Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Blog Olympics- Always In Season

Friday, 22. August 2008 by Anna Billstrom

So, I got the Olympics baton to highlight my favorite email marketing blogs. I read 48 blogs (via Bloglines & Google reader) combined with social marketing blogs. I keep a short list of my favorites- on the sidebar, below the comments. It’s always in season!

Email Wars – Dylan Boyd over at eRoi is up there with my other bloggers as always having an interesting, social marketing + email approach to issues. I credit him with some of the most interesting, out-of-the box thinking in this space! He’s also a straight shooter with an opinion, which I appreciate.

Bronto Blog – These guys do great work, and their honest, open process is truly helpful in this field. Whenever I watch their videocasts, I always think about how compassionate and concerned they are with their clients. They truly just want them to do well, and see email as a helpful method. It’s a great lesson in managing client relationships.

A Weber – I’ve been enjoying Justin Premick’s posts, and he’s a twitterpal. Probably the newest to this line-up, I’ve been following his posts and work with growing interest. Every once in a while I’m in my Google Reader, going, wow that’s an interesting post, and lo and behold it’s A Weber.

MailChimp- I probably align myself with the ethics and processes most closely with the guys at MailChimp, a smaller scale than ESPs I usually work with, but since I started blogging, their posts and humor have been the most closely allied with my own. The documentation they provide for their customers is some of the best email marketing guidelines out there!

Retail Email – since I tend to do B2C, it’s really useful to see all of the hard work Chad White does collecting emails and comparing techniques. Doing retail email marketing is like the tuna of the sea- big, popular, easy to catch, but also difficult to stand out and do new things (and flash frozen in Japan, OK that’s another post). Chad is an invaluable resource in this field!

Email Marketing Reports- Mark Brownlow gets so much work done, from Austria! I’d be out enjoying the music and arts, but he’s a tireless worker, or perhaps it’s the time difference? He has a huge library of great posts and manages to just get a lot done in this space.

Vertical Response- Janine Popick has a refreshing, direct, and ethical approach to email marketing that I enjoy reading. Her publisher’s clearing house post is still one of my favorites. Some people take a risk and have an opinion, and I appreciate that!

This is a perennial torch- always on the sidebar!

Email Marketer’s Club

Friday, 01. August 2008 by Anna Billstrom

It’s not a big stretch to think that if you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in email marketing. If so, go and sign up on the Email Marketer’s Club, a niche Ning social community started by business-to-business marketer Tamara Gielen of Ogilvy. She writes the BeRelevant! blog, also.

What to expect in the club?

1) Quick access to other colleagues doing the same thing you’re doing
2) Access to news & posts from the top blogs.
3) Small groups that you can join or start, based on your even more niche specialities.

I joined a while ago then recently re-joined to help a friend interested in B2B (I’m more B2C)- and got sucked back in as a few Twitterfriends and blog authors were on there. Sign up, nose around, and post an odd comment or two. It’ll be worth your while!

Social Networks Side-By-Side

Wednesday, 04. June 2008 by Anna Billstrom

(updated 4/5- added screenshots & SocialThing) I’ve been doing some informal (ahem) research on social networks: pownce, friendfeed, plurk & socialthing, and here is a featureset cheatsheet, going from old-to-new, so you too can sound in-the-know. This is a select few of frequently used ones- not a survey of the overwhelming amount out there.

MySpace: we all know what this is- profile-oriented site with bulletin boards, free-form design (which makes it ugly, in my opinion) and lots of widgest (ad-hoc applications).

Facebook: same as MySpace, but design is locked. Cleaner, and they’ve setup some privacy. Users can create “statuses” which are live- mobile and iPhone integration is great!- messaging. Scrabble is fun. I get quite a few links to this blog when I post an article. User adoption is very high.

