Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Gmail for iPhone

Monday, 14. January 2008 by Anna Billstrom

The Gmail blog just posted on a new interface for the iPhone on their site. This is great, since the Gmail solution on the iPhone has been very problematic. I promptly logged in and checked it out:
- automatic zoom in on letters, so you can actually see the text
- nice Facebook-style menus that work just right for the iPhone (Facebook has been the best site to date for the iPhone)
- quick rendering (ajax?)
- big buttons (like the star) for easy clicking

It was very easy – just go to and sign into your mail. Crazy it took them so long to do, but regardless, I appreciate it.

Manipulating Email Text to Leverage SEO

Friday, 04. January 2008 by Anna Billstrom

I’ve been getting renewed traffic to my article on Barack Obama’s text-only fundraising plea after his win in the Iowa Caucus. This morning, while reading Mark Brownlow’s update on the Email Standards Project today, Mark notes that even though we’ve got some ground with the ESP, images are still an issue.

One of the key elements of that fund-raising email was not that images weren’t there- it’s the extra dimensionality they chose to use with text. That email used SEO methodology. SEO is Search Engine Methodology. It’s understanding that your email will be seen in a web browser, probably by a mail provided by one of the major search engines that leverage keywords. So if your email says “Hilary this” and “Hilary that” you will get ads for Hilary Clinton on the right hand bar of your email. Instead, focus on a few key messages and reiterate them in different word choices- of course make your email as readable and succinct as possible- all of the usual good email marketing tips. But keep an attention to the fact that your text (not images) can be also re-purposed as search keyword criteria.

The Role of Segmentation

Friday, 21. December 2007 by Anna Billstrom

In application and system architecture there’s this concept of generations. Is your CRM system a 2nd, third or fourth generation? Generations generally refer to the sophistication of tools, networked systems, and perhaps size. If a CRM group regularly segments its lists, analyzes those segments, and leverages segmentation in each email it launches (transactional as well as promotional), to me, that is a sophisticated, advanced generationally, CRM system.

Direct mail & catalog marketers have been doing this for a long time- even including more sophisticated scoring and modeling abilities in their lists. One reason I can think of- why direct mail techniques have not been applied full sail to email marketing- is that these are intensive efforts on rapidly changing data, that iterates sometimes twice in one day. Direct mail doesn’t work on that tight a time frame, so they can usually leisurely analyze and segment. Yet there are tools that segment email lists, and the sooner email marketers leverage these tools, the more they will see response rates go up, with smaller email lists that are far more targeted to interested audiences. First, let’s outline three areas that are often confused (I’ve found), and they also mark the technological progression from simple filtering to complex segmentation.

Dynamic content: the template swaps content based on either simple stated logic or static values coming from the email list: for example, product name, which swaps in the hero product photo for each email going out of a specific campaign. The value “pants,” when associated with an individual email record, will tell the template to display a photo of pants. If there is no value, perhaps a default promo product displays, or if “shirt” is in the record, the template knows to display a shirt. Sometimes they can handle a simple is/is not logic too such as a filter.

Filters: Inclusive or exclusive, criteria which determines the final targeted list. You can make these statements complex, “Has not bought, last twelve months, and never bought pants, and has not been cross-sold,” by including all of the logic in one long statement. Each bucket is trimmed by the filter above it. This kind of filtering is limiting, because for every permutation of each criteria, you would have to create an entirely new list. For 3 statements above, that means 9 filter statements need to be written, tested, and output. As you can see it can get complicated, and to recreate this list for each campaign, perhaps they are triggered, transactional emails, then it becomes very burdensome. So we introduce:

Segmentation: Ability to handle multiple logical statements, with a “branching” quality, creates a targeted list with n-dimensional complexity. For example, take the logic above, 3 statements, 3 states of customers. If you imagine it as a matrix, each combination of each state results in a “cell” of the customer base.

has purchased recently? Prod category: Pants? Cross-sold? Cell Label
Y Y Y Recent customer, pants, and cross-sold
N Recent customer, pants, and not cross-sold
N Y Recent Customer, not pants, has been cross-sold
N Recent Customer, not pants, has not been cross-sold
N Y Y Lapsed customer, bought pants, but has been cross-sold
N Lapsed customer, bought pants, hasn’t been cross-sold
N Y Lapsed customer, hasn’t bought pants, has been cross-sold
N Lapsed customer, hasn’t bought pants, ahsn’t been cross-sold (total prospect)

The main benefit comes from the ease with which the marketer creates it. Going in and editing the filters, re-using the segmentation in another campaign, and using more complex (than binary) logic, reveals the deep ability to find hidden niches in your base.

