Adventures in Mobile Marketing

The Momentus Blog

Monday, 14. February 2011 by Anna Billstrom

Hello dear readers, sorry for the long absence. I have to admit I’ve been cheating on you with another mistress- the Momentus Media Blog! It’s a viral app development consultancy, I’ve been working with, at Momentus Blog

Guess which one was the most read (and had a running lead on the top read blog post on this site for a while…) The Oauth one, ha.

I’m also writing a lot about iOS, food & feminism on the main blog, If I have nuggets about email I’ll post them here, viral/FB stuff on Momentus. Gavin may write here occassionally as well.



PubliTweet: quick twitter posting

Thursday, 06. May 2010 by Anna Billstrom

OK- this is a new way of posting/embedding twitter posts into your blog. From Xavier, via Blackbird bookmarket: Publish a tweet in html

sample: (it was a 2-step process, very nice)

About to release a bookmarklet for Twitter Blackbird, cutting the number of steps to publish a tweet from 6 to 2! Stay tuned!Wed May 05 04:05:20 via Twidget

Ruby on Rails projects

Sunday, 15. November 2009 by Anna Billstrom

I know, this blog is about Email, but lately this is the stuff I’ve been doing:

Radiant (A CMS for Ruby on Rails systems)

- It did start with Email, namely Action Mailer and the extensions for Radiant, which I’ve written about before. Radiant Mailer Extension Basics
- How to create an extension. Extensions are ways of expanding the functionality of Radiant, be it for admin purposes or to customize databases, add-on functionality, etc.
- From frustration springs inspiration… I went on to write How to install Radiant Comments

Stuff I’m Learning

- HAML, a lightweight mark-up that’s a lot cleaner than HTML
- Ruby, but that’s really an understatement.

My Rails Projects…

I have a few sites now I can point to: Movie Haiku! on Heroku! and SnapLogic, which I helped with some loose ends after an initial installation of Radiant.

Ruby on Rails Emailer

Tuesday, 27. October 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Not sure how many of you are using this flavor of a setup, but if you’re on a Ruby on Rails’ Radiant with the Mailer and having issues- I just wrote a quick basic installation post on

The Demise of Email

Thursday, 15. October 2009 by Anna Billstrom

This is the third time I’ve written about the death of email- and anyone who blogs in this space is all too familiar with the claims (oddly by those not in the know). Basically: email is about as dead as your social security number, your physical address, or HTML. WSJ, never quite hip to stuff tech, is scared and from their vantage, I can see that it’s a wild world of web2.0, nay 3.0 marketing out there, it’s confusing and bewildering. But have no fear, email will always be used, until something more dependable and better comes along, and, more importantly, is trusted by an evergrowing base of users.

I agree that the usage of email is shifting. More and more people are using email as a notification service, not as a message carrier. “Oh I got a note on Facebook.” or, “Oh I should visit my bill pay site.” Could other technical tools do this? Sure. But it’s not about what’s technically available to the consumer, but what they trust. More and more demographics- beyond the early adopters- are getting onto email. As many email marketers know, focusing on early adopters (as WSJ is trying to do, 3 years too late) only opens up that segment. If you are Apple or Threadless, that’s great. But if you’re selling mutual funds and radial tires, you probably don’t care about the 30-35 geeky male nerd who cycles to work and spends his money as he earns it.

I’ve noticed during the recession, that more businesses have started focusing on their email vendors, departments and employees skilled in these areas, because it is a measurable, dependable marketing channel. Is it the future of tech? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not intrinsically enmeshed in the future.

More reading:
Mark Brownlow’s Three Years And Still Going Strong; his comments at the end are great and very useful.
Kristin Gregory over at Bronto does a round-up: Best of the Blogosphere: Embedded Video and the Slow Death of Email
Bob Frady, “Never Trust Anyone Under 30″, I agree in that it says more about the East Coast constantly focusing on high tech as a youth industry (and thus I blame the dot-com bomb on them) but that’s another post.

I don’t like list rentals.

Thursday, 27. August 2009 by Anna Billstrom


This has come up in a few conversations on EmailRoundtable, and in a conversation between me and @LorenMcDonald, and I thought I’d put my thoughts here. I don’t like list rentals. But to elaborate, let’s talk about the various ways of (in)organically acquiring email addresses:

- For a fee, you use another company’s email systems to send your email. It’s on their system, but they send your content. All links in email go back to your site.
- Some companies sell their lists. So they actually hand over part of their customer base. You insert into your system and drop the email.
- Some companies share part of a newsletter with you, so you can insert a form, and acquire sign-ups.
- Some companies do back-end overlays of data models, to determine who in your company list, fits the model and is thus a good fit for some kind of segment.
- Some companies specialize in giving you extra data on your email list. So I have the email, they will tell me the email’s favorite flavor of ice cream.

