish situation, and Brandalley came with a very good and aggressive campaign:

The first launched a loyalty program for people ordering at least once a week (regardless the amount of money spent), this card (called ONE) is different from the “regular” Fnac program since it grants access to a dedicated hotline and support desk, a dedicated queue and a dedicated welcome desk in shops.
Target here is obviously to push people in buying more often.

The latest made a “pay what you want” campaign, for several days in a row on a selection of products (10 000 products). Result was over 450 000 web visits the first day and 5 000 new clients on this campaign (each costing only 12€ to BrandAlley).

These two examples of marketing strategy shows how aggressive Brands are getting in getting new clients and trying to get the most ROI on them as possible.

*Survey can be seen here (in french)

Jun 26, 2009

Verizon is dead.

What a month!

After the emails about to die out soon (see post), Verizon is now out for good.

I received an alert from Retrunpath:
[...]Verizon's telephone business in the Atlantic North East, sold back in 2007, has completed their transition of email addresses. The migration of Verizon addresses to Fairpoint Communications started a few months ago and was completed during this last week. [...]

The error code received on the SMTP log is the following: 550 4.2.1
It should be considered as a Hardbounce (dead email).

Still on the Returnpath alert email:
[...] There is no 1 to 1 conversion of Verizon to Fairpoint Communications so simply changing the domain will not suffice in this case.[...]

You can trash right away all Verizon email addresses in your DB

Jun 25, 2009

What is a Spam?

I've been discussing Spam on this blog for months now.
I've given out, what are according to me the best ways not to be considered as a Spammer.

Now that time passed and that, working at an ESP, I've seen number of very different emails and clients being Spam blocked by ISPs and Spam reported by users.

Now the question that's on my mind currently is "what is the REAL definition of a Spam?"

First thing, as anyone living on the 21st century, I had a look at wikipedia for a definition, there it is

This is mostly a technical definition and a collection of facts.

Unfortunately I think all is not that simple, I think the definition of a Spam varies according to the point of view.

Let's try and see how we would describe a spam according to who we are:
Sender: Well, unless you are one of the Spammers sending Viagra advertising knowing you are spamming millions (billions) of people, you probably think you broadcast legitimate emails.

ESP: Same thing here, unless you are an illegal, underground ESP, you probably trust your clients (you probably have plenty of disclaimers in your contracts as well) and therefore consider you broadcast legitimate emails on behalf of your clients.

End users: We are all end users, so we probably all know what WE would consider as a Spam, basically any email sent to us that we didn't ask for or sent by someone we don't know.

ISPs and Spam filters: I kept those as last (although they should have been placed before the end user in the email chain) because I feel like this is the place where the problem is the less straitforward.
Several reasons for this:
First one is ISP loose money due to Spam, second reason is Spam filters make money out of it.
There's more and more Spam filtering company that make black or grey listed broadcasters pay for unlisting.
We can also mention the emailreg project launched by Barracuda which doesn't make everyone happy.
We also can mention all the certification programs that have flourished over the last years.
ISPs and Spam filter's definition of Spam is some kind of mix of:
Bad content, bad coding, bad keywords, poor sending domain reputation and poor IP reputation.
But even then, some of my clients match 100% of these criterias (I mean in good of course) but they will NEVER achieve 0% spam filtered emails

I guess the real definition of a Spam is an unsolicited email, but it's all a matter of perception after all.

Jun 12, 2009

Say goodbye to

As it was the case in February (see post here) with club-internet, email addresses will be the next victim of the SFR/Tele2/Cegetel merging in France.

I currently have no exact date from which these emails will stop to receive incoming messages, currently, no new email address can be created and the closing down should come shortly.

On the webmail's login page the following warning is displayed:

In June 2009
all addresses will disappear

All users are invited to transfer their important messages on their email address.

It's the third time domains dissapear this year in europe (after club-internet and Lycos europe domains)

Cabestan sent an alert to all its users to advise them to send quickly and email to all addresses they might have in their DB asking them to change their contact information.

Jun 5, 2009

YOU are responsible for who broadcast your ads

Gmail published recently an update to their Bulk Senders Guidelines concerning affiliate campaigns.

In a few words, this article states that brands are responsible for broadcasts made with their offers inside.

This is a general trend today across most ISPs, Freemail providers and anti-spam solutions.

Up to recently, only (or mostly) the sender reputation imported when sending bulk emails.
Now, link reputation, brand keywords and content itself gets more and more important in the filtering process.

This means that not only should you - as a brand - closely monitor who you use to communicate on your offers, but you should also be very cautious when sending third party advertising on who you advertise for.
Either way, lack of caution would lead to a big drop in your reputation as a direct marketing entity.

For those of you who want to read more, I already discussed this subject twice in October 2008 and November 2008

May 31, 2009

Will Google wave create a new direct marketing arena?

Google presented during this year's Google I/O the pre-release of Google Wave, the video of the presentation is available here.

This is what might be a big evolution in the way people communicate online.
According to me it's more about a mix of several ways of communicating (email, IM, iRC, Forums, Blogs,...). What really is making the difference here is that all these ways of communicating are merged into one, interactive way. Making it possible through one single tool to interact in several ways.