Then the user creates the labels that they care about- perhaps some variations of the population are meaningless? “lapsed customer, no pants, not cross-sold” could be potential to upsell, or perhaps they represent an audience that is truly uninterested in the pants-upsell promotion?

That’s a relatively simple example. Using feedback data, or more complex logic statements, truly shows the strength of these tools. Above, I have chosen binary yes/no choices, but you can use multiple answer logic, as well:
- Has purchased last 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, etc.
- Purchased above median, below, substandard, above standard, etc.

Creating the segmentation logic is good only as the analysis of those segments, determining things like the median price, pruning amounts on cells (according to email cost), and other factors. Make sure that the segmentation tool has appropriate and relevant reporting that will backup the thresholds of each segmentation filter.

Lessons From Social Networks

Friday, 07. December 2007 by Anna Billstrom

I’m spurred to write this because a friend on Facebook- Jeremiah Owyang- attended a similar event, and I wish I’d gone:
Using Social Media to Grow Your Business.

What’s interesting to me is that Jeremiah chose to post the event and attendance on a social network. “Fishing where the fish are,” is how he explained it. There are so many layers of meaning here- that we examine the methods that we contact our customers, and use them ourselves in promoting our own efforts.

In a meeting with a client the other day about Facebook apps, he said, “How do we get them to come here,” the meaning being that merchandising and selling online as a dot-com retailer was the end goal. His bottom line inquiry made me think about how that wasn’t the goal, and yet it was the goal as well. Profit, and purchases are at the core of a retailer. From a CRM perspective, though, we look at the entire length of a customer’s interaction and relationship with the company. Brands, trust, and engagements that are not all around individual profit orders. It’s in between basic ordering and longterm relationships that social networks lie.

Little know-nothing startups like Scrabulous (play Scrabble on FaceBook) have become extremely well known because of an engaging Facebook application. As a consumer, I do “click over” to the Scrabble site. I have name recognition with the founders, I am aware of their new products, and various other fallouts from being a frequent user. Any company with online functionality and fun behavioral widgets understands the embracing of a large amount of new users like this, and how it can translate to customers down the line.

But back to Jeremy’s comment about fishing where the fish are- I see the social networks as a large customer base of people who have said: “I want to be contacted this way.” For those that remember, it’s the web portal business, but has finally matured. So yes, it’s about getting someone to click over- but it’s also getting someone interested and engaged in your product features, in a pond that they swim in.

Note: I want to write an upcoming post on the hilarity of Facebook’s opt-out system gone awry with Beacon. See: Mark Zuckerberg’s “Thoughts on Beacon”

Email Standards Project: Yes!

Wednesday, 28. November 2007 by Anna Billstrom


I think everyone can relate to this- standardizing the way your email is seen across all of the different flavors of email inboxes.

So to those that don’t get it, though, imagine this: did you know that standardization exists for browsers, but not for email? Browsers all use a specific DOM (document object model) for HTML, but email is like the Wild West- each town has a different set of laws. Each email inbox? Different ways of rendering HTML.

What if every browser rendered a web page vastly differently, than what we know now? To a degree that it was almost impossible to design a single, consistent email page across all browsers, like we see now with? Would the internet have experienced the explosion that it did, would MySpace happen, would YouTube, eBay, etc. Random companies wouldn’t be able to put up even brochureware site without dragging in an expert on each browser.

To a degree we (who are old enough!) remember the days when being an HTML programmer was lucrative just because browsers were struggling with a consistent rendering. Navigator shows inline images, Mosaic doesn’t, Explorer (when it finally came out) renders JS strangely… but having a career based on a faulty system, and a repetitive career like that, is not an advancement of technology but, to use another metaphor, a truck with a wheel stuck in a pothole. We need to exert a lot of effort to get that wheel out of the pothole, and start innovation rolling again.

Right now you’re saying: well blame the spammers. Inboxes would have adopted the DOM From HTML, but spammers like to send viruses embedded in JavaScript, iFrames, etc. The problem with that is that a limited DOM would serve the purpose, and not expose email inboxes more than they do now.

