Oct 7, 2010

One 2 One email marketing

A couple of weeks ago, Cabestan-Canada organised a conference in Montreal, QC (in French) on One 2 One email marketing.

For those of you interested (and understanding French), here is the powerpoint of the presentation:

I also made a translation of the presentation available here:

Please feel free to comment.

Sep 3, 2010

New hotmail email filtering system

An Email Insider article mentions that hotmail should be releasing pretty soon a new inbox placement metrics system based on the user engagement.
It's true this story has been around for almost a year, but knowing what Gmail just did, rolling out their new (Beta) priority inbox, it makes sens that hotmail wouldn't want to be left behind and that it should probably speed up the  switch to a more user oriented inbox placement.
On a more general point of view, I reckon this user engagement measurement system will probably in the end be added to the spam filtering systems on a global scale.
After all it's probably the most sensitive and logical way to filter spam.

Aug 31, 2010

What will Gmail's Priority Inbox change in email marketing?

This has been a global tendency over the last years: to get rid of Spam and other unsolicited, unwanted or unneeded emails, ISPs have tried to classify email senders and sort them into 3 categories:

1 - Spam and unsolicited emails : Usually refused by the server
2 - Unwanted emails : Usually sent to the junk folder
3 - Regular mail : Delivered to the inbox.

The thing with this system was that it was based on a statistical analysis of several elements (complaints, hardbounces, email quality, average open rates,...) out of the total number of their users you were targetting.

Gmail is now rolling out their beta version of Priority Inbox. This system will continue to work along side the old one (meaning Gmail will keep filtering incoming email based on statistical data, but now, they will sort the emails automatically for their users:
Gmail will analyze how you react to a certain type of emails and will sort it accordingly in your inbox.
This sorting will have two levels : important and unimportant.
According to what we know, this analysis will be based on how often you read the emails you receive from a given sender and how often you reply.

The "funny" thing here is that this system will make it almost impossible for email marketing emails to reach the priority inbox, the reason for this is that it's quite unlikely that any of your clients will open each and every email you send to them and even less likely that they will ever reply to one.

At the end of the day a "regular" inbox will probably be cut in half : the personal emails up and the newsletters down.

I expect quite a drop on open rates for Gmail addresses in the first weeks / months after the roll out, time for the users to get used to this new display and to get the habit of checking the bottom list for your communications, but I also expect that this system will lead the way to new forms of one 2 one spam filters that will no longer be at the ISP level but at the user level.

This will have several implications:
First, it will emphasize the need to clean up your database on a regular basis since your inactive users will very likely no longer receive any of your emails.
Second, the deliverability management will no longer rely solely on ISPs but will have to fine tune and focus on how users react to the broadcasts.

On the user side, I'm pretty confident this is a huge leap towards clean inboxes and value added email communication.

On the ESP side... good luck, have fun!

Aug 11, 2010

The new hotmail

How could I describe the brand New hotmail?
I could list all the new features in a very long post and discuss them one by one but this would be too boring on a blog dedicated to email marketing since the changes in this version are (for the most) feature related, the spam filtering remains MS SmartScreen and the rendering system remains unchanged except for one noticeable thing that I will discuss hereafter.

So to put it in a minimal number of words, the new hotmail is now just like Gmail, except all the google features are here Miscrosoft ones.

As for the rendering, the only change I noticed is that this latest version seems to ignore the body align center and table (width 100%) align center.
A good way around this is to add your align center code in your CSS as well (please do not replace the alignment parameters that are inline, Gmail and Outlook 2007 still scrap the CSS).

Please feel free to comment if you notice anything else.

Aug 4, 2010

Social marketing gone wrong

The discussion goes on and on and on... will Social marketing kill email marketing? My answer remains unchanged: NO.
The main point according to me is not on costs, on reliability, efficiency,... it's on risk.
Let's take a simple example.
I'm a playstation 3 player and am registered to the Ubisoft newsletter, and an Assassin's creed (one of their latest games) follower on facebook.
Wisely, Ubisoft uses both channels to communicate with their consumers but when it comes to the potential risk when communicating with it's clients, I'm pretty sure the Ubisoft marketing department will tonight agree with me: Social marketing represents a risk that email marketing won't.
A few day's ago, Ubisoft sent out an email to announce that clients that pre-ordered the latest Assassin's creed would receive a Beta test code. When you receive such an email you either take it or leave it. They then made an announcement with the exact same message on their facebook page earlier today (sorry, it's in french). It lead to a mayhem.
 Tens of facebook users started flaming down Ubisoft for making a paid Beta (obviously not making the difference with a Demo version and not understanding that pre-ordering would not make the game more expensive and therefore the Beta being free of charge).
Any way:
Will this incident damage either Ubisoft or the next Assassin's creed reputation or popularity? Maybe not.
Could it have been avoided? Definitely
Would it have happen with an email campaign? Of course not.

