Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Letters: Salesforce, fundraising tip & transactional messaging

Tuesday, 31. March 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Questions from the overflowing mailbag…

Changes in requests from different people in our team means different database structure (and this tidbit: Salesforce doesn’t allow outer joins!).- friend at dinner tonight

That sucks. Beyond a redesign (on MySql) and an ad-hoc query software, I don’t know what to tell you but this is the 4th non-profit I’ve heard of who has taken advantage of Salesforce’s 10K free-to-non-profits deal, and subsequently been bitten somewhere in the a$$ by restrictions. Note, negotiating is not dead with some of the smaller end ESPs, and it’s never too late to relocate your mail services.

Why doesn’t anyone write about trigger/transactional emails anymore? – Ben at MailChimp
Personally, I’ve never understood those fickle bloggers. Is it not discussed because it’s not sexy? Because its old news? Because nobody asks (I really don’t think most marketing departments use them- prove me wrong). I think, for the audience, this is a battle in their workplace they are just tired of fighting (promotional vs. lifecycle). So, in arguing for more at your place of work, make the conversation about ‘lowering costs’ versus ‘revenue’ and you will win that argument.

How can I share this cool article about fundraising with email marketers…

From this twitter, started a covnersation with Tyler of Involver about how their tool works- you embed a little image of the video- but more importantly, there is a follow-up call to action after it plays, and deep links to the video for sharing, plus a little chiclet to share it out. Case study by a client at Stanford regarding its relevance to non-profit spheres, too. He saw a 23% lift in fundraising over the year, and 51% of it was online. Interesting (if long- scroll to end) post.

Tea party, or note card? Social Marketing & Email Newsletters

Tuesday, 17. March 2009 by Anna Billstrom

A colleague of mine recently was very excited because they were going to get a lot more hits on their blog. They were promoting it in an email newsletter. They had actually gotten the marketing department to agree to the first paragraph of the email and the subject line, for an advertisement of the blog. This was their third announcement of the blog, to lukewarm results. Initially a hundred or so hits on the blog (from 100K or so email list). And very few stuck around.

The problem, I see, is that beyond the initial announcement, and frequent mention saying “check out our blog,” there is no reason to have a goal of moving an email list to a blog reader list, or seeming to communicate that to your readers.

For example, your sister likes you to call her when you have news, your aunt likes a nice note card, while your grandmother would be perfectly happy if you saved it up for the monthly tea party. It’s the same news- that you’re imparting- but they all want to know in different ways. If you want the best results, you’ll cater to their preferences. The blog is just one way of communicating. It’s more like the tea party (than the notecard, or the phone call) to carry this metaphor out.

So, why are people not really sticking around on the blog, from the email list? Assume the blog is fine- the main problem I see, is that those people really like emails, not blogs. They’re getting invited to tea parties, when they’d rather just get a notecard in the mail.

What you want to do is get NEW people to the tea party that are ALREADY into tea parties. Viral, social marketing – what I call “community work” – attracts those who are already into that method of communication. What you need to do is read other blogs, bring content to the attention of other readers (already into blogs), and promote on communities, thread discussions, social networks, etc., the cool content of this company. It’s a lot harder work than simply sending a note to your email list, over and over again, that there’s a blog. But the potential payoff is huge- a segment of new, interested prospects.

I see this on a larger scale- new technologies coming out, like Twitter- and marketing groups thinking they have to change or educate their existing mailing list. Mostly, because they had to train themselves. So, assume there is already a large segment of potential users who already understand this medium. Don’t take my word on it, check: and search for your brand.

Blogs can be simply another marketing channel, and the effort shouldn’t be to convert people to social media, but to find new customer segments, using social media.

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″

Why & How Regional Emails Work

Wednesday, 08. October 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Geographic email programs are very, very successful. They are difficult to get, as email marketers, since we can’t determine locale from email address. I’ve had discussions on discussions about matching an email list with ISP and there fore region, but the false-positives outweight the real positives. The old saw is, the massive amount of Vienna, Virginia folks who are AOL subscribers (and do not reside in Vienna). First, though, why is it worth the trouble, and lastly, how to determine geographical location.

What rocks about regional campaigns

As usual, don’t believe me, do your own test. Take a randomly selected control group, and then a targeted local group, and serve local content, and serve diffuse general content. You will see the response rate- opens, clicks, purchases- skyrocket in regional campaigns. Lately the Obama campaign has been regionally SMS’ing and emailing, anything from “call undecided states,” to “meet-up at Temple bar for the debates.” Past clients have further created regional relationships with other businesses to bring potential customers in the door with discounts, or invitationals.