I’ve avoided using the marketing terms for the above processes as that’s a completely different discussion.

Issues to think about if you consider any of these options
What’s the email’s provenance? How did the consumer give their permission? The minute you use that email, you are potentially a spammer, if you are unaware of how it was given. And check back a few generations.

Whatever route you take, will the customer understand the relationship? The email I used to opt-in to Zappos emails, and suddenly I’m getting Gap emails. Does that make sense? Don’t underestimate the consumer. They know how they interacted with your company. It doesn’t take a lot to be considered spam.

Are you giving over more value than what you’re being provided? If I give 100K emails to a datafarm, I need to understand that I’m providing them with value. They only exist by the customers they have, and the lists they get.

As Loren McDonald says very well in his post, If Someone Says Buy A List One More Time…”

After all, marketers who ask about buying lists could just be asking, “How can I build my list quickly, and where can I acquire email addresses?” Unfortunately, there is no easy way to build a good list quickly. If there were, presumably we’d all be doing it.

Here’s the truth: In the email world, you can’t buy legitimate email addresses. You know those $399 CDs with 50 million email addresses? Most of the addresses are probably harvested or gathered in some less-than-stellar manner. Many are probably either out of date, converted to “honeypots” by ISPs looking to trap some spammers, or otherwise undeliverable. The owners of those addresses certainly haven’t given you permission to email them.

There are many methods of increasing your email list, “organically,” a term I use just to say, it’s part of the normal process of business. It varies by company and organization, and it’s largely to do with getting out the word that you have interesting mailing campaigns, that you make it a priority to take email addresses at F2F events, strategic parts of your site, at the cash register, etc. Viral campaigns are great, and parternship marketing.

For clients who have explored the acquisition routes above, I have never seen one of them that has exhausted the organic methods. Lifecycle, “triggered” emails are probably the most unsung hero in acquisition channels. It enhances the relationship, it is targeted, and personalized, and 24×7. But it’s a little tricky to execute. I think marketers go the “easy” route by back-end data models, because it’s something they understand, whereas lifecycle emails are not one-hit-wonders but slow growth. Still, when you compare cost and response rates, lifecycles win every time. Web 2.0 companies understand this- their emails are short, text-only (or with maybe 1 image) and triggered according to user activity on their site. They notify you of social relationships- and they create a stickiness. Unfortunately retail and consumer goods haven’t launched onto this as much, they’re still in the image-heavy, HTML one-drop-a-week world, barely inching up from the “cart abandonment” email campaigns. They can go there, and some are trying, but it’s a hard row to hoe.

Reading on the topic
How to Grow A List ClickZ
Email list rental may fall out of favor DM News. Great quote from Julie Katz at Forrester:

“We saw it coming because renting names from a list can be very risky for a marketer,” says Julie Katz, analyst at Forrester Research. “Those people don’t necessarily have any affinity with your brand. Also, if the names are bad, you could get caught in a spam trap and it can ruin your reputation.”

Bulk email lists: good or bad? by Mark Brownlow on Email Experience Reports

Accessing the Data (2 of 2)

Monday, 02. March 2009 by Anna Billstrom

A continuation of a post I wrote last week, “Getting Beyond Your Data Set” I describe the additional data you can use to juice up your campaigns. Now, let’s talk about how this happens.

1) Export from source
2) Transfer to local system
3) Load to email database
4) Use data to segment

Most platforms have schedulers (Unix/Linux: chronjob, Windows: windows scheduler) that can trigger a script (written in a combination of either SQL batch exporter, or Perl, or even Windows MS/SQL packages) to export the data. Then, once the export file has been created, transfer the file to the email marketing platform- internally, or hosted at your ESP. They will then have either a triggered job to load the export, or a timed operation that loads the data. Once it is in your campaign database, you can use the data for segmenting.


OK I went over that kind of fast.

Identify new data–> export file (flat, simple) –> timed scheduler to export –> transfer via FTP to local system –> timed job to pick up file –> import script to load data

- Use encryption for transferring files. Losing personal information on your customer is probably the worst thing that can happen in email marketing. Zip with encryption (password) is the lowest security, PGP is one of the more secure methods. In organizing the transfer of files with your vendor, don’t send the password in an email.
- For that reason above, I don’t recommend ever transferring email addresses, via excel spreadsheets, data files, or really any method. Create a customer key and use that to represent the unique user. You can do this in Excel, and of course in all database flavors.
- Having worked with a lot of ESPs to add data to their systems, they’re more than willing to help out and will mostly do all of the work once given an export file.
- Data files come in a few variations, commonly CSV (comma separated values) and fixed format. Data files also have a definition file that outlines the columns and data formats for each element.