The presentation made by Google shows several possible uses of using Waves. The question I'm asking to myself just now that I saw the video is: Will it make a difference in direct e-marketing? Will it be a unique place to interact with your clients?

I guess we will get a better understanding of where it will lead us when the final version comes out.

Learn more about Google Wave:
Official Google Blog: Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave.

May 27, 2009

Men and Women are different - According to Emailvision

A recent study made by Emailvision UK reveals women are only half as likely to read the email newsletters. One out of ten open their newsletters versus one out of five men.
Other interesting piece of information is that women are more likely to unsubscribe (17% over the last year versus 7% of men). They tend to blame the amount of incoming emails when men blame the quality and relevance of the content.

The full study is available on Emailvision UK's website

May 24, 2009

New channel, same methods

With the increase of users in social networks, it was just a matter of time I guess before spammers got interested in spamming people there.
Recently, I could spot three new ways spammers try to get hold of contacts (just as spammers hack people's email contact lists and scan the net to gather emails).

First method is the nice looking lady friend request, I've experienced this in professional networks and facebook: A nice looking lady asks to enter your network, of course you never heard about this person, and it's very likely she will start sending to you links to commercial websites.
This spam method can easily be countered by not accepting unknown users' requests.

Second method (I just saw for the first time today): Hacking people's accounts (phishing). I received today an internal message on facebook from a friend that, after talking with, told me he never sent. This email was just a link to a website looking like a facebook login page. If you type in your information, it's very likely that your account would then be stolen and a mail be sent to all your contacts, pointing to this website. Once sufficient accounts are stolen, then they could start broadcast spam to all the contacts of these accounts.
To fight this kind of spam, I advise you not to type in your login/password on any other website than facebook (or a fully trusted third party website) and tell your contact, their account has been hacked so they can try to change their password.

Third method is, I'm afraid, a spam system you can't do anything about. Because the primary goal of a social network site is to allow people to connect to each other, the more often, it is possible to message anyone registered on the website, even outside your network. You would then be exposed to unsolicited messages, even though this is still quite rare.

Of course today, the amount of spam messages received through email is far more important than the number of spam you might receive through social networks, but beware, I'm afraid things could evolve quickly (and in a bad way).

May 18, 2009

Broadcast emails and then what?

This is a question I often see on other blogs and Marketing websites.

Once you are at the top of the art of email marketing and that you master all of the steps of a successful email marketing strategy.
Once your deliverability is at it's top, your IP and sender reputation all green, your email template optimized and your database segmented properly.
Once you have secured the incoming emails in your database, that you gathered useful behavioral and declarative information about them.

Then you are facing the BIG question: What can I do next? Is there any way I can optimize my strategy?

Well, basically this is when you will investigate social networks which is the great trend these days.

Basics of social network marketing are twitter, and social networks (such as facebook).

There are a lot of discussions accross the net about what needs to be done there and what content you should provide in all these different places.

Concerning content for example, if your newsletter has a great deal of information (not only a list of time limited deals and bargains, then you can create a blog syndicating the emails you sent. This is a very nice way of using on the long term what was initially an instant communication.

If you chose to create pages on facebook, it's also nice to put on this page a link to your email subscription form. Of course it's probably good to have somewhere on your email a "find us on facebook" button that links to your facebook page.

Once again, as mentioned in my post on the use of a datamart system, the important thing is to keep as many links as possible between all your means of communication.

Having plenty of means of communication is good but you need to keep a global thinking and have a general strategy, these means of communication are ways to achieve a specific goal (or different goals) you have, but your goals shouldn't be dictated by the means themselves.

May 15, 2009

Etymology can save your life.

I've always been (as a French man) impressed by how etymology of the English language could help have a good understanding of a words' meaning.
Let's take a couple of examples:
- Tourism: The activity of touring an unknown place.
- Proactive: Being active before action is needed (anticipating)
- Computer: Machine used to compute data.
- Direct marketing: Addressing directly your clients and potential clients with an advertising message.

Concerning the Etymology of Direct Marketing, I think it also means the Marketing message as well has to be direct.

I was this week in Spain, and I had a meeting with one of our newly signed clients to discuss features and make some tests.
When he showed me his email creative I almost choked:
The creative was just soooo big, with soooo much information, sooo many products that nothing really raised out of the lot (I'm talking here about an email so long you could drop dead while scrolling to reach the footer).
Get my point here: a Direct marketing email is no according to me an opportunity to send over an e-catalog to your potential clients, it's all about teasing the potential client to get him to your website (or shop) and to eventually buy something or registers or whatever is important to you.
One other thing: if your email is that long and your unsubscribe link is (as it was on this template I saw) in the footer, then it's very likely the user won't have the patience to search for it and will just press the complaint button.

I beg you: if you read these lines, keep your advertising messages short and punchy, don't ever think putting every single product you sell in an email will make it sure one will find what he looks for.
It's a war out there! People receive tons of advertising emails every day, it's very unlikely they'll spend over a minute reading them (the ones they care to open) you have to make your point quick and good.

May 8, 2009

Do you have a global strategy?

Companies often have an ESP to manage their email (and some times SMS) campaigns, a web analytics to measure website traffic and activity, a CRM and a Loyalty program.
This is good, but recently more and more companies have tried to merge all this information.