Jul 14, 2010

The true danger of social marketing.

I've always been a social marketing sceptic even though I myself have (personal) accounts in all social websites I know of.

One of the reasons why I never trusted social marketing was that I've always had that feeling that whenever something was to go wrong, the back draft would be worse than on any other marketing channel.

Some marketing experts foretold the end of email marketing a couple of years ago, saying Social Marketing would kill it, I still believe it to be false, Email marketing is inexpensive, straightforward and highly efficient (if done properly that is).

The discussion could (and probably will) go on for years (until one of the sides is proven wrong).

However, if we take all marketing channels available online or off-line today, most of them grant the advertiser a total control of the message and the means of diffusion.

The only examples where the control is not entire are affiliation (but you can keep an eye on this) and adwords for sites, but even for those, you remain in control of the marketing message, even though you lose part of your control over where the ad will be displayed.

Now, when it comes to social marketing, you message can be edited, changed, and can be forwarded or broadcasted by people or organizations that can really be at the far opposite of what you want to show to the world.

One funny example came up to me today while I was browsing my facebook account...
One of the things with facebook is that it keeps suggesting you, new friends, new pages, new whatever according to your own friends tastes, friends or what they (facebook) consider as somehow linked to what you like.

This information mix sometimes come up with really weird (but potentially harmful) suggestions when it comes to brands or products pages

Here's a couple of suggested pages I had today:

Example 1 : Competitors

 Not sure, the Assassin's creed facebook page is intended to advertise for another game

Here both are music festivals

Example 2 : Hazardous associations
 Shall Air France be happy to be associated with Barack Obama?

And Amazon to Sarah Palin?

Of course the opposite is true as well, the facebook pages recommended might not be happy to be suggested in relation to something else, but here at least you could argue that they get extra visibility, when the pages I'm already subscribed to have nothing to win there.
The list of examples could have been much longer (and the more pages you are subscribed to, the longer) but what really startles me here is that there's nothing you can really do in this case when you are working at the marketing department of all these brands, it all depends on your "fans".

I'm also surprised that knowing this no one has tried "facebook bombing" yet by creating a high number of fake profiles, subscribing to a brand/product then to a competitor... it might come one day.

Jul 7, 2010

Think interactive

One of the main benefits of email marketing is its quickness and the amount of information that can be used to optimize the way you communicate with your clients/prospects.
If the job is properly done you will not only increase drastically your ROI but you will also help your clients and increase their overall satisfaction.

Here's my point of view: If you have a mailing list that you broadcast once in a while with your latest products... fair enough, but you are probably missing the best part of email marketing: Interaction.

Let's take a few examples of what we do in Cabestan with some of our clients, I swear that these examples are very (in Cabestan at least) easy to implement.

Ticket Booking site:
If you have a ticket booking website (or any events related website) and broadcast a weekly newsletter with a selection of events, you are doing good but here is what we do with our events related clients:
Just add on your website a "place an alert" button on each result pages (especially when there are no matching results), this info would then be pushed inside the DB, and an automated daily campaign will be set to scan the latest events' RSS feed daily and send out an email to all users that have today's artists/events in their booking alerts list.
If you do so, you will not only add a new service for your consumers but you will benefit from one of the highest ROI I've seen on email campaigns.
NOTE: this can also be used on an eShop website with alerts on product availability.

Software retailer:
If you sell software or any product that has a limited life time, please, please do set an automated reminder campaign to be sent a few weeks before the licence (or product) comes to an end.
Just keep somewhere inside the DB the purchase date, the rest is just too easy...

