The Journey

My life up until now.

Bill McCloskey

Bill McCloskey

Bill McCloskey is the Founder of Only Influencers, eDataSource, Emerging Interest, and the Rich Media Sig.

The classic ROI (Return on Investment)  model was developed to measure the effectiveness of the use of capital. For example, a company wants to build a new plant and it is relatively straight forward calculation to calculate the return on this investment: the revenue generated by the plant-the cost of the plant which is then divided by the cost of the plant to get a percentage. In the interest of completeness it should be noted that the calculation has to be adjusted as the revenues and costs are spread over a number of years.


Return on marketing investment is not as straight forward. First in the example above, the money used to build a plant is a capital expense and therefore does not immediately impact the P&L whereas all marketing spend is an operating expense and therefore hits the P&L. Second, measuring the output of a plant and therefor the resulting revenue is easy to measure. The revenue generated from your marketing on the other hand, is substantially harder to measure because it is difficult to attribute specific revenue to specific marketing spend.


eConsultancy recently published a blog on marketers’ views of marketing attribution in multi-channel marketing. The general view is that it is a massively convoluted issue with no good solution. Similarly, Google’s Avinash Kaushik goes into the challenges of attribution and using ROI as a metric of email effectiveness at great length in his recent blog , discussing the pros and (mostly) cons of each attribution model – I highly recommend that you read both of these articles.

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In the last few years we've seen lots of innovation in the email world. We now have transactional email APIsdynamic ads within email, and completely customized experiences at email open time. And more. But what's next? Where are the big opportunities for email innovation over the next several years? My bet is on the Inbox. After all, the Inbox is the source of truth for our online life. What we buy, who we really know, who we communicate most often with - it's all there. It's no surprise then that when the Inbox is opened up for access via APIs and applications, you can make a whole range of new use cases come alive for your customers. However, given limited space (and attention spans), I'll be covering just three today.

1. Smarter Shares

'Click to Tweet' isn't cutting it

In a recent study on social sharing within marketing emails, Silverpop saw that 35% of the emails studied generated zero sharing clicks and 49% had social CTR less than 0.1%. Instead of sharing that great eCommerce offer with 1000 of your closest friends on Twitter, why not click a 'Share with my close friends' link that would grab 5 or 10 relevant contacts from your Inbox based on relevant keywords in the offer? Here's a sample app we wrote (tagline for the app: 'pass the word to your friends who might actually care') to show you how smarter sharing via email could work in practice.

2. Smarter Invites

Small is beautiful

One startup I talked to this week used to do what every other company does as part of their invite flow - ask for users to import their huge honkin' address book. Then the startup tested what would happen if users were simply asked to manually input a few email addresses of people to invite instead. The result? A higher conversion rate on signups - high enough to to compel them to kill off the address book workflow. Using Inbox data to power an invite workflow could be equally effective - by suggesting the best few individuals for a user to invite to the service.

3. 'Have It Your Way'

Customers should be able to consume your email marketing content on whatever platform or app they choose, not just from their email client. Remember, you're a publisher whether you like it or not! So give them the ability to automatically ship to other apps or share your content from the Inbox (via services like Zapier and IFTTT). However, don't just hope that they'll use one of these services on their own. Bring the functionality to them directly to help them engage more deeply and frequently with your content. And get out of the Inbox!

With great power comes great responsibility

Although we can build exciting applications off of Inbox data, we need to be transparent about what we are doing with that data. We need to be clear with customers about how access to that data benefits them. And most importantly, we need to ensure that we are using this data to create great customer experiences - experiences that couldn't be built without Inbox data.

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OI: Return Path recently rebranded themselves as an Email Intelligence company. Can you tell me what exactly that means? 


George: The goal of Email Intelligence at a high level is to take a lot of the guess work for marketers in how to optimize their email marketing program. Everyday on the Only Influencers list there is a question "say, should we do 'X' and our goal is to provide empirical evidence that if you do 'X' here is what the results are based on where you are in your email marketing program right now. So it is the application of a lot of different data - some of panel data that Josh was talking about comes from Other Inbox, some comes from ContextIO, plus our vast store of reputation data, the data we have coming from ISPs - apply some really great analytics to that and turn that into solid advice for email marketers. 


OI: can you give me a concrete example of the kind of advice a marketer might be able to get out of it? 

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Tagged in: Interviews Return Path

Part Two of my address at the 2011 New York Ad:tech conference: Email and Mobile: 

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Tagged in: Mobile Marketing

The following is the Part One of a speech I just gave for the 2011 New York Ad:tech Email Track. It concerns the merging of Email and Social Media. Part Two is on the synergies between Email and Mobile and will be published in a separate blog post. 

Bill McCloskey 


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Tagged in: Social Media