Getting Beyond Your Basic Data Set, 1 of 2

Thursday, 26. February 2009 by Anna Billstrom


The use of web analytics to target email campaigns improves revenue by nine times more than does the use of broadcast mailings. Despite additional campaign costs, relevant campaigns increase net profits by an average of 18 times more than do broadcast mailings. (Source: JupiterResearch, Email Marketing: An Hour a Day, by Jeannie Mullen and David Daniels)

Most of us know that relevant, personal emails vastly increase the success of an email campaign. In my experience I’ve seen anywhere from 10% to 70% higher metrics, when the campaign has been segmented and targeted against additional data.

For those using a hosted solution, you can also get your ESP to add data points onto the system. Most of the ones I’ve talked to- MailChimp, Yesmail, Responsys, for example- have been helpful and interested in building out client datasets.

What do these additional data points look like? Oh, and by the way they’re all within your current data systems (I don’t advocate appending 3rd party data.)

Live purchase information. A simple set of daily key metrics will give you a huge boost, and you can test and rebuild the feed to add more detail
- first purchase
- last (most recent) purchase
- lifetime purchase value
- products purchased- detailed, or a simple category

Live browsing information. Who clicked on what, when, and keep this data fresh. If this data is too large to bring in, specify product areas, specific types of customers (prospects, existing) and work with these segments incrementally.

Unique industry information. Any kind of information on your site that is specific and unique to your company.

Email marketing feedback and response data. Opens, clicks, bounces and unsubscribes, by campaign (and segmented target).

Multichannel data.
- Print and catalog
- Ad banner clicks
- Affiliate activity (hosted on other sites)
- Face to face event data

Social site data
– Blog responses
– Twitter accounts
– Facebook accounts

The work involved in adding the data can quickly pay for itself. It does involve some database developer time to find, implement, and automate adding this data. But it pays for itself by open-ended revenue streams. The next post will cover the tactical technical details to implementing additional data.

Continue reading: “Accessing Your Data, 2 of 2″

Email Industry Un-Conference

Thursday, 19. February 2009 by Anna Billstrom

So I’ve been thinking for a while that we should have an un-conference. What is an un-conference? It’s a conference where the attendants make up the agenda. It has a different angle, basically very relevant topics and participation. Very few sponsors or vendors- everyone is there to simply learn from each other.

I have a few frustrations with events in this industry. I have been in email marketing since 2000 roughly, and since I’m from a technical background, I’m usually on the hunt for new technologies- but also new case histories, new techniques, new campaigns. Rarely if ever has there been a talk at these conferences that is on my level of enterprise campaigns, segmentation, metrics, etc. Sure, there’s a confidentiality aspect that means that we don’t get a lot of the intensely good client stories up on stage.

I expressed this to my colleague Tamara Gielen of BeRelevant! B2B Email Marketing. She said that namely these are networking conferences, and while the topics may be rudimentary for me, they aren’t for a lot of the people attending.

An unconference can easily solve the problem of the agenda. The way it works is this: we select a central city, low-cost travel. We attend, and in the first few hours do a quick introduction round, put up possible talks, and determine interest. Multiple sessions run at the same time, we take notes in conferences and post to a wiki. The next day, similar activity. Catered on site (sponsor opportunity).

So, I’m asking readers and other colleagues- are you interested in a conference where we make up our own talks? Where the registration is below $100, where the travel costs are also low? Is this industry – online marketing – going to work with the unconference style?

Unconference tenets:
- If you’re not contributing to a session or learning from it, you need to move on
- The people who show up at your session are the right people to be there
- Go as long, or as short, in time, as the topic bears

More Reading:
Wikipedia on the unconference
Planning for Bar Camp
Email Marketing Club Discussion

Women & Geekiness- Girl Geek Dinner #3

Friday, 30. January 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Attended the Girl Geek Dinner last night, put on by Very cool.

Girl geek dinner

It was packed, sold out, and I arrived early so I got a very full schwag bag, but had to leave early because of… jet lag. 8 PM and it felt like 3 AM.

Apple employees were there in full flying colors, filling the room with a great creative optimism!

Sat next to a Google/YouTube employee and we had a bunch of energetic discussions about cloud computing, copyright issues, the future of broadcast TV, and various social networks.

Another woman at our table is forming a marketing group for a retail company, and besides setting up their CRM system, I was curious as to her plans with social marketing. “We’re going to try traditional avenues first.” I thought that was savvy, and yet we started discussing various retail strategies I’d heard of and/or participated in.

Lots of job shifting and refocusing, but not at all as depressing as NPR or the news media would have you believe. Another woman at our table was recently laid off, but she cheerfully described herself as “an MBA student,” as she was taking night classes at UC Davis and could now focus all her time on it.

On my other side was a young woman writing system control apps at Sun. We compared notes on freezing server rooms and being “the only woman in my group.” I helped her out with some cool Silicon Valley networking groups where she could meet like-minded folks. Sadly I had to leave during the pitches, but it was a classic Silicon Valley networking meeting- a kind of freed up energy of geekiness and social comraderie.

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