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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in email marketing
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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Three years ago the Only Influencers family and the larger email marketing community lost someone very special. Stefan Pollard was a respected industry expert, a ClickZ columnist, a husband and father and, to many of us, a good friend.

His death was sudden; none of us had a chance to say goodbye or to properly thank him, not only for his positive and lasting impact on our industry but for the rock-solid friendship he offered freely to anyone who loved email marketing as much as he did.

This time of year, when nominations open for the award that bears his name, is always bittersweet for many of us. It’s nice to remember what a wonderful person Stefan was; but it also reminds us of how much we all miss him.

The real point of this article is to encourage you to nominate ‘rock star’ email marketers for two 2014 Email Experience Council awards: one, named for Stefan, for client/brand side marketers and one for professionals from the agency, technology or vendor sides of the business.

I worked in the publishing industry for years and one thing I learned from my editor friends was never to bury the lead. So I’ll make you a deal. I’ll include details about the awards and how to nominate someone below -- as long as you promise to indulge me and read past that to learn more about my late friend Stefan Pollard.

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Tagged in: EEC email marketing

One of the benefits of email marketing is the tracking and reporting available to see how people are interacting with the messages sent. This includes basic email metrics as well as click-stream reporting on post-email activity on the Website, where the conversion usually occurs.

So it always concerns me when I work with consulting clients that don’t leverage this data to their advantage. Sometimes it’s an institutional failure to properly track and report. But too often it’s an individual’s lack of comfort or even interest in the data that is holding them back.

“I’m just not a numbers person” isn’t an acceptable excuse. Being a ‘numbers person’ should be a prerequisite for any job that involves developing email marketing strategy or tactics. That means being as comfortable with spreadsheets and data as you are with copy and design – and knowing how to use the data to drive creative changes for testing that will have an impact on the bottom line.

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"Google has created a new form of email based advertising that isn’t ‘sent’.  It further proves that email marketing is not about sending email.  It’s about the email address.  The login."

Evolution is a fact of life, both real and digital.

There is no end to change, nor should we ever wish an end for anything we do. For as soon as the change is over, so is everything else. Other than certain immutable laws of physics, we should all expect constant, iterative, disruptive change. Change is the engine of profit.

Most importantly, change is good for our industry. It creates new reasons to innovate around a new set of obstacles. Change creates new opportunities to help clients and it creates new reasons to write blog posts.

Google’s recent redesign of Gmail has created unprecedented hand-wringing and blog writing. And for good reason. People’s cheese got moved. Hard earned spots in Priority inboxes got lost. But it was the flies in the soup that made everyone give this new place a bad review.

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This week I was able to sit down and speak with Bill Wagner, the CEO of StrongView to talk about the name change for StrongMail and what is coming up in the future. Below is the transcription and you can hear my full interview by clicking on the link above.

OI: Can you tell me why the name change and what does that signify for the company

Bill: StrongMail was a great name for a company that was founded 10 years ago as an email infrastructure provider, but we have evolved so much beyond that. As we announced the rebranding the question I'm getting more than "Why did you change the name?" is "why did it take you so long to change the name." And we tend to agree with that.

It is really a reflection of who we are. We have so far surpassed what StrongMail was when the company was founded that we felt the timing was right and frankly it fits our aspirations and the products that will coming out shortly.

OI: Can you Talk a little about those "aspirations".

The new name doesn't mean a new strategy. The new name is catching up with the strategy. StrongView is a reflection of not only the cross channel capabilities but more importantly the visual nature of our product. It has evolved quite a bit: there are a lot of visual elements to it. Visually depicting audience engagement across all the different possibilities of various test splits , the view of campaign performance as it is happening in real time, dashboards that really give you a view of what is happening in and across campaigns. To some extent it sets the immediate reflection of "view" within the product, but the more aspirational view has to do with what is going to be coming out that is not yet announced, so i can't give away too much detail.

But we did an announcement in February with Amazon where we are leveraging the Amazon data warehouse and our upcoming product release which will be coming out very shortly, will reflect that integration. We are going to be doing some really interesting things with data that nobody else is doing. At that point the "Visual" part of the name will be beyond "visual" aspect of the product,  per se, and more visual as a reflection of insight and knowledge born out of the data. So that is the aspirational aspect of what you will see shortly.

OI: Will clients notice any difference in they currently way they function with the product?

The short answer is that current clients will not notice anything different, per se, what they will experience is an opportunity to have an expanded set of capabilities. If you are happy with the way things are, you are going to be happy with what's coming. If you want more and you want to expand to have new capabilities and do some new things, you'll have that opportunity.

OI: I don't know if you have been following any of the discussion on the Only Influencers list, but some of the comments about the name change dealt with this notion of an "Integrated" approach vs "Best of Breed" and that vendors develop integrated platforms when the company's themselves are silo'd as far as job function.