So HTML got a standard, with help of the W3C organization, back in the early 90s. For many reasons, email never did. Most of my posts here are about the strange, fluctuating changes of HTML email support across browsers – who shows alt tags? Who lets you use CSS? I don’t like writing these posts, and each time someone in the industry reads them, they get this fatigued response of “oh I don’t want to go look at that grid of compliance on the Campaign Monitor site…” it’s a messy spaghetti-like maze. (yes, another metaphor.)

This effort of standardizing email has been a proactive effort on the part of many email experts, who are tired of just sitting at conferences bitching about the status quo. I applaud them, and their vast efforts, herding cats, basically. Jump over and check out the site, or if you know of someone that works at Gmail/Yahoo mail or Hotmail, drop them a note to check out ESP.

Email as Web Content Case Study: Barack Obama

Friday, 02. November 2007 by Anna Billstrom

Barack Obama’s recent email on the campaign trail reflects a few themes in email marketing:
- Transparency (showing that the donation site is an secure link, instead of hiding it in HTML)
- Writing for Gmail- leveraging access to AdWords, and working with the severe HTML restrictions
- Writing email content as a web page- taking advantage of intertextuality

The fact is that people are viewing their email on free web hosts, such as Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. That means a loss of control, to a degree, for the email marketing designer, but it also means that you are entering the world of rich hypertext context. In the example below, Barack Obama’s team has leveraged this very nicely. Unfortunately mentioning Hilary Clinton gave her a link, but the topical links halfway down refocus the ads.


The use of text-only (for the main message) can be very strategic. It saves time and energy on developing an HTML campaign that works in each browser. It ensures readability in an ever-increasing atmosphere of image suppression. Gmail renders text-only emails well, as there’s nothing to screw up, and shows the abstract offset nicely in the inbox.

It’s personalized, and it’s easy to forward while retaining the original format. This is nice to consider since the tendency for political fans is to forward onto their own mailing lists- viral marketing that was leveraged so well with Howard Dean. KISS, essentially, has many things going for it in the political world. Also, for fundraising programs sometimes too fancy means a misdirection of funds.

SEO techniques are in play here. This means that someone worked on the content to give it a focus that would play well with AdWords SEO methodology. I’m no SEO expert, but simple messaging and focus in the email content helps ensure that the AdWords are appropriate.

I like how “transparency,” a main theme in this message’s meaning, dovetails nicely with a clean, open email design, too.

Gmail IMAP Obscurity

Tuesday, 30. October 2007 by Anna Billstrom

I decide to setup my iPhone with Gmail’s IMAP settings. Basic steps are to access your account, view the Settings, and flag the “Enable IMAP.” Easy-schmeazy.


When I logged into my account, though, this is what I saw:


Turns out that
1) Google doesn’t release the feature to everyone site-wide, but to various sections gradually over a few days. And,
2) there is a “secure” email site, which is Once I accessed that, I could set my account to IMAP, as it shows in the YouTube tutorial. A note about tutorials- another client had setup their corporate, software how-to tutorials on YouTube to resounding success (Hi Gavin!) and I’m confirmed in this fact by seeing Google do the same.

From this a Google support discussion board, via “AnalEyes”:

Gmail rolls out new features to random sets of their users, instead of
a system-wide change. Hence, it is possible that some users have
already received the GMail’s new interface on their accounts, which
has the ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’ tab, while those GMail users who are
still on the old interface have the existing ‘Forwarding and POP’ tab.

If so, you would shortly find the new interface for your account,
including the updated features, if you just wait for some time (a few
days). Ensure that you always use the secure URL
to sign in to your GMail UI.

Gmail Going IMAP

Wednesday, 24. October 2007 by Anna Billstrom

Thank god. It was a big disappointment when I got my iPhone, that my Gmail email wasn’t flowing through the Mail iPhone application, like other accounts were. Instead I had to go to Google mobile and access it there. Well, that was for the quickest solution- I could also use the Gmail POP account, which, admittedly, I never got working right.

The Google Official Blog just mentioned they are going IMAP- so you can read your inbox across devices- “Sync your Inbox Across Devices.” Yay!

Email Marketing- a Little Too Narrow

Monday, 22. October 2007 by Anna Billstrom

Almost every day I realize that email is not the only way I get information- and it also shouldn’t be the main focus of companies and their messaging. Especially as there are always studies and reports done on the increasing of spam, and the decreasing of users’ trust in email. See: BeRelevant’s Silver Surfers Shun Email, for a taste.