This really is a powerful plan, imagine: Today, it's just as if in your companie you had several employees in your marketing department, one knowing what are the best offers, one knowing what your clients like and another one knowing who are the best clients, but they never got the chance to talk to each other.

Merging all this information although it might sometimes be difficult and expensive to set up is the key to achieve great success.

Once you get everything to communicate, then you get the highest potential from all marketing strategies and channels.

What you need is a Data mart, some database when you can push in all this information and make it available back to the different tools that might need it.

Cabestan has such an offer called DMS Datamart, benefits are that this solution, based on some of our DB hosting tools is less expensive than a Datamart specialized solution.

At the end of the day what you need is to create an environment where all the data is merged and correctly mapped to make it possible to be used in any channel.

This can also get to another level when working with offline shops as well as a website, there is so much information that can be gathered in these shops which is too often not even sent back to the CRM system, due to a lack of upstream and of a normalized database.

With a data mart you can then agregate data from all these sources of information (and any other you can think of):
Website (web analytics + ad server), Email campaigns (ESP), Orders made by clients (CRM), Loyalty program (Loyalty Database), Shops surveys,...

Dont let the data in the wild, normalize and use, in the end you will save money, time and become more efficient.

May 7, 2009

Gmail images (again)

Sooo, I checked my gmail emails as usual this morning but the authorized senders have the images blocked again!
This time, when I re-approve the sender it doesn't even keep the information and I have to re-approve again when I come back to the exact same message.
I hope this bug will finally be solved because over the fact it's annoying as a user, it can have very big implications on broadcasts to addresses.
This impact can be very big (on that domain) knowing that people that accepted you as a trusted sender are the more likely to open your emails.

May 4, 2009

A mobile marketing code of ethics to be released in France

The French Mobile Marketing Association is about to release a code of ethics for Mobile Marketing. Ocito's Managing Director Benoît Corbin and Jamil Hijazi, CEO of The Mobile internet Agency EGS Media are working on the project.
This code of conduct should be released during the month of May.

Gmail's trusted senders reset

A week ago, all my trusted senders got their images turned off by default.
I thought I was one of few since no alert was made on the Gmail blog. But I saw a couple of posts such as the one made by Chad White on the Retail email blog made me confident it's a general issue.
Problem is here that all users that displayed your images by default will now have to click back to authorize the display of images which can have a negative impact on your opening rate.

It seems that the problem is now over, but I though I would just relay the info to explain potentially low Gmail open rates you might have experienced last week.

From prospection to loyalty presentation

I made a post last week mentioning the Cabestan v2009 keynote in Paris.
During this keynote I made a presentation of tips and strategies to manage your clients' life cycle from the moment they enter your DB onwards.
This presentation I made, I've translated to English. It is now available in the download section of Email-Ethics.
I thought it might be helpful, if it raises any question, please feel free to contact me or any of our local offices.
The contact information is available on the Safig Cabestan website.

Apr 26, 2009

Cabestan v2009

Tuesday is a great day for Cabestan!
On this day we will make a presentation in Paris of our new release, this release will come up with an entirely new design and new features (but let's not say too much of this right now ;)

The presentation will be organised as follows:
First, a presentation of the new Cabestan release
Second, 3 workshops dealing with the following arenas:
- Database management and targeting
- Get new clients and keep them
- Deliverability
Last, a presentation on our new Datamart offer : create a 360° vision on your client's database with Cabestan's eCRM solution, the DMS Datamart.
Videos will be made of this event and presentations released,... in French.
I will of course link them here for French speaking readers.
Those of you around Paris on that day, you can register the last available seats here

Apr 19, 2009

The oldest job in the world

Although people usually consider prostitution as the oldest job in the world I rather think one of the oldest (if not THE oldest) is marketing.
Since man is man, he has always tried to convince the rest of men surrounding him that he was either the best or the stronger or the better.

Among all forms of Marketing, Direct marketing has to be the first.
While technologies evolved from roars to emails and SMS, the basics remain the same:
Address someone or a small group of people to get them to do what you want them to.
Since then two main trends appeared: Brute force and physical domination on one hand and incentive and seduction on the other one.

When the first can only be reliable when the "marketer" is at a reasonable short distance of the "marketed", the second one can be efficient on a long range.
Indeed: Brute force only prevails when people are close enough to either be hit on or at least feel the threat and defer to it.
Even today, brute force still exists, it's more about leadership and supremacy. For instance, a dictator cares very little about seducing the people to get them to do something (although most of them had to seduce to get there in the first place).
This type of Marketing needs a constant domination, The "marketed" are aware they are free to chose and therefore once the oppression disappears, they change to other (often opposite) "products".

Seducing and getting people to do things through incentive is more subtle. It also has the big advantage to give the "marketed" the impression he is in command.
It's not only an impression, with this kind of marketing, the "marketed" ones are the ones that will take the final decision.