I did see that thread. The first  thing I will say is that the organizational aspect of Silo'd over Integrated is still being worked out and what we are experiencing is every organization is different. I'm not seeing a clear trend yet in terms of ownership. It is a function of the size of an organization, the religious beliefs of the organization in terms of how they like to do things, right? It is really a mixed bag.  It is not Integrated vs best of bread is far as an "or" function. we see more as an "and" function. And the reason we see it that way is we are, for most, focused on Enterprise accounts. Those accounts tend to be very heterogeneous, even though they might have big investments with a vendor, they do more often than not have a lot of different products, technologies, data sources and things like that. So what we try to do when we engage a brand, we look at what they have, we look at what they want to do aspirationally. If they have a CRM system or an whole campaign management system from an IBM, an Oracle and they want to retain that investment, we don't come in and say  "hey rip that out", we basically show them how to amplify that  investment: in those situations we'll integrate with those platforms.

But not every company has those systems and I think that is where the idea of integrating comes in to fill that gap for where those systems don't exist. The other thing I see playing out is the discussion brands are having with vendors and the criteria is very much a multi-channel criteria but not always with a clear line of sight how they are going to use that. In some ways they are sort of hedging their bets: before when they would have gone out and vetted an email service provider they are now, for that same set of requirements, vetting email service providers with a cross channel capacity, again not with necessarily a clear line of sight on how they are gong to integrate these things but more about hedging their bets wanting vendors to bring those capabilities to the table. they are still sorting it out themselves. That is what I'm seeing.

OI: Could you talk a little about the industry in general and what you see. Will a standalone email service provider even exist 5 years from now?

I think from what I'm seeing, email service providers are being forced to add additional capability, what we were referring in the Influencers thread as an integrated approach primarily because of the way the playing field is being set by other players in the market and also being set by how brands are vetting their provider. they are looking beyond email, they want to see their provider provide these different capabilities even though they haven't really sorted it out themselves.

I think in terms of how are things going to shake out, I think it is really interesting besides Salesforce's acquisition of ExactTarget, you have Adobe's acquisition of Neolane and those acquirers doing something had been long rumored. I think we are only seeing the beginning of it frankly. I think those moves are going to force other players to re-evaluate what they thought they had and see if they are really prepared in face of these new competitors. Companies like IBM and SAP and Oracle and Terradata, companies that have done these acquisitions in the past are going to have to re-evaluate and say "what does this mean now? Are we really prepared? or do we need to respond to these things." How it is going to shake out in the end, who is going to be left standing independantly and who is going to get swallowed up is really a matter of speculation. I think the level of activity is only going to increase at this point because it is a big chess game the piece are moving.

OI: Anything I missed?

Not really.  The way that I couch the rebranding is that it is really just the beginning and it is a shoring up of who we already are with the name. I think what you are going to see going forward as far as partnership announcements and product are really going to reflect the new brand. So this is much more than just a name change. What you are going to see coming from us shortly is going to surprise a bunch of folks.  So I look forward to surprising everybody.

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georgebilbreyjoshbaerThis week I interview George Bilbrey, President of Return Path and Email Entrepreneur  Josh Baer, whose company  OtherInbox was acquired by Return Path last year.


OI: Josh, tell us a little about ContextIO? 


Josh: ContextIO is a small company out of Canada that ReturnPath acquired late last year. What ContexIO does is provide an API, basically a set of tools for programmers, that want to build stuff on top of email. The API is designed to allow you to build Email into your application. Now, you might do that if you want to make an Email Client, something that is all about reading email. But more commonly you want to bring some of the data and intelligence that is in Email into something else that might have nothing to do with email.


For example, you might have a CRM application to keep track of your sales leads, and you might want to see right next to you emails exchanged with those leads or files they've sent to you. Those files are living in your inbox and are hard to unlock normally but with ContextIO it is easy for anybody to connect to the inbox and pull any of the relevant data out and show it in a contextual way, which is where the "context" part of the name comes from. 


Typically if you are building something you are connecting to IMAP or Exchange or to Hotmail. Things that are not easy to program to. These are things that if you ask a programmer "hey, you want to go write some IMAP code?" , no one is happy with that. They are old protocols that are hard to work with and so what ContextIO does is give you ONE thing to write to. It is well designed, it is easy to use. You write to that one thing and you can connect to Gmail, and to IMAP and lots of other platforms in a really easy way. 


OI: And who is the customer for this. Is it the ESP's or is there something here for the individual marketer with internal resources would be interested in as well? 


