Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Social Marketing Session: Embracing Your Fans

Tuesday, 09. December 2008 by Anna Billstrom

MailChimp at Email Insider Summit I was really looking forward to the social marketing session, moderated by Loren McDonald of Silverpop and on it: Brian Whalley of Our Stage, Karla Venell of General Mills, and Jay Stevens of MySpace.

Loren made a funny analogy- that marijuana,cocaine, heroin is to LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter. Some of us twittering in the session were a little caught off guard.

Great comment by Jay of MySpace regarding email: “I laugh at people who think email is killing social media, social media needs email now more than ever.

Some practical advice to email marketers- adding chiclets to the bottom of emails to share out the content. Also, you’d think, and what I wrote in MarketingProfs, is to add other methods to subscribe to this kind of content- RSS feeds, mainly.

Great examples of user-generated content, and emails, from Brian of OurStage. In all the social marketing was very focused on email and avenues that existing marketers are using to leverage social marketing. Having said that, I felt that the General Mills examples were pretty mild and confined. They could have done a lot more with their content, which was hinted at a few times by fan pages: the Lucky Charms, “Keep Lucky Charms Alive”:

Facebook | Search: lucky charms.

10,000 members have joined the group to “save Lucky Charms.” That nostalgia and content is so key, and could be leveraged and embraced by corporate General Mills. When they talked about control, and even Karla of General Mills brought up the issue of “What do we do with people using our brand,” it ended up being: embrace it, reward, include, and incorporate those fans that are ambassadors for your brand. Jay of MySpace made the point that it’s not enough to notice who are the mavens and trendsetters for aspects of your brand, but to include them.

Man Page for Twitter

Monday, 27. October 2008 by Anna Billstrom

A manual page for Twitter… which is my favorite form of explanation, written for a newbie on SF WoW, thought I’d repost here.

hey! <-- everyone in the world sees it if they go to the web site, my followers see it in their feeds

@jfouts hey! <--- that everyone can see, it's unprotected but she
may read it more prominently as it's got the @ in it that signals it's
a "response"

d jfouts hey Janet <-- sends a "hey Janet" to janet fouts, no one else
can see it but her. She may get it on her email or see it in twitter.

(Pretend you setup protection on your account)
Hey! <--- only those that follow me see it

@jfouts Hey! <-- only the 200 or so people I follow sees this, and
Janet sees it as a response

d jfouts Hey! <--- same as before, only she gets it

I didn’t know where else to put this- technically not about email at all, except perhaps in the direct message sense! Thanks Janet for letting me use you as an example!

Web 2.0 & Email: FriendFeed

Thursday, 09. October 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Trolling through the Feedback room on Friendfeed, I noticed a post and a very nice feature, that again sets apart Friendfeed from their competitors. Consumer marketing systems could also learn something from this.

When you start following someone in Friendfeed, their core functionality of subscribing to someone’s various RSS feeds and comments, they get a notification by email.

(2073 unread) AT&T Yahoo! Mail, anna_billstrom
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

The best part is when you reply:

Letters: CRM Solutions for Non-Profits

Thursday, 19. June 2008 by Anna Billstrom

A former colleague chatted me yesterday with this perplexing “deal”:

SalesForce is offering non-profits free licenses to their software. But we keep on running into issues with their “governors.”

That’s really great of SF to do- and explains an uptick in “do you do SalesForce?” emails that I’ve been getting. The downside is a serious throttling to list size. SalesForce “governors” control the amount of items in targeted lists, so you can only include very small mailings. Seemed like all of the downside of having a hosted solution with none of the upside. If your experience is different, please post here, my friend’s eager to have an alternative, or fix, to the solution.

The question came up of complex segmentation for small lists. What ESPs can handle it? We determined that manually building a statistical model and scoring it then uploading to ESPs and using the “score” to simple filter the lists, is probably the only real inexpensive solution for non-profits. Note: this is not for transactional, or triggered, messages, just promotional and newsletter-oriented emails.

The alternates I suggested to him: SugarCRM, StrongMail, and a few consultancies that could help him setup the database. He and I had worked on an Epiphany installation and the license for that was too expensive for his clients, so that was out. He wasn’t interested in a per-email pricing either.

Disposable Email Addresses: Just a Geek Thing?

Wednesday, 28. May 2008 by Anna Billstrom

I was describing to my two sisters the merits of temporary email addresses over Memorial Day weekend. It’s like using a fake middle initial in your name when you buy things, then when you get catalogs in the mail with that initial, you know who sold your address (always an interesting experiment!).