All this just to point out that if methods evolve, the means remain the sames, whatever marketing campaign you run you need to remember the following:
1 - You are addressing human beings that have the ability to think
2 - You have to give a reason to these people to buy your product or to register to your service (or to vote for you)
3 - People love to feel they are in command, and the ISPs and IT companies gave them this power (Spam buttons, Popup blocker, images blockers,...) over you
4 - You have to either adapt your message to what your target expects or wants to hear, or target your audience according to what you want to tell.
5 - You have to keep the relationship live, just like a love affair, not too present nor distant.

Apr 6, 2009

Don't ever, ever,...

By creating my campaign monitoring email to measure the volume of email sent (see previous post), I also saw a few things that just freaked me out.

The top 3 mistakes or bad practices on email campaigns I received during Q1 2009 are:

1 - The bad practice back from another century.
One of the Love match companies I subscribed to is now using it's 15th different email since I subscribed (which makes an average of 5/month.
All the emails are as follows:,, info...

2 - The "who are you again?" Email
One of the lists I subscribed to (for an online gambling website) sent me the first email... 94 days after I subscribed.
That's a hell of a long time.

3 - Sorry no parlo la lingua.
One of the Love match companies, to which I subscribed with a French profile, sent me all communications in French (Good)... except one that I received half french and half Norvegian - or something approaching (Bad).
Fortunately enough it was not the first mail I received from them (and fortunately enough there was absolutely no point for me to unsubscribe) but how bizarre!
It has to be noted here that I didn't receive any apology message after that...

I did see a couple of other dodgy things in the huge amount of email received, but these 3 are over the top.

First quarter email statistics.

I created an email account which I subscribed to plenty of lists. All these lists are segmented in industries

The goal here is to measure the amount of emails sent to subscribers according to the type of industry.

I segmented the types of list in the following types:

  • Brand (Brand advertising)
  • Casino (Online Casino and Gambling)
  • Entertainment (TV channels, Entertainment)
  • Games (Prize winning competitions, scratch games online)
  • Love Match (Love match and online meeting websites)
  • Offers (Online coupons, special offers, online bargains)
  • Private Sales (Private sales websites)
  • Retail (E-commerce, retail stores)
  • Travel (Online Travel agencies).
The statistics are the following (average number of emails received per week):

Type Avg Emails/W
Brand 0,735
Casino 0,963
Entertainment 1,236
Games 1,460
Love Match 5,089
Offers 1,775
Private Sales 6,644
Retail 2,308
Travel 1,595
ALL 2,423

Unsurprisingly Private sales come ahead with almost a mail per day average (according to the company it's from 5 to 8 mails per week in average).
A bit more surprising is the second in the list (in volume): Love match websites. I was amazed by the number of emails received when subscribed to this kind of list (it also depends on the website). Maybe the first relationship you get from these sites is the relationship with the website itself in a way.
The retail industry quite normally gets the third place with an average of 2.3 mails per week (more emails were sent during the different holidays of the first quarter (Valentine's day, St Patrick,...))
Then you get rest of the pack with a rate of around one mail a week.

This confirms that there is a huge discrepancy between Industries and that subscribers probably expects a given amount of weekly emails according to lists (from my personal experience, there is no big difference in complaints and unsubscribe rates between all these industries, it is more related to the website itself and it's practices).

If you are in the marketing department of a company and you are far of it's average maybe it's time to see if you could change the way you communicate with your clients.

Apr 4, 2009

Who wants to pay to put his name on a Jersey?

Since it's the week-end, let's make a post outside of email marketing.
I'm always amazed by good buzz marketing operations whatever channels are used in the process.

Who around here knows Romain Mesnil? Probably not many.
This 31 year-old man is probably the best French pole volter, he was second in the last European Championship and World Championship.
Problem is, Nike, his original sponsor stopped their collaboration, leaving him without any equipment sponsoring.

What to do then? Well he made a video of him running naked in the streets of Paris, carrying his pole around (no foney joke here).
This video has been seen almost 200 000 times on youtube (plus almost 600 000 times for the short version).

From this buzz he created a page on ebay where he sells the sponsoring of his jersey. The ebay sale will run until April the 9th. First price was 1 000€ it now is over 20 000€.
If you are interested you can bid here.
EDIT: It seems someone removed his bid, it now displays 1 510€.
EDIT2: The end date now is April the 10th 8AM (Paris time)

I'm not a huge athletics fan (I'm more into team sports) but I really think such creativity and risk taking should be rewarded.

Email Ethics Q1 2009 Survey released!

So, after a slight delay, my email marketing survey analysis is now released it can be downloaded on the email-ethics download page

All comments are welcomed.

Apr 2, 2009

OME'09 - Best practices?


The Presentation:
This presentation was supposed to deal with email best practices, I will not give neither the name of the speaker nor the ESP name, since I will criticize this presentation all along my blog post.

Try to picture a room of around 150 people gathered to hear about some email marketing best practices (as written on the trade show's program).
Then a guy shows up and loads his powerpoint.

He then runs through an amazingly long case study, showing off how well they match their client's expectations and how their tool can adapt itself to their client's needs.

25 minutes later (out of 30 minutes total) I was out of there, leaving behind me around 60 persons (half of them where probably having a quick nap) out of the 150 persons there in the first place.

Now if this presentation has something to do with email best practices, it can only be a good live example of why your subject line must match the content and why your email advertizing has to match the offers on your website.