Josh: it can be used a lot of different ways. The core market is not really ESP's or marketers but any kind of application or service that somebody might be using so it is more application developers than ESP's or things like that. What is relevant to marketers is what comes out of it. So what we can do is that the anonymous data that is pulled out of this can create some really interesting intelligence tools for marketers. 


OI: Are there any tools that have been developed so far using ContextIO? 


Josh: ContextIO acts as an anonymous panel that then seeds a lot of the different products that Return Path developed and has released so the most recent of those is the Inbox Inside product which is fully based on it. 


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? 


George: We had a client in the travel industry, an extremely narrow vertical, looking at how they were sending mail and the days of the week they were sending mail and looking at the days their competition was sending mail on and they found there was a whole in the calendar that no one was sending mail out on Saturdays. So they made the decision to send their mail on Saturday and those campaigns turned out to be their highest performing campaigns. Another example, we had a client that had a fair amount of deliverability issues: they were getting delivered about 92%. They wondered, could they mail more and still get delivered at the same rate? So we were able to look at both the reputation data as well as the panel data, take a look at some of their competitors and other people that looked roughly like them from a reputation standpoint and we determined that it was highly unlikely that increasing the cadence on one particular group of their subscribers was going to drive delivery issues and sure enough they were able to send more mail, get more impressions, get more views and reads without suffering any decrease in inbox placement.


OI: what data could marketers get using these tools that they couldn't get by just close monitoring of the email programs? 


George: The key part of the question is "Close examination of their own email programs". I think what is interesting about the data we can bring to the problem is that you gain knowledge from other people email marketing experience. So what I see a lot of marketers doing is "groping for greatness", the phrase I like to use internally, they have a place where they are, they have a strategy they've been following, they have results associated with that. They have a rough idea of where they think they want to go. They do a series of A/B split tests, incrementally get to an optimum. But that optimum might be a very local optimum, it might not be the very best they can get because it is based on where their starting point is. By taking a look at what your competitors are doing and other best in class marketers are doing, you might actually be able to start in an entirely other new starting place, achieving a global optimum, not just a local optimum. 


Where we are unique is we can help find where practices are going to start to get you in trouble in terms of deliverability and help you walk that fine line between optimizing read rates and responses and having deliverability problems. 


OI: Are you finding that marketers are coming to you with a need for competitive intelligence? 


George: We've had great success with the Inbox Inside product with marketers. I think calling it a competitive intelligence product I think sometimes is slightly limiting. I think the way I'd like to think about it: it's a tool that provides you a roadmap to higher returns on your marketing program. You can take a look at what other people are doing to determine what's working and not working and give you some great ideas for your own marketing program. If you call it Competitive Intelligence sometimes only those companies that have a Competitive Intelligence group really get excited about it.

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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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The Number One Way to Connect Your Email and Social Media Marketing

By Karen Talavera

With so many ways to integrate email and social media we have almost unlimited options for leveraging connection between these two powerful conversation marketing channels.  Still, for those at the beginning of the process it pays to know where to start.

I’m often asked what the number one way to connect email and social media marketing is, so whether your presence on social media is brand new or you’re an experienced marketer wanting to make sure you don’t overlook the obvious, here’s my answer:

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It’s easy to bore your customers to death with email: just send them the same type of message repeatedly and you’ll succeed.  We're often guilty of this when we send our e-newsletter and little (or nothing) else.  And while a newsletter absolutely has a place as a staple in your email marketing program, it should be far from the only type of message you send your customers on a regular basis.

After your email newsletter (which can be weekly, every other week, or monthly depending on how much content and activity you have), I recommend weaving these three message types into your email marketing stream at regular intervals throughout the year:

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Tagged in: email marketing

Each week I will be posting brief summaries of the topics raised on the Only Influencers' lists. If you like this format, please tweet about it and let your network know.

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Tagged in: email marketing

If you have missed it, we've been doing an ongoing series with industry pundit, Ken Magill. Each week for the last few weeks Ken sends me a question and I present it to the Only Influencers membership for comment. I decided to organize them here for easy access:

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Tagged in: email marketing

LiveIntent's Matt Keiser (founder) and Dave Hendricks (COO)

In a large open space in downtown New York City , overlooking City Hall with its adjacent outdoor performance space , is where LiveIntent, a new startup founded by Matt Keiser, finds its home.


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Over the last nine years, I've spent quite some time making sure to stay tuned in and involved with the various organizations that either help keep email marketing stakeholders in compliance and in check or provide their own constituencies with the best practices and other materials they need to drive their brand and publishing models forward. At times, one of our greatest challenges has been that the various organizations are not aware of what efforts the others have underway, despite the fact that they often have greatly overlapping memberships. Lately, the tide has been turning as, in my humble opinion, the email marketing landscape has matured and the organizations we are involved with realize that, when appropriate, the sum of collaboration is much greater than the individual parts.

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