Transform your prospects in clients:
I assume here that you are addressing your clients and prospects in a different way and not blast the same email to everyone.
If so (and it is important that you do) then you can still take it a step further.
As a matter of fact, clients bring you money, prospects cost you money. It's therefore quite obvious that one of your main goals as a marketer is to transform as quickly as possible these prospects in clients.
The best way I've found yet is to create a scenario that all your prospects will go through when they subscribe.
This is again very simple to do, all you need is to set a given number of touch points with your prospect until he becomes a client, for example:
  1. Welcome email - D0
  2. Voucher code (valid for 15 days) - D1
  3. Voucher alert - D14
  4. Special offer (like free shipping) - D30
Of course, should the prospect order something at any time, he is then out of the automated campaign and enters the clients list. This is just an example, you can do it your way.

This list of possible interactions is not a closed list, there are plenty of options and possibilities that will depend mainly on your needs, your business model,...

As always if you feel like you need some help, or if your ESP is not offering such services, you can contact me, I will be pleased to help you out.

Jun 29, 2010

AOL : Email account stealing and spoofing for dummies

AOL just made a few weeks a go a post on their official mail blog to explain to their users why and how they could be receiving SPAM from their own email address.
The post briefly explains how an email address can be stolen or what is spoofing and gives a couple of tips to avoid compromising his email address.
The readers of this blog won't probably learn anything new here, but I thought it was good pointing out this article as I am always happy to see an ISP evangelize its users.
After all, fighting Spam is a common responsibility between legitimate advertisers, ESPs, ISPs, Spam filtering tools, Blacklists and end users.

Jun 28, 2010

What is email deliverability?

After a couple of years writing on this blog, I realize that there's still quite a few myths and weird questions wandering around the web and in direct marketing trade shows or seminars about deliverability.

I've decided to do a quick powerpoint presentation on the subject, some kind of really short "Deliverability for dummies" thing for people around the planet for whom IP reputation, feedback loops, disposable emails, spam traps and SMTP error logs are curse words.

You can read the presentation here after, please feel free to comment.
You can share the presentation if you want but please do not edit it (or ask me first)


Jun 25, 2010

Tips for a successful subscribe form

The best way to collect email inside your database is to have a subscription form on your website.
To maximize the number of emails subscribing to your newsletter there are a couple of things you should do:

First : Make your subscribe form stand out.
When I visit a website and decide it's worth keeping in touch with the shop/brand I try to subscribe to their newsletter. Unfortunately, too many times still, I start looking around for a subscribe form and it takes me ages (and sometimes I even give up) before finding it lost in the footer or having to search for it in the sitemap or the through the webiste's search box.
I really have to insist: these leads you get directly on your website are probably the best you can get and THEY ARE FREE.
To have this newsletter subscription as visible as possible the best thing is either to place a box with a submit button at the top of your website pages or a button "NEWSLETTER" at the exact same spot.
Be careful: you need to place this on each and every page of your website, not only your home page, people might enter your site from an external link (or a search engine) on some other page and never get to see your home.

Second: Get to the point.
Too often I see newsletter forms where I'm asked a stupidly high number of questions, most of which turn out to be compulsory... If it takes too long to fill out the form and I get stupid questions like "Did Han shoot first?" I'll leave without going through the entire optin process.
Be careful, don't get me wrong here: I'm not saying that having extra information about the people that subscribe is not useful, I'm just saying you have to keep it as short and concise as possible.
If you really want to hammer through a long list of question, either make it plain clear that they are not compulsory (by marking the compulsory one with a star or a different colour) or even better: use a form in several steps, the first one subscribing the user then the next being use for these extra questions.
In any case, once the leads are inside the DB you will have plenty of time to gather extra information (that can be either declarative or even behavioural).

Third: Protect your DB.
Even though your newsletter subscription form can be a great source of high quality leads for your marketing or sales departments, it can also be a threat to your DB.
Robots are constantly crawling the Internet, looking for unprotected forms to post random data there. They are usually robots run by high score spammers who try to make good will marketers be identified as spam sources, because the more legitimate companies get blocked the more likely spammers are to go through (if only spam was identified and blocked then the spam issue would be over wouldn't it?).
By posting automatically random emails inside your DB it will increase the your number of hardbounces in your broadcasts and from the unfortunate valid emails owners, it will trigger complaints.
There are two easy ways to prevent such a thing from happening (and you can use both at the same time), the first is to protect your form using a CAPTCHA, the second is to use a double optin process.
The first method will prevent Robots from posting random emails in your form, the second will make sure the email posted is valid and is the user's own email.