It was probably not the point there but hey, I just can't convince myself I lost 25 minutes of my time in Madrid for no reason.

The trade show is now about to close it's doors, next blog post will probably be from Paris (and probably will be the complete results of my online survey).

Farewell OME!

OME'09 - Spanish people and email.

Arianna Galante (Account Director, ContactLab)

All my comments are in italic

The Presentation:
ContactLab was created in 2000, it's an Italian ESP, now working in Spain.
They ran a study on the Spanish people and their relationship with email.
This study's results were presented during the forum.

Target of the study:
The target of the study was to gather information on the Spanish people behaviour regarding email in general and email marketing in particular.
It was ran on people born after 1993, that connect to internet at least once a month.

1) Volume:
How many emails did you receive yesterday ? -> 22,7 average
How many email accounts do you have ? -> 2,01 average (likely to be one personal and one professional)

=> This shows how important it is to make a difference!
=> You need to broadcast relevant campaigns
=> You need to segment your database and to personalize your emails

2) Reaction when receiving an "unsolicited" (or irrelevant) email:
I erase it without opening it : 66%
I unsubscribe : 53%

=> No one answered they would complain (which came as a surprise to me - I do think they are likely to, even though they didn't pick that answer)
=> You need to give back the power to your clients : placing the unsubscribe link on top of your emails, by clearly identifying yourself when sending, by chosing a subject line that matches the actual content of your mail, remind the user why he is receiving this email).
=> This is also why it is important to cleanup your database from inactive users.

3) How do they read their emails?
  • What do they use to read their emails?
In a webmail : 45%
In a mail reader (outlook, thunderbird,...) : 25%
In both their webmail and a mail reader : 25%
On mobile devices : 5%
  • Do they display images when reading a mail?
Images not displayed by default but displayed when reading the mail: 43%
Images displayed by default: 39%
Images never displayed (including while reading the email): 10,8%
  • Equipment:
Personal Computer: 82%
Laptop: 56%
Mobile device: 10%

=> All these elements make it very important to make sure your emails display correctly whether images are on or off, and try to estimate the number of mobile devices users (and maybe send a full text version to these users).

4) Other types of messaging tools used:
Instant messaging tools (MSN, AIM, ICQ,...) : 79%
Social websites internal messaging system (facebook, linkedin,...): 49%

=> Therefore you need to adapt and to get involved in social networks. You probably want to search for new communication fields.

To conclude, Arianna Galante summed up saying a successful Spanish (but is it only Spain we were talking about right now?) email campaign needs to be relevant, sent to a clean database. That your content needs to be designed to be relevant whether images are displayed (or diplayable) or not. Every new move has to be tested and the results analyzed.

Update: The full report is available here (thank you Nikki)

OME'09 - Email Marketing, a weapon against the crisis

Maria Teresa Moreira (Country Manager, Emailvision)
Fiona Gillen (VP Marketing, Splendia)

The Presentation:
Splendia, a Spanish travel website was created in 2004, between 2004 and 2007 they ran a very aggressive lead collection program.
They now have around 500 000 optin profiles in their database.

Since 2008, their new strategy is based on:
  • Secure their bond with their clients.
  • Create a premium link with their consumers.
  • Create a dedicated relationship with each of their client.
  • Prospect new clients, generate new leads.

To build up a successful strategy, Splendia tried to find the good ESP (I write "tried", since they didn't chose cabestan of course ^^).
The choice was based on these elements:

1) The Emailvision company
  • Started in 1999
  • Nice features
  • Support team close to the client (office in Barcelona)

2) Delivrability and performance
  • Quick broadcasting
  • Secure platform
  • Good deliverability (around 95%)

3) Features
  • Inbox delivery monitoring tool.
  • Statistics followup
  • Easy re-send scenarios
  • Split testing
  • Automated campaigns
  • Transactional emails
Email is the second marketing channel in Splendia (after SEM). According to Splendia, chosing the right ESP is a key to success.
Sales and ROI can be increased by sending more (when of course keeping an eye on statistics, complaints and unsubscribers).
It is important to use as fully as possible all of your ESP's features.

Note: All of the features described in this post are also available using Cabestan.

On the booth yesterday, in the presentations today

So, here's Day 2 in the OME Madrid...

Yesterday I spend most of the day on the Cabestan Stand answering spanish speaking people that yes we are an ESP, no we don't rent databases, nor we own any of the hosted data.

Now it's time for presentations:
Just finished attending my second one and there's at least one more to go for me.

I'll make dedicated posts for each presentation to make it as complete as possible.

Anton, live from OME.

Apr 1, 2009

Live from the OME Madrid

Hello everyone,

I’m now live from the OME in Madrid. As always, very impressed by how people change companies in a year time...

I didn’t have time to see any presentation yet but will of course keep you informed as soon as I have.

Stay tuned!

Mar 30, 2009

Sorry I'm late! - OME'09 Madrid

As those of you that read my last post announcing that the results of the survey I ran this month was to be released this week-end might notice, I'm late.
Since I am in Madrid this week for the OME Madrid trade show, I will probably not be able to release the results before next week-end (but I will provide a feedback on the trade show this week).
Please accept my apologize for this and stay tuned.