Twitter: Live messaging, from user-to-many or user-to-user. Direct mail is available (private messaging to one other user). You can see all of your friend’s twitters. No other features, it’s very simple. Lately the systems have been faulty and failing, which led me to follow one of my high profile friends to this service… and onto the newer, more noteworthy social networks:


A social oriented extension of Digg, brought to you by (the founders of) Digg. Persnickety barriers to registration, adding friends, etc. turned me off of full adoption and obsession. If you’re a fan, please post as I kind of don’t get the allure. Example of Pownce.


FriendFeed: I call it “bloglines with comments.” It absorbs, or aggregates, feeds from almost every web2.0 site that will give them: youtube, stumbledupon, twitter, facebook, etc. That’s not new- what is new is the algorithm it uses to sort comments and posts- including 2nd degree friends. I’m still into it and it’s been 2 weeks (which is a long time for me!) The comments are kept on FriendFeed (that’s a negative). Example of FriendFeed.
Plurk shot
This is a graphic status view of you & your friends, across a timeline (left to right which is culturally specific!). Status posts are expandable, nice. No support of different feeds, that I can see, so pretty different in concept than FriendFeed. Bonuses: a “karma points” system that opens up more features and benefits. The multi-lingual support is good, and the design is knock-your-socks-off brilliant. Example of Plurk.

(in Beta) I tried this out earlier today, and I don’t have a lot of friends (sniff) so it’s tough to tell what the whole experience will be like. I’ve noticed that with these networks you really have to get a lot of activity to see all the bells and whistles. This is along the lines of FriendFeed- a feed aggregator- or lifestream. Huge additional feature is the ability to post the status to all feeds like twitter, which you can’t do in FriendFeed. Commenting ability is limited here, more expanded on FriendFeed. Still, it’s in Beta. Neat feature: “voting” on feeds, which gives you an idea of the popularity of various social networks. See snippet.

Getting Splogged & Ethics

Friday, 25. April 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Talking with an affiliate marketer the other day, we discussed how there are just slimy people in this world, and namely, in our industry. At the MarketingSherpa conference in Miami a few months ago, I met an honest to god, real spammer. Basically- after a few comments, I knew for sure where his ethics lay.

I seriously considered in 2002 about getting out of permission marketing, because the slimy factor, for me at least, was too high. Then, as usual I found a group of neat people, a great client, a team of marketers and email folks that I really hummed with, and we set about doing some truly cool and fun initiatives.

Then, I got splogged yesterday- my content stolen and re-purposed on someone else’s web site- and it reminded me again that there are con artists, unethical folks, and generally clueless people in this industry (or sadly, trying to be in this industry!). As he says on his site, “2,000,000 emails an hour!”. Is that something to brag about- blasting out nameless, offer-free, un-rich emails per second?

So it brought up the issue of what is an ethical email marketer (besides respecting copyright laws!):

- Recognize the privacy of the consumer- analyze data on an aggregate, not on an individual level

- Maintain and respect unsubscription processes and individual acts

- Communicate with those that want the information: internally evangelize the concept of positive, response filtering so frequent and interested customers are a prioritiy in all communications

- Maintain proper data channels, and data flows, for the workings of all of the unsubscription paths. Keep a high level of integrity for the processes of unsubscription

- Respect local laws on Privacy, and moreso, improve and evangelize tighter and more respectful privacy policies

- Do not sell lists

- Evangelize behavioral vs. demographic targeting, list acquisition, data appends.

- Promote security internally with personal information- make sure that all CRM staff knows how to handle personal information, passwords, encryption, data transfer, and manage the prevention of any loss or theft of PII. This is ongoing and training is ongoing, as well.

- Recognize the copyright laws, and practice them in regards to stock content, user-generated content, and other content in the email creative.

- Provide multiple, and quick unsubscription paths for all communications

- Provide contact information on each email, available at any time.

- Retain control of all messages outgoing from the customer database, and branding, From address, basically all content and functionality in line with the communication strategy

- Educate marketers on what they can- and can’t- use from a privacy perspective

- Promote routine privacy policy emails to the base on usages, rights, and changes to the policy.