One last thing:
If you plan to use this optin form as an account creation form (or vice versa) and in any case, when you create an account creation form or a login, please make sure your email field is set as an email field (input type=email), I had a really bad surprise earlier today browsing the web with my iPad:
Safari in both the iPad and the iPhone uses the type=text and type=email distinction to change the keyboard layout (quite handy I must say) but also, it automatically sets as a capital letter the first character typed in a text box, when it leaves it normal in an email box. The result was this afternoon that I was getting blocked on a signup page that had the email field set as a text one and it tool me a few tries before noticing that my login was spelled Antonp***@****.com instead of antonp***@****.com.

Jun 24, 2010

Email rendering: Displaying Background images in both Gmail and Outlook 2007

Most email marketers around the world are aware of one thing: it's quite impossible to have your email render properly and identically in all email readers, browsers and webmails...
Among the tricky rendering issues Outlook 2007 and Gmail stand out with their inability to display properly background images.
This triggered the following best practice: if you are ever to use white or some other light coloured text over a dark background image, always double this with a dark background colour so your text can be seen regardless the image shows up or not.

The guys at CampaignMonitor came up a couple of days ago with a solution to make sure background images are displayed properly in both Gmail and Outlook.

To make a long story short, they advise that you use two different ways of displaying the background image (each being one of the readers friendly) at the same time.
Please note this will not solve ALL the background image display errors (Lotus for example will still refuse to display them) so I advise you to continue to set a background colour but it's a nice trick you might want to try out.

I haven't tested it myself yet and don't know if it might have any side effects on other browsers/readers or if it can trigger any risk on a deliverability level, best thing is that you try for yourself.

Jun 21, 2010

Hacking through to hotmail's inbox

As all readers of this blog must know by now, @hotmail, @msn and @live email addresses (as well as a number of other Microsoft mail operated domains) use a reputation based SPAM filter.

This reputation is a savvy calculation based on the percentage of hardbounces, spam trap hits, complaints and positive reactions out of the overall volume of emails sent.

To be really efficient, this user oriented system keeps track of the statistics over a certain number of months.

Two weeks ago, "the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court under the federal CAN-SPAM Act against the perpetrators of what we believe to be one of the largest-ever spam attacks on Windows Live Hotmail."

What Microsoft claims is that Boris Mizhen tried to hack the defence system by creating millions of email addresses and systematically marking hundreds of thousands of his own Spam as legitimate then contacting Microsoft to authorize their email to go through to the users inbox due to the fake legitimacy cquired in the process.

You can read the original statement on microsoftontheissues.com

Regarding the amount of work this must have represented for Mizhen and his associates and the poor result obtained, I reckon this type of  hacking attempt will not generalize itself, especially knowing how efficient the regular, known, spamming methods are.

Jun 17, 2010

How Cabestan-Canada can help you perform

As I said a few weeks ago I just left Cabestan Europe to join the Cabestan-Canada team.
I guess that's the opportunity to get working with you Canadian and American people out there.

Here's the latest powerpoint presentation we made, please feel free to comment or contact me.

Jun 3, 2010

Email-Ethics in Canada

Hello reader,

This is just a short post to apologize first for the lack of recent posts, the reason is my second point: I just moved in to Montréal to become the CEO of Cabestan-Canada.
I'm head high with paper work and currently looking for an apartment.

I will resume posting here as soon as all is sorted out :)

May 14, 2010

New Gmail rendering rules

The guys at emailKarma (among others) have spotted a drastic change to the way Gmail's webmail renders images.
This change occurred over the week-end and could have a massive impact on the way your creative will display in Gmail.
Funny thing is this only impacts sliced images (read here a big image cut into smaller ones) since what Gmail does is that it adds a slight space around the image.
The solution spotted by the guys at Smith-Harmon is to add (in-line of course since Gmail doesn't read CSS) the following parameter to your image tags: style="display:block"

Here's an example of correct image tag:

< src="”http://www.example.com/client/images/logo.gif”" alt="”CLIENT”" border="”0″" height="”75″" width="”200″" style="”display:block”">

Once again, the only real impact of this change is on sliced images, but you're always better safe than sorry.