If any of you goes to the OME Madrid this week please feel free to drop by and say hi!
I will be on Cabestan's stand (Stand 73).

More information on the OME'09 available on the OME website.

Mar 26, 2009

Email Ethics Q1 2009 Survey

As some of you might know, I ran a survey on email marketing habits and strategies. While the final results analysis will be released over the week-end, here are the first elements that came out after a first glance at the statistics:

On the "best practices" side of things:
Over 80% of respondents segment their DB.
Over 80% of respondents seem to believe email Personalization is a key to successful email marketing strategy and
Over 80% of respondents use a mix of images and text in their email creative.

on the list hygiene side:
Almost everyone claim to get rid of Hardbounces, complainers and unsubscribers.

According to respondents, the 3 most important elements in email marketing are:
Database hygiene, Delivrabilty and attractive subject lines.

Stay tuned for the full report !

Mar 16, 2009

RoadRunner FeedBack Loop released!

A new feedback loop has just been released today by ReturnPath (yes, again), it's the Road Runner Time Warner feed back loop.

This feedback loop has been available for almost a month now for Returnpath customers, it is now open to all.

As always, once accepted on the program, you will receive on the registered abuse emails the list of complainers.

You will then be able to remove these emails from further communications and therefor reduce the number of spam complaints over time.

I will add the registration form in the list of available feedback loops page.

Mar 14, 2009

And then what? Stamps?

The more time passes, the more Whitelisting companies appear on the market, each granting whitelisting services to a given number ISPs.

What bothers me now is that it's more and more looking like a tax paying system.

My point is, should we consider whitelisting as a seal of quality, then one certification SHOULD be enough to demonstrate your good practices and the quality of your broadcast.

Problem is more and more ISPs sign up with (different) whitelist systems. Should you want to be transversely whitelisted on all (or most) ISPs, then you have to pay for 3-4 different whitelist systems.

My concern is that email marketing is the highest ROI direct marketing vector since the costs are very low and the revenue very high.
By increasing the broadcasting costs through all these additional costs, aren't we damaging the business itself?

What is the real value of these whitelists anyway? Isn't it true that if you match all the requirements to be whitelisted, you probably don't need to be whitelisted anymore?

If you are a high level email marketing ace, then whitelisting will be some kind of insurance on your deliverability (along with some side benefits like displaying the images and activating the links without any action needed from the user).

I'm really hope this whitelist frenzy will end one day...

Mar 6, 2009

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Once in a while, it's good to talk about something else than email marketing and email strategy and best practices.

Yesterday, a colleague showed me a great website and I thought I would share this with all of you.

The website name is musicovery. This website is something like a web radio (kind of), the funny thing here is that you can select a single genre or several, select a mood or a tempo, a time period and a range (from 'discover new titles' to 'play only my favorites'.

You can create an account and flag songs as favs or ban it from further lists.

All of you that are lucky Mac OS X users can also install an iTunes plug in.

I advise you to take a look, very handy in the office when you want to save the battery of your iPod/iPhone/MP3 player and that you are tired of and Deezer.

Mar 4, 2009

Google email Security presentation

An interesting post has been made on the Official Google Enterprise Blog. This post gives a lot of information on how Google secures on-premise emails (including Gmail). You will also be able here to gather some useful information on Postini.

I advise all of you to go through this 35 minutes tutorial.

Feb 24, 2009

This morning's Gmail Outage due to a Hacker?

A new post has been made on the Official Gmail Blog to apologize once again for this morning's outage and to say the problem has now been identified and corrected (the service was back more or less 2 and a half hours after the crash).

The funny thing is that we are warned we might have to complete a captcha to login.

I don't know you, but it really looks like a way of countering a hacker attack to me.

Gmail down!

As unusual as it may seem, Gmail crashed down world wide (around 9:30 AM GMT) this morning.
The problem seems general.

Basically it was then impossible to connect to one's Gmail inbox.

Google is of course aware of the problem and are trying to solve it as soon as possible.

This impacts Gmail free and Enteprise.

A status is available on the Gmail support page, it currently shows:


We're aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a number of users. This problem occurred at approximately 1.30AM Pacific Time. We're working hard to resolve this problem and will post updates as we have them. We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused.


Concerning the impact on email Marketing:
I just received a lot of emails on my Gmail account a few minutes ago, so emails apparently shouldn't bounce back.

In any case, you will probably have poor results on email campaigns broadcasted this morning to Gmail users.

More info on the Official Google Blog:
Official Google Blog: Current Gmail outage

Feb 19, 2009

Canada to pass an anti-spam act

Canada's senate is currently working on an anti-spam act.
Last country of the G8 not to have their own anti-spam act, they just ran a second reading at the Canadian senate.

