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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U.S. online consumers will spend an average of $162.94 on Mother’s Day gifts this year, down 3.6% from $168.94 last year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The survey said 29% of consumers plan to shop online. 

As email marketers, it's our job to get a slice of that Mother's Day pie. Let's take a look at how online retailers are promoting the holiday.

I'll start with a few emails I saved from last year's swipe file. The first is from JC Penney, reflecting its epic (or epic fail?) rebranding effort. I give JCP credit here, with its clever "mother's may" and bold graphics and colors.


Next is one from Rachel Roy, with a subject line that grabs one's attention: Happy MILS Day! 20% Off. The headline, too, may cause you to do a double-take.

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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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Darcy Grabenstein
is a freelance copywriter and a Digital Account Manager at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

As we start a new year, let's take a look at Christmas emails past. The 2013 holiday season was filled with promotional emails galore. Here are a few that caught my attention.

Black Friday Subject Lines

I'd like to give a shout out to these companies with subject lines that set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd:

Betsey Johnson

A Black Friday Offer You Can't Refuse


Get your BLACK FRIDAY list ready | Over 500 Door Busters
Ready, set, click! Shop 500+ Black Friday Door Busters online.
$100 COUPON ends tonight! Black Friday Round

Current Catalog

❸ ❷ ❶ Black Friday Triple Offer Starts Now


☻☺☻☺☻☺☻ bbbbbbbbBBBBBLACK

Ethan Allen

Black Friday Goes Red: Are you ready?

(I'm a sucker for alliteration...)


Black Friday Frenzy! 20% Off, Plus FREE SHIPPING!

(interesting how both the e.l.f. and Hartstrings subject lines were exactly the same; Hartstrings showed up first in my inbox...)



Imagine Toys

Tech the halls

(and in true J. Peterman style...)

J. Peterman

Unequivocal Blackness Today - Up to 67% Off & Free Shipping.


Gift Ideas She'll Definitely Take A Shine To + Free Overnight Shipping!

Judith Ripka

Bling in the New Year with Judith Ripka

Magic Cabin

Black Friday savings with all the fixings

(This gave me an idea for a subject line for a Black Friday reminder email: A second helping of Black Friday sales)

Nasty Gal

BLACK OUT—40% Off All Black Everything!

Nicole Miller

Don't Go Cold Turkey - Shop Our Sale. Up to 70% off.

The Container Store

Oh! Oh! Oh! FREE SHIPPING on Stocking Stuffers

Both Ikea and Mod Cloth had similar headlines with a play on words that captured both the immediacy of the offers and their value:


Seize the days

Mod Cloth

Seize the deal

Mod Cloth also wins points for including content as well. The subject line – Feast your eyes on 5 Black Friday Tips + our fab 50% off sale! – says it all.

And now for the emails that made my list of nice and not so nice...

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Darcy Grabenstein
is a Freelance Copywriter and a Digital Account Manager at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

As email marketers, we cringe over what can possibly go wrong with our deployments - typos, broken images, broken links. And we lose sleep at night over the even bigger bloopers - missing or expired promo codes, products that sell out before the promotion is over, website glitches and more.

Let’s face it - it’s not the end of the world (although it could be the end of a job, depending on the severity of the error).

What resonates with customers, however, is how your company handles such “whoopses.” A sincere apology – especially when combined with an additional offer – can go a long way to restoring trust in a brand.

In this example from Rocawear, the company speaks its customers’ language with “Our Bad!” The subject line – We Apologize - Take An Additional 10% Off – gets right to the point. What I find interesting is that Rocawear did not remove its sharing link at the bottom of the email. (Of course, promo codes like this end up on sites like RetailMeNot anyway.)

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