Corporate Blogs: How To

Saturday, 22. March 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Friend-of-a-friend last night, at a cafe after an industry event, talked about this post he’d written on ValleyWag. I clicked over this morning to check it out: Paul Boutin on How to Write a Company Blog (note: also on 3/20 NYTimes business section). He had heard of a “blog consultant” hired for lots of money, who was vague and incompetent. I too witnessed a company hire a person to write a blog, an effort that took months and amounted to nothing. This spurred him to write-up his own How-To on writing a successful blog. I agree with him on most of his points- great concise steps. He’s a journalist, but he’s done tech writing and blogging for years. Key points I took away:
- Look up facts- it takes more time, but it’s far more valuable than opinion
- Short, active sentences
- Unlearn traditional writing examples from business class, namely, presentation & inverted pyramid.

Give it a quick click through if you have a professional blog, or if you’re interested in blog writing.

Of course I disagree with Paul, usually on about 3 out of 5 of his points in most of his posts. Here, I disagree with:
- Opinions. God, that’s why I love to blog! I have strongly felt opinions about things and here I get to write about them unfettered. This post is usually far tamer- who can really get that excited about email marketing!- but my SF Metblogs posts are all rather flameworthy.
- Long posts. I think to truly explore a topic or question you need to write a bit. Sure, most long posts can be condensed, but I’m not writing for the scanner or easy grepper. My “10 images off” post is the most popular on here, and it runs pretty long. It just has to- it covers a lot of content.

Other resources:
- On my site: “Why Start A Professional Blog?”

Changes to Adventures

Tuesday, 04. March 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Small, but big to me. I added a “recent comments” section on the sidebar, and a “recommended reading,” with some of the top blogs that I read every day. I was asked a few times at the Email Summit how or why I knew someone, and realized I’m a pretty avid reader of blogs. Those blogs are ones that post frequently and link to me once in a while, and that’s since last year. I track about 30 email marketing, vendor, ESP, analyst, marketing, and email marketing blogs via BlogLines, an RSS aggregator.

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”

Adventures in Email Marketing Recognized in Top 20 List

Tuesday, 02. October 2007 by Anna Billstrom

Thanks Mark! This blog, Adventures in Email Marketing, was selected as one of the “Top 20 Email Marketing Information Resources.

I started this blog in March 2007, based on the advice of my friend and SEO expert, Andreas Ramos (position2). I wrote a post about starting the blog, of course, and here it is: “Why Start a Professional Blog?” In the post I present a few tips on how to make a successful blog. I think becoming part of this Top 20 list proves that post too! Being part of the email marketing blog community means more than just posting on topic. To me, it means continuing a kind of dialogue with other specialists that all have their unique points of view.

What People Read On Adventures in Email Marketing
- Review of 10 Emails With Images Off. Outlook announced it was suppressing images in January. In June, I found that most major emailers were still quite sloppy about designing for images-off.
- Creative Campaign Ideas. A quick review of my inbox and some emails of note that were beyond the usual email campaign ideas.
- Gmail and Email Marketing . How Gmail is a very, very stringent technical requirement for email design, and methods and techniques to get around it.

What I *Think* They Should Read
- Email Design for iPhones. Mobile mail has been difficult for a while now. With the spread of more iPhones, and the tough requirements of Gmail, I’ve noticed many issues that email marketers should consider to get this early adopter customer segment.
- Why Bulk is Bad. Companies still want to send big blasts to get the big money. What they’re missing out on is lower costs and even higher revenue percentages. This is the argument of why transactional emails are better than bulk, but seen from the bulk viewpoint.
- Splitting the Email System- Inhouse and Outsourced. A client wants to bring the entire outsourced email system inhouse. What I’m proposing is a mixed solution: inhouse and outsourced.