May 7, 2010

What google tells you about email marketing

Now that google's wonder wheel is out it's quite funny to see what are "email marketing"'s related subjects.

I've checked a couple of them and browsed around, the results are quite interesting :

First "email marketing"

Leads to "email advertising"

Or to "email marketing best practices"

Other searches trigger interesting results:

Like "email marketing deliverability"

There's quite a lot of stuff here to explore, it's probably a good way to keep in touch with the latest email marketing trends.


Apr 28, 2010

Optimise according to your goals!

One funny thing about email marketing is that 75% of the success of a strategy relies on the Database itself.
You can come up with the finest campaign of all times, if you send it to a poor quality database, you won't get any good results.

This has been said quite a few times already on this blog, I tell it once more: the DB quality is the core of the business.

Now, having that in mind there's a very "funny" thing I've noticed after several years working for an ESP is that each and every database reacts in very different ways according to a couple of elements:
1 - Lead origin :
The way the lead was collected will have a great impact on how the database reacts (in a positive or negative way) to your broadcasts and you probably shouldn't address people the the same way.
People that subscribe to your newsletter on your website are probably expecting a lot more of news from you than some guy that (sometimes "accidentally") opted in to your list through some poor quality coreg campaign on some affiliation campaign.

2 - Your industry :
People also seem to expect a given number of emails per week/month according to the list to which they subscribe.
Some of my clients that run "private shopping clubs" kind of businesses usually broadcast each day to their full DB and get pretty good results and a very low complaint rate. On the other hand, my retailer clients that dare broadcast several times a week (over twice more or less) get an instant increase of the unsubscribe and complaint rates.

Amazingly enough it seems people are likely to react similarly according to these two elements among a database, I can therefore only strongly advise that you try to segment your database according to the origin of the lead and test for yourself what triggers the best results for each target.

Apr 21, 2010

Score your DataBase !

One of the most important things for a successful email strategy is to know your Data Base.

We have discussed more than once on this blog the importance of analyzing the reactions of your DB to estimate what "turns it on" and what "turns it off".

But knowing your DB goes far beyond that, it also means to have a good and honest vision of its quality.

I've been playing with reports, for quite some time now in search for a formula that would give an easily understandable and relevant snapshot of the database quality.

After quite a lot of thinking around, I came out with the following recipe that I am willing to share with you guys:

Let's take the following numbers:
A - Unique openings (per campaign)
B - Unique clicks (per campaign)
C - The number of orders (if tracked) (per campaign)
D - The number of sent emails

Then you can run the following calculation:
[(A + (B * 2) + (C * 5)) / D] * 100 = Score
The result of this calculation will always be between 0 and 800 (don't expect to ever reach 800 ;p, I expect most DBs to score between 25 and 100)

The good thing once you have calculated your DB score is that you can score with quite the same calculation method the profiles inside your DB (and for example keep only the highest scores or even better, the profiles that score above your DB score to improve your DB quality).

For the emails inside the DB, the formula is the same:
A - Unique openings (per campaign)
B - Unique clicks (per campaign)
C - The number of orders (if tracked) (per campaign)
D - The number of received emails

The formula remains:
[(A + (B * 2) + (C * 5)) / D] * 100 = Score

Once you have both scores, you will easily identify subscribers that are lagging behind, lowering your campaign results and sender reputation and the most valuable addresses in your DB.

This can be the first step towards success.

Mar 25, 2010

Returnpath's standards shift, a hint on the market's evolution?

Up to now, to be eligible for Returnpath's Certification you "only" had to match an arm long list of best practices, such as having a clear and visible privacy agreement, not hitting too many spam traps, honey pots, not triggering too many complaints and so on...

Today, ReturnPath announced to its customers by email and on its blog that it will no longer accept to certify third party only senders (such as agencies, mega databases,...).

I can see plenty of very good reasons to shift their standards, it will probably legitimate their status of a high standards certification, the surprising thing is that they clearly announce that they will level down all third party senders to the "Safe" level. Moreover, a client that sends first and third party emails will not be able to certify all broadcasts.

The details for the new standards are available here.