I personnaly loved the definition of spam made by senator Yoine Goldstein available in the transcript of the session:

"We all know what spam is. Although the Senate filters a tremendous number of spam messages, some nevertheless go through the filters. We have all been solicited to buy Viagra at bargain prices on the web or via email. I sometimes have the notion that I should email back to point out that we, as senators, do not need Viagra. We have all received a goodly number of plaintive emails, predominantly from Nigeria, but elsewhere as well, telling us that the sender is an orphan or the widow of an oil minister who died in unexplained circumstances. The emails speak of leaving a bank account in a secret place that contains many millions of dollars. They tell us our cooperation is required to transfer the money to a safe haven, like Canada. In exchange, we will receive 20 per cent to 40 per cent of these millions. Those few who are foolish enough to respond end up providing bank account information and various pieces of other personal information that allow the sender to raid the bank account, withdraw virtually all the money and then disappear.

While many of us might not consider spam to be a significant challenge, it imposes massive costs at the global level. Depending on which source one uses, somewhere between 75 per cent and 95 per cent of all email sent in 2007 was spam. That is up from 10 per cent in 2000."

The entire text of the act is available here.

Most important facts concerning this act are:
  • A commercial electronic message shall
    (a) clearly and accurately identify the person who is sending or authorized the sending of the message;
    (b) contain readily-accessible and accurate header and routing information; and
    (c) include readily-accessible and accurate information as to how the recipient of the message can easily contact the person who is sending or authorized the sending of the message.
  • The unsubscribe facility
    (a) shall be expressed and presented in a clear and conspicuous manner;
    (b) shall allow the recipient to respond to the sender using the same method of communication that was used to send the commercial electronic message;
    (c) shall be capable of receiving the unsubscribe request at all times during a period of at least 30 days after the message is sent; and
    (d) shall not require the recipient to pay a fee to the sender of the message or to any other person in order to use the unsubscribe facility.
  • No person shall send or authorize the sending of a commercial electronic message if the person knows or ought to know that the electronic address to which the message is sent was obtained
    (a) using address-harvesting software;
    (b) from a harvested-address list; or
    (c) using an automated means that generates possible electronic addresses by combining letters, numbers or symbols or a combination thereof. Impersonation of a trusted source
  • Every person who knows, or ought to know, that their trade, business, property, goods or services are being or will be advertised or promoted in a commercial electronic message sent contrary to section 8 or 11, and who receives or expects to receive an economic benefit from the sending of the message, shall take reasonable measures to prevent the sending of the message and to report any contravention to an appropriate law enforcement agency.
This act also authorize ISPs to block any incoming spam source.

As often in this case this law will apply for anyone sending from Canada or to Canadian persons (whatever the spam originating country is).

Feb 18, 2009

Email-Ethics email marketing survey


I decided to launch a survey for email marketers. The goal is not of course to spy on you but to get information on what are email marketers' concerns and habits.

I will of course post the results on this blog and the email ethics website.

And I will also, I hope adapt my upcoming posts to the biggest concerns expressed on this survey.

Click Here to take survey

Feb 17, 2009

Say goodby to Club-Internet

After Lycos Europe closing down last week, SFR (who bought Club-Internet in 2007) announced to the Club-Internet users that their account would be closed on March the 10th 2009.

Users now are facing 2 options:
- First is to subscribe to an SFR offer, and keep their email address
- Second is to give up their account and lose their email account.

The possibly impacted domains are and

Cabestan (the company for which I work) sent an email to all our clients telling them about the situation and advising them to identify these emails int the database and send them an "update your account" campaign... wise advice I would say!

What would George Washington think of google's strategy?

Jonathan Rosenberg posted an article on the official Google Blog for Presidents' Day.

Hopping cheerfully from the founders to 21st century's technological improvements this blog post introduces the author's (or is it Google's) views of recent evolutions what internet will probably look like in a few years time.

Read the post:
Official Google Blog: From the height of this place

Feb 16, 2009

Anti-Spam vs freedom of speech.

A nice article was posted on the first amendment center website telling us about a student being sued after using Michigan State University's email to send 'unsollicited', 'bulk' email.

Now, the question raised by the website is: where's the frontier between Spam Filtering and limitations to freedom of speech?

If we think a little about it, the question is wide:
Freedom of speech should allow anyone to tell anyone else whatever he believes to be relevant.
Spam filtering is here to protect personal (and professional) emails from unsolicited information sent by third party.

The line is thin...

Feb 14, 2009

Is your subscribers list protected?

If you want to have a successful email marketing strategy you have to make sure your list is really optin, that profiles in your list are people that voluntarily subscribed.
You always have to be sure people are not subscribe through robots filling up marketing databases with random emails.

There's only two ways of making sure no robot uses your forms to subscribe hundreds of potential complainers, bounces or spam traps:

First option is the double optin.
Even though it has been recently discussed on a Bill McCloskey Blog Post, the double optin remains a sure way of making sure people have willingly subscribed to your newsletter.
The double optin system is sending a confirmation email to your subscribers with a link to confirm the subscription. Only users clicking on the link will eventually make it to the broadcast list.

Second option is the Captcha
This second option will not block people from subscribing other persons' email but it will block scripts and robots from posting automatically emails in your list. Thi Captcha system will check on the form posting that the user correctly typed in the text shown in an image.

You don't want to under-estimate the risk of these robots posting emails in your list. Being unprotected might lead you to gather a consequent number of harmful emails.

Feb 13, 2009

Is it not all about content after all?

I've been working for some time now in the email marketing business. I've spread the wise words of best practices to whoever I could.
Now don't get me wrong: Of course best practices are and will probably always be the best way to reach your user's inbox.