Other Blogs That Read Adventures in Email Marketing
MailChimp: An email provider down in Australia, MailChimp says it like it is. Their advice on email templates and deliverability is excellent.
Al Iverson at Exact Target Email Marketing Solutions . Another email vendor that gets to the nitty gritty on deliverability.
Mark Brownlow over at Email Marketing Reports, of course. I don’t know where Mark finds the time, but his blog is a great review of what’s going on in the space of email marketing blogs.
and Janine Popick over at Vertical Response. Jane’s also got a lot of great insights into the more marketing side of email marketing.

Email Marketing Blogs I Read
I subscribe to these blogs with Bloglines. If you don’t RSS already, you really should, it’s highly efficient.

Why Start a Professional Blog?

Friday, 06. July 2007 by Anna Billstrom

Despite having many blogs, I only recently started this professional blog. I was motivated after attending a seminar on SEO by a friend of mine who is an expert in SEO, Andreas Ramos. Before his talk, my sites were usually on the first search page of a relevant query. After his class I was either the first or second result. He doesn’t focus on tips & tricks, instead he helps you organize your information and target your audience, as well as understand the Google engines that determine search results. I started writing blog entries differently- but that’s a whole post in and of itself.

What led me to start a blog from that talk? I realized that educational content is key. Nobody decides to buy a coat, goes online and purchases one from a site. While that’s ideal, it’s rare. Instead they nose around, read blogs on coats, visit a few sites, or maybe even find a buyer’s guide. According to Andreas’ research, a user wasn’t prepared to buy until 3-5 searches. So the more you make your site have welcoming educational content, the more leverage you will have in a conversation with your customer. To get the customer to see you as a knowledgeable person enough to write a coat-buying guide, you had to earn a reputation. To achieve this, most specialists contributed freely to the area of their expertise.

I found that there were areas of my specialty that I went on and on about ad nauseum in meetings, so I started off with those. Of course when starting this blog, I had two conflicting thoughts: “I don’t have enough topics to write about! ” and “Oh there’s so much to write about, where do I begin?”

Recently, I was approached with some questions about what makes a good corporate blog. Since most of my experience is in non-corporate blogs, it’s a combination of Andreas’ SEO points, and good common sense from other blogs:

1. A central voice, by someone who enjoys writing, has a strong clear web style. Guest writers are fine, but the main writer should be comfortable expressing her opinion, be even-tempered and an engaging writer. People who feel easily frustrated by writing, no matter how specialized they are, will either stop posting, or their style will be stilted and not as effective.

2. Frequent editorial content. Nothing hurts a blog more than a month of silence, with a few quick posts, then another three week lag. I’m guilty of that on here, but I try to make a post a week, at least.

3. Networking with like-minded blogs and sites. Writing in a vacuum doesn’t help anyone. Reading, responding, and contributing with help or tips, or with ideas and encouragement to blog “neighbors” improves your credibility with Google and Technorati, as well as in the real world.

4. Reaching out to the customer base and creating interactivity. Contests, memes, open ended questions, responding to comments, all of these activities help embrace your audience and readership and shows that you’re listening, much like in the real world. Nobody likes a knowitall pontificator. Penelope Trunk does a great job of this on her very popular blog. Valleywag also responds on each other’s posts. Note, while this was a perceived earlier technique to rank higher in Technorati and Google, currently it doesn’t. Now it’s just seen for what it is- responding to other’s comments.

Side Benefits
A huge benefit to blogging for corporations is that they can easily leverage marketing content in RSS format. Users who prefer to subscribe via RSS are no longer left out in the cold. RSS subscriber numbers have been climbing steadily now, so as another channel for content, it should not be missed. See Pheedo for more info on RSS and marketing.

Blogging, because it is easily syndicated via RSS, is far more efficient than email. Instead of paying a vendor to email out 1M plus bulk campaigns, the blogger simply posts new content.

Metrics for blogs are improving vastly and in ways are better than emails- no need to worry about images-off issues with metrics and tracking, with blog views. RSS Aggregators like Bloglines are also enabling the blog host to see which and how many readers are viewing a blog, as well.

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