Web email now supports sub addresses (also called “plus addressing”), from back in the day with sendmail. Yahoo & Google make it possible for you to extend your email address in various ways so you can track how your email gets picked up. Next time you register for something, use “” instead of “”. If you end up on some random mailing list with that to: address, Pottery Barn has sold your list. I should have done this when I registered to vote! Yahoo has a more convoluted method, called “disposable emails,” using AddressGuard, that probably won’t be embraced by non-Geeks.

If temporary email addresses ever get widespread, I can see consumers using it to further identify and opt-in to communication that they want. If they’re getting a Pottery Barn email, and their To Address is “username+potterybarn” they are going to be more likely to access and view. They could inclusively filter select mailers into folders based on the “To” address.

I see on message boards that the tendency is for marketers to filter out anything with “+” in it, as most folks who are currently using this are using it as a manual spam filter, and to weed out the bad promotional lists that aren’t using opt-in processes, or loosely define opt-in. I would like to see some usage metrics on this- if more people are using the “+” sign as way to narrowly filter their email, or if it’s just a geek thing.

Temporary Gmail Addresses
Yahoo information on AddressGuard
From lovely wikipedia on Email Addressing:

Disposable addresses of this form, using various separators between the base name and tag are supported by several email services, including Runbox (plus and minus), Google Mail (plus), Yahoo! Mail Plus (minus)[1], and FastMail (plus)[2].

Great post by Laura at Word to the Wise- wish I’d read it before I posted! Disposable or Temporary Addresses

Spring Cleaning Your Email Solution

Thursday, 24. April 2008 by Anna Billstrom

In the spirit of spring- with the wacky winds and brisk air, and moments of clear sunshine, we tend to want to roll up our sleeves and fix things that have been annoying us for a long time. In email marketing, I’ve noticed that these projects have started to get underway:

Database & List Cleanup
- Shrink your database. Take advantage of areas that are no longer in use.
- Evaluate your data: do you really need it? Or is it just a one-off, rarely used item? Could it make way for more important, useful data? There’s a trend to behaviorally instead of demographically, target customers- is this your system?
- Look through your inbox and find requests for data that you didn’t have, make a list and start bumping through it.
- Check the data flow and see if all of the data points are working as planned, a simple audit of key touchpoints like unsubscription, new data, mailing list uploads, etc.
- With some simple analysis, find out when people truly become inactive in your system, and segment your campaigns accordingly.
- Do a quick review of your email list by domain, region, and browser, any kind of browser availability out there, and see if your design guidelines match up. Basically: if you’ve decided not to support Gmail, see if it’s a significant portion of your list.

Marketing Program Clean-Up
- Are there campaigns still running that really aren’t earning their keep? If you can’t justify it with revenue or customer relationship gains, time to move on. Great opportunity to experiment with new subject lines, copy, or targeting.
- Are you caught in blast-land or managing a nice lifecycle program? Time to re-evaluate the efficiency of your programs and make your life (and your customer’s) more pleasant.
- Offers that are no-wins. We may have thought this was a good idea at one time, but due to competition or consumer trends, nobody uses this offer anymore. Refresh your offer list with invigorating and new offers- and be realistic about pet projects.

Reporting Clean-Up
- There’s good complexity and bad complexity. Are your reports really singing the truth or just dragging you down into the muck? Re-focus your internal metrics and get them to speak to your goals.
- Check out old reports, and create time-lapse reporting on specific campaigns, consumer behavior or email metrics. These combinations of timely reports can give you insight you didn’t have.
- Distribute reports. I hate being the bearer of bad news, but if we’re all on the same page, it makes it easier to get the car out of the ditch. I’m loving these business metaphors.

Interview: Eric Stockton

Sunday, 24. February 2008 by Anna Billstrom

I’m blogging here from the MarketingSherpa Email Summit and got the opportunity to scour the speakers’ list and choose some folks to interview. Check out other coverage of the summit on the Information & Coverage microsite. This is the third in a series of interviews for the Email Summit.

Third up is Eric Stockton, president of MarketingSherpa. Eric was the head of research at MarketingExperiments, an on-the-ground running experiments lab, and when MEC acquired both companies, he rose to become president. Unlike the other interviews I actually talked to him in person, so it’s less inline responses and more my freeform version.