I'm talking here about list hygiene and technical specifications mainly.

But when you are in the inbox, what will make the user open your email and eventually click to your website.
People use to say : the subject line, the sender name or the marketing pressure.
All these elements do have an impact for sure (and I also do insist on those with my clients) when you think on a general point of view.

Now let's get in a one to one analysis:
My job being to know as many things as possible about email marketing I am subscribed to over a hundred newsletters (not on my main personal or professional email of course :)) and I receive 20 to 30 advertising emails each day. Even though (for professional reasons) I usually open each and every one of them to see what's going on around on the market.
Sometimes don't have time to go through everything. Then I have to make choices, and I will then act like any other subscriber : I pick what I believe to be the most interesting Newsletters in the list.

Now let's just stop here for a minute: How do I decide what is the nicest newsletter around in this huge list?
Believe me or not, I don't base my choice on the name of the sender or the subject line, I know from experience where to find good, nice looking emails. I know on which newsletter I will find the best deals.

This leads to my point: as good a marketer you are, as well you reach the email marketing best practices, you will always be dependent on the quality of your offers.

Feb 10, 2009

A check list for 100% inbox delivery

Even though a 100% inbox delivery on an email campaign is 100% fictional due mainly to temporary errors and soft bounces, it is possible to secure your email delivery through a few steps.

Here is a check list, should you match all these requirements, then there is no reason why you would not be able to reach near 100% email deliverability:

1 - Do you have enough dedicated IPs?
Your ID when broadcasting newsletter is most of the time based on the couple IP/Domain.
Some ISPs and webmails limit either the number of hourly or daily number of emails to be received form an IP. You therefore need to have sufficient IPs according to the volume of emails sent to these ISPs in one go.
I also insist on the dedicated part of the question since sharing your IPs with other senders might get you into troubles should the other senders send dodgy campaigns.
It's also very necessary to build up your own sender reputation using always the same IPs and slowly getting the ISPs' confidence.

2 - Are your DomainKey/DKIM and SPF correctly configured?
Yahoo! and Hotmail use the DomainKey (or recently DKIM) and SPF to identify sender domains. Having a correctly set ID will help you build up you, if you have a good reputation, to go through.

3 - Is your revers DNS working correctly?
Most of the email receiving servers query the revers DNS to see who's sending, you need to make sure your reverse DNS is correctly set before broadcasting.

4 - Are your email headers correctly set?
There's a few things to know when broadcasting, Gmail for example asks for "precedence=bulk" to be stated in the email header.

5 - Do you use double optin in your newsletter subscription process?
Nowadays, double optin is the only way to make sure of two things :
a) the user realy wants to register to your newsletter
b) the real owner of the email subscribed went through the process of subscription.

6 - Do you have a simple and efficient unsubscribe process?
With the spam complaint button so easily reachable above each and every email in the webmails inbox, you need to have the simplest unsubscribe process as possible.
The more complicated the unsubscribe process is, the more likely the user is to click on the spam complaint button, and we don't want that.
For the same exact reason you realy want to take each and every unsubscribe request into account ASAP, any email received after the user having unsubscribe is a potential complaint to the ISP.

7 - Do you correctly identify complainers and remove them systematically from upcoming broadcasts?
Several ISPs provide email senders with feedback loops. These feedback loops are very usefull to measure the perception users have of your newsletter and of course to stop sending to complainers.
A list of available feedback loops is available here

8 - Do you sometimes check for inactive profiles and remove them from your list?
An email that haven't reacted (opened) on any email sent to him for a long time should probably be removed from your list, it's very likely you will never get any benefit from sending to this person, you probably pay a fee to send emails to this user and you also take the risk of this email being a spam trap.

9 - Do you avoid spam words, special characters and ALL CAPS in your subject lines?
Part of the email filtering is made on the email content itself. You therefore need to check your email subject line for common spam words (Viagra beeing an obvious one), it's also preferable to avoid special characters such as $, £, % or accents and avoid also using too many capital letters (some say also it's preferable not to use exclamation marks).

10 - Is the Image/Text ratio correct in your email?
One of the most common technique spammers use to bypass content based email filters is to use images instead of plain text. Having only images in the email you broadcast can make the ISPs very suspicious and sometimes lead to false positives (legitimate emails being blocked by filters).

11 - Is your HTML code tidy?
One very important thing when sending an email to users is to have a clean HTML code, the first reason being that all webmails, browsers and email readers might deal with your bad HTML in different ways and therefore your email might be displayed incorrectly on several of them.
The second reason is that the Spam filters are very likely to block poorly coded emails.

12 - Do you monitor your marketing pressure on your subscribers?
When people subscribe to your newsletter it's very recommended that you tell them how often you will send emails to them, even if the time of year is special (sales period, christmass, valentine's day,...) you need to make sure you don't over communicate with your subscribers.
If you don't you might see an important increase in your unsubscribe and complaint rates.

This list covers the main issues you might have to deal with while setting up your email strategy and choosing your ESP (Email Service Provider). Not all these points are compulsory (some are more heavy weighted than others) but the more "yes" answers you have while checking these points, the better you will perform.