Question now is: are the ReturnPath people ages ahead of the rest of the market, or are they just reacting to the natural evolution witnessed over the past 4 years (at least).

Maybe it's a bit of both:
It's quite new to see a certification program that ask more than good overall results and best practices matching to enter, but it has been a long term evolution among email marketers, database owners and internet companies that naturally lead to a hierarchy among (legitimate) broadcasts, from third party, up to transactional fully personalized emails.

Feb 25, 2010

OME Madrid

The OME Madrid is almost over, unfortunately I didn't have time to go to any conference yet, but here's some second hand information I can share with you guys:

1 - A massively huge amount of people attended the conferences, all packed in the different rooms around the fair, some even sitting on the ground or standing outside, most of the conferences had a massive success.

2 - As last year, a very high percentage of these conferences linked in a way (or the other) to social marketing (every year more present form of marketing in Spain):
- Use email in your social marketing strategy
- Build a community and address it
- Get Social
- ...

3 - Most of the email marketing related conferences stressed, as you would expect, the importance of targeting, of sending out relevant information to your subscribers, show them respect.

4 - It seems Spain is still lagging a bit behind other European countries but catching up quickly.
Let's hope they keep it up.

Now, on a more general point of view, the fair seems to have quite a bit less visitors than last years overall and especially we experienced a huge drop in visits on day 2.

Feb 22, 2010

OME Madrid coverage

I'm in Madrid this week, (partly) to attend the OME Madrid trade show.
My company has a booth there (Cabestan - Booth n°96). I you are around, please feel free to drop by and say "hello".
I will try to attend some of the Keynotes (those on email marketing mainly) and to make short summaries of what has been said and done.

Stay tuned!

Feb 17, 2010

Third party emails: Extra revenue, great risks.

At some point, the idea always ends up on the VP of marketing's desk:
Earn extra money from the DataBase by sending third party campaigns. The idea will always seem sweet: rent the database for a nice CPM or find the latest generous affiliation campaign, it's quite simple indeed and grants a quick revenue to the Database owner.

The real trouble is companies usually under-estimate the risk for their database and their deliverability.

Having now worked for quite some time for an ESP, I know for sure it's far harder to maintain a good deliverability or database quality for agencies, whereas it's quite simple to achieve very good results with companies complying to all known best practices and broadcasting in house campaigns.

What are the reasons for such difference?
First of course is the Database recruitment process: while loyalty databases are composed mainly of clients and brand opt in profiles, the agency databases are often made up from a gathering of several databases with obscure optin rules.

Then, the type of campaigns : When one subscribes to a Newsletter, he expects to receive announcements from that company and (quite probably) looks forward receiving the emails. On the other hand when your email ends, a way or an other inside a Megabase, you will then start receiving sometimes irrelevant from probably unknown or at least unexpected companies.

When sending third party email campaigns the risk is that you might fall in massive troubles on both points.
People are subscribed inside your database to receive your own offers and not something else.

The only solution to avoid immediate damage to your email strategy is to do things properly.
For instance, if you send email campaigns for brand or products miles apart from your own products, knowing that people subscribed because they were interested in what you sell, they will probably not be very responsive and very likely to complain or unsubscribe.

After a few third party email campaigns, if you are not as cautious as possible it's quite likely that the number of unusbscribers and complainers will increase quickly and will first make you lose potentially valuable subscribers but will also soon make it quite impossible to perform as well as before with your email marketing campaigns, even your own.

Jan 13, 2010

TA Associates to buy eCircle

Yet another big European ESP is bought by an American company.

After Experian that bought United Mail Solution at the end of last year, private equity firm TA Associates announced yesterday that it had signed a definitive agreement for a majority investment of over €60 million in eCircle, probably the biggest German ESP.

eCircle's head of marketing Rebecca Mendez declared it was a huge opportunity for the company to invest on technological improvements, new products and international expansion.

More information is available on tech crunch and the TA Associates website

Jan 2, 2010

Happy new year

Hello everyone, first I would like to apologize, it's been quite a while since I haven't posted anything on this blog.
I wish you all readers a very happy new year, and hope 2010 will be full of high delivery and excellent performance!

There has been quite a lot of events and news in 2009 and let's guess 2010 will be the same.

For the last 4 years the email marketing market has grown and evolved quickly, so stay tuned ;)

I wish you all the best