As a user, I tend to change my FaceBook status quite a bit, basically treating it like my dormant Twitter account. I think internet users and thus your potential customers, act this way too. We all have our preferred method of contact, and it’s not just email.

Which leads me to the expansion of email marketing into far more than email. I am a huge proponent of RSS from back in the day. I know the statistics on how many consumers actually use RSS- but for each of those, you can respond with far higher adoption and conversion rates on RSS.

Other Contact Channels
- RSS. Setup your content, site, messages what have you, on a system that will allow syndication and subscription.
- Mobile. Setup the same content to be viewable and accessible effectively on mobile devices, from Nokias to iPhones.
- Social networks. Integrate your content, site, etc. with FaceBook applications, MySpace widgets, blog templates,etc. Sometimes this can be integrated with easy RSS programming, or other expandible technology.
- SMS. It’s gaining ground, and I know there are legal issues with the FCC, but doesn’t hurt to think about it. Simple messaging on cell phones- it can be a boon if you are an airline and need to communicate transactional messages quickly such as flight delays.
- Maps. Google has revolutionized the location data, and now you have to work with it too. I’ve done some geographical analysis on data, and more and more this seems to be very important to almost any business. For retail, applications are: creating easy directions, and messaging according to location. Transit systems are using directional GPS trackers in cars, mobile devices, etc. Though cars aren’t conceived as “devices” right now, it’s not too far a stretch to think that data may be available through cars (read: Google car).
- Video. One client hosted some video tutorials on MySpace, and linked to those videos from an email newsletter. I thought this was a very savvy method of integrating yet a new channel, and a new customer segment with different viewing preferences.
- Search. Companies that are not making sure their results are easily available by search are losing out on the large segment of the population that use search for *everything.* I can’t tell you how many clients I know that don’t do the basic gut check test of searching for their product on Yahoo/Google, to see if they have positioned their content well.

Advanced Email Marketing Checklist

Wednesday, 17. October 2007 by Anna Billstrom

What makes an advanced email marketing system? It’s more complicated than what I’ve listed below, but this is an easy gut check to see how your system compares, feature by feature.

Preference center with subject content, that dynamically pastes in live, scheduled emails. The customer can determine what email content they get.
Lifecycle emails from introduction series, ongoing to one year or more
At least a dozen transactional, automatic emails based on customer behavior.
Closed loop campaigning- responding to campaign performance with a new campaign.
Emails render well in all clients.
Emails render well with images off
Less than 1 AOL postcard a quarter
Goodbye email series (emails to very lapsed or dead subscribers saying a final adieu)
One-click unsubscribe, unsubscription landing page, and preference center flow.
Ability to report on the behavior of each campaign, and segment, of each campaign. According to basic metrics- deliver/send/click, etc.
Ability to campaign to the behavior of each segment of each campaign. Email to the segment of: “Top customers who have clicked on Mother’s Day email,” for example.
Ability to target customer behavior to SKU level (for retail).
Ability to track revenue from individual clicks on email content.
Ability to seed lists.
Ability to apply scoring models to lists.
Control group segments.
Regular ability to do subject line tests.
Ability to do A/B content tests.
Email format preferences ability for sender and recipient.
Emails are hosted on the site as well.
Forward to a friend capability.
Ability to report on unusual metrics such as the “non-open click”
Ability to send unique account/PINs in an automated process.
Ability to automatically send response campaigns- reminders, thank yous, etc.
Integration with PPC and SEO activities
Automated email hygiene process.
Partner and brand versioning of email content
Wireframed, dynamic content and email templates
Text versions of all emails.
Mobile versions

0-5: Newbie: You’re probably just grappling with getting your hands around CAN-SPAM requirements.

6-10: Basic system. You probably think there’s no money in email marketing, so you’ve never invested much thought or energy into it. Or, you may have just started a job and realize that all you have is a newsletter on Constant Contact. Regardless, you’re reading this checklist which is a good sign.

11 – 20: Not Shabby. You’re probably on your second generation of an email marketing system, or with an email provider that delivers this out of the box. You want to expand, but don’t know how.

20 +: Nimbus 2000. I hope you know what you have! It’s a great system. Of course there’s room for improvement.

Thanks to those that have mentioned this list!

- Email Marketing Reports

- Email Karma

This list is a work in progress, feel free to add more criteria below.

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