First, we talked about surfing. Turns out MarketingSherpa in Jacksonville Beach has a door right out to the surf. That is very, very nice. “It brings us down to earth” Eric said. When we finally got off the topic of Pacific surfing vs. Atlantic surfing, I asked him about the reason behind having a certification course. He responded that it “fills the need” for the community, which is having something more tangible than best practices. They started with online testing, paid search, then landing page optimization. “It helps IT and marketing speak the same language,” and he told me about a company that literally had such contentious IT and marketing staffs that the executives brought both groups into certification. Surprisingly having the same way of talking about the systems, efficacy, and process was the solution to getting the groups to work together.

I asked him if he sees any trends over the last year, from the Benchmark Guide, or talking to CEOs and Presidents of companies. I gave him a laundry list of things I thought had come up in the last year- mobile becoming more important suddenly, subject lines, spam decreasing, user content and web 2.0, SEO- and he surprised me by answering quickly, “What I hear is, ‘email is dead.’ We see it in dropping open rates, the metrics/stats, customers getting smarter.” I’d written about it in June, here, commenting on a Fast Company article with same title, but I was still surprised that this was an issue. He backed it up saying that he’d heard it from a bunch of folks- as well as metrics, but generally – and that the reality is that email is actually “… diversifying into multi-platform & media, data phones, RSS. You can’t ‘blast’ any more, it’s communicating now, user generated content is a perfect example.”

He liked my next question- how he sees MarketingSherpa Benchmark Guides in the corporate structure. How do customers use them, what role do they play, and where he sees their place in general. “We find that customers think they’re great for planning for budgets, strategic planning, using in a boardroom meeting- the data points, charts, etc., and other benchmark guides too, not just email marketing, but ecommerce.” My first encounter with MarketingSherpa was when a graphic artist I know bought it for the user testing results, as a guide to email-specific design elements.

I asked him what the sexiest bit of the BenchMark Guide was- the element that he always hears about, that stands out among customers and the membership community. He didn’t even wait a beat: “Eyetracking.” Ha ha, that’s what I’d say too.

Of the many surprising answers he gave me, this perhaps tops the charts: I asked him if there were any anxieties or fears in the companies that he talks to. I feel like Eric has a great line onto the heads of corporations and their marketing executives, who may speak freely to him about concerns. Turns out that one of the top things coming up for MarketingSherpa, and this lines up with my question about anxieties, is that companies are asking how much their customer lists are worth, for mergers and acquisitions. I experienced this at WebVan, as they had acquired HomeGrocer, and in the merger one of the top things they did was integrate the customer marketing databases. Eric said, “The question I get from CEOs, or mainly CFOs, is ‘Did I buy this 5M list and now it’s not worth anything?’ And we can look at our studies and metrics and help them determine that, and we’ve finally gotten to a mature place where we can tell them that.’

He made an offhand comment that MarketingSherpa had some room for improvement, and I prodded him as to what he would do to improve it if given millions and millions (billions?) of dollars. He said that he essentially got that opportunity with the acquisition by MEC, and that their first goal was to “Help support the community of marketers, provide training, be place that has the data points, the structure, charts that help the presentations, good ideas, inspirations,” and he mentioned the new membership program, and the ‘Ask a Sherpa’ program (which is not consulting) but taps into the community of experts for one-off questions.

All in all it was a great conversation, and I had renewed respect for the MarketingSherpa think tank.

Email Marketers: Get a Data Phone, Please

Wednesday, 20. February 2008 by Anna Billstrom

iPhone I got a real nugget of truth recently from a study by MarketingSherpa on iPhone consumer use. Got the link from MailChimp, a key blog by a real ESP.

For such a long time I didn’t read the tons of blog posts and information about mobile issues, even though I sat next to someone who had a bag of about 100 phones and talked constantly about phones rendering email. Why didn’t I care? I had one of those Nokias that cost -$5, yep, that your wireless provider pays you to get. So when I upgraded 2000% to an iPhone (slight exaggeration!), I suddenly was all ears. MarketingSherpa has clued in on this idea of “don’t-care-because-can’t-see-it”, a phenomenon that applies to many things in marketing, such as Image-Off Issues (“Why don’t you just turn images on?”). When I talk to clients about iPhone rendering issues, they say “send me a screenshot” because true, that is in almost all cases a great way of showing the issue and communicating the problem. But not with mobile.

- Our research reinforced what we’ve been telling readers for more than a year: If you haven’t yet, you need to go out and buy all of the widely used mobile devices. If you can’t buy all of them, at least get an iPhone and BlackBerry Curve and Pearl because of their popularity.

Why? You need to be able to see first-hand what you are marketing to when it comes to the mobile demographic, which usually has both disposable income and little time to waste.

MailChimp has a great video of iPhone accessing mail, too.

Gmail Grimace

Tuesday, 29. January 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Reaction to Gmail Rendering Funny post from Matthew over at Email Standards Project- what face do you make when you’re horrified by Gmail’s rendering? I put mine up- and I hope more people do this so it’s not just me & Matt!- I haven’t been code line writing emails in a long time- but did do some quick template work for writing “Designing for Web Emails”, and realized just how much Gmail has degraded HTML support. I know, there are two sides to that coin, but hey, HTML is here to stay, so get used to it, basically. Feel free to join in on the Grimace campaign and share your pain, or just enjoy a gallery of pain. Will we get some traction on this with Gmail? I hope so.

Best (and worst?) Transactional Email Campaigns

Wednesday, 23. January 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Time to give award ceremony attention to those great silent workhorses.
From my treasure trove of an email inbox, here are a few winners. I reviewed approximately 100 companies, the emails I’d received in 2 months, various interactions with all of the companies (past purchase, online registration, etc.) over the past two years. There are 3 categories: Web 2.0 (sites with more online features), traditional retail companies with web presence, and Booby Prizes.

Web 2.0 Transactional Emails

- Twitter notifications of “who is following you”
+ What’s involved? Create a once-a day or real-time database query that checks on when some users request to follow others, email in real time the notification with both user’s names, the one to follow and the one being followed. Requires dynamic input, but the email itself is text-only and relatively easy to create and send. Why is it great? Because we are all self-obsessed, and finding out who is watching/clicking/viewing you will always be interesting, and brings the customer back to the site, that being the goal for most Web2.0 companies.

- Yelp “so and so thinks you’re their friend”
+ Same as the Twitter notification, a simple notification email on a behavior, dynamically pulling in the two names and creating a custom link to the other’s profile and/or settings to add or remove the friend. Why is it great? Yelp could do a whole lot more – with these Web2.0 companies there’s so much personal and behavioral data, so focusing on the social aspect, “friendship,” is the best kind of message and email to send to improve the stickiness factor.

- Facebook/Likeness, challenges on movie data (or other quizzes you’ve filled out)
+ Facebook is getting some grief for letting these application providers contact the base so easily, based on friendship and not on optin preferences. Other than that, though, this is a great little transactional email notifying your friends/associates of your performance on a quiz (whether it’s good or bad- natch). The majority of users, I’ve noticed, have no idea they’re telling their base their scores, or that they’re doing quizzes at work! So this will fly in their face soon. Scrabulous defaults to optout, which may be the reason why they’re one of the more popular FaceBook apps. Still, it’s the social factor, and random trivia, and it drags people back to the site, which ultimately proves its success.

Traditional Retail Transactional Emails

- Amazon rating on purchases
+ Initially annoying, as its a survey and generally pointless to the consumer, who doesn’t get anything for it. But ingenious for Amazon in general, to allow merchants (third party sellers) to reach into the behavior data and access the customer base, for something justified like a review. Great for the third party, great for setting up trust between the merchants and customers. How is it done? You bought through this merchant, what did you think of the transaction? Probably a daily email sent three days after the estimated delivery, asking a few basic questions on the service, and dynamically providing the merchant’s name, with links back to the order information page, and the seller’s page.

- Incomplete Transaction/Project: KodakGallery
+ OK usually I don’t discuss my client’s programs, but I did receive a “you didn’t complete a calendar!” email when my sisters and I were building a holiday calendar of all of the niece and nephews. I got an incentive to complete the calendar, which I sent onto my sister (it was a joint account). That was one of the best retail/traditional transactional emails I’d received in a while.

- Amazon “based on your interest in [product category]”
+ A database call on past purchase in a specific product family, in my case jewelry, and notification of a special sale, etc. in that relevant category. Add “based on your interest in”- I think it’s important to call out targeting in this case.

Booby Prizes: Missed Opportunities

As I went through my inbox looking at winners, above, I noticed a lot of missed opportunities.

- Orbitz
+ They could really tailor their emails to me, based on my past flights and travels, and this is a situation where I would call out the targeting in the email message. “Anna, new flights to Baltimore, Minneapolis & Seattle!” (All usual destinations, i.e.)

- iTunes
+ Similar to Orbitz, if they are targeting, I can’t tell, and I’d be much more interested in the content, if they called it out in the subject line or inside the email message: instead I get generic “best of 2007″ and “new for 2008″ when they could say: “Latest R&B artists in 2008″ (based on my purchases of albums in that general product category- see Amazon above).

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