I think regional works so much better than non-regional campaigns because, as consumers, we already have a host of relationships, impressions, and brand recognition with those regional businesses and locations. So when a new brand makes an association they can leverage off of all of those positive feelings, and one major feeling is trust. As all CRM customers know, if you can bring more trust into the relationship you are farther towards a successful one.

How to get Region?
This is tough data to get for an email marketer. Various methods of receiving region:
- Phone number is regionally located (see Obama SMS campaign for getting mine)
- Positive activity on regionally focused emails – you can provide an email campaign with a list of regions, and whoever clicks on X region can generally be considered interested in that region. Note, your email system has to be sophisticated enough to segment on clicked links.
- Asking for zip code (generally considered by consumers as less identifiable and easier to get) in a contest or just outright, for regional email messages
- Changing the online sign-up or registration information to get this initially

Last tip: Please put the region in the subject line. Show off that you know it, and that this email is tailored to the recipient!

Williams-Sonoma. They have targeted me as San Francisco Bay Area, but they neglected to put it in the subject line, which have really pushed me to open it.

(2076 unread) AT&T Yahoo! Mail, anna_billstrom
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Of course regional campaigns are a travel company’s baileywick, but even here they do a kind of silly goof:

(2074 unread) AT&T Yahoo! Mail, anna_billstrom
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

The Reminder Email: Does It Work?

Wednesday, 10. September 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Interesting post- worth the read- on MailChimp on how segmentation is helping, or hurting, the businesses that use their service for sending email. They did a broad study on the response rates of all of their customer’s campaigns that used segmentation, including logical filters using email readership behaviors, such as opens and reads. In the final paragraph, they reason most of the negative segmentation results are due to reminder emails:

Turns out the majority of users who had A.I.M. Reports [response filter] installed were not using it to send special emails to loyal subscribers (“segment based on those who opened my recent 3 campaigns”) but were using it to send follow-up campaigns to “those who did not open my last message.” This has been documented on email marketing sites as an extremely effective tactic to generate more bookings by hotels and event organizers (Marketingsherpa: Should You Re-Send Your Email Newsletter to Non-Openers?). But when you factor in how inherently inaccurate open rate tracking is, it’s understandable that some of these followup campaigns are perceived as pesky duplicates to some recipients.

Reminder emails are a common method of milking the most out of an offer. You didn’t buy it the first time around? We’ll send you three emails reminding you that the sale will end… OK it’s really going to end… You have one more day… OK we’re extending it another day… as you can see this becomes tiresome to the customer and, as MailChimp saw, despite having nice targeted segments of relevant customers, they end up unsubscribing.

What’s wrong with a reminder?
- Extensions undermine any future messaging or urgency, customer wise up to the fake deadlines
- Meaningless reminders end up being nagging- keep it to one or two
- No rationale as to why the customer is being targeted, they don’t know why, which leads them to conclude that it’s spam and untargeted, and they unsubscribe
- Over-re-cycled content sets a precedent for cheap, uninformative content

What can you do?
Write meaningful subject lines that inform the customer where they are in the series:
1) New Sale in X Days
2) Reminder: Sale ending
3) Final Reminder

Keep the reminders at a minimum- one or two, with a final check-in that is truly a final goodbye.

Let the customer know where they are in the series. Series can be very useful and have great results, but you have to let the customer know that you’re not mindlessly re-sending the list the same copy.

Make the segmentation transparent: You can say, “You didn’t open the last- here’s a reason to open this one,” use your segmentation logic in the subject line. eHarmony did this very well recently to me, with a note from the marketing director. It was a simple text email with a subject line, “You haven’t read our emails lately…”

Personally I’m not a fan of reminders, I think they’re lazy and increase unsubscriptions. I am a fan of series emails, albeit done well. It takes more work, but it’s very effective and improves the conversation between the customer and the marketer.

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.

Learning From Success

Saturday, 24. May 2008 by Anna Billstrom

I know I’m rather negativee in this blog, and tend to harp on problems in emails I get. In reality it’s easier for me to learn from mistakes than successes. But I’ve been wanting to write about an email campaign success story, and how we think it became a success.

Unfortunately, for competitive reasons I can’t write about the minute details of the campaign or reproduce it here, but I can talk generally about it- and in reality that is more applicable to companies in how they’d apply it to their own goals.

In summary, we sent out a monthly campaign that had no offer in it, and it netted more revenue than three other offer-centered campaigns. It had the same list size, same creative resources, same level of skill (team-wise) as the offer-focused emails. What as the difference? We tapped into the core of our audience’s engagement with our company, and highlighted user-generated content, and in that way our conversation was more meaningful, resulting in more opens, more clicks, more visits to our site and more purchases. The message was simple, well-executed, above-the-fold, and direct.

My colleague used to work in Customer Service, so it was easy for him to craft a message that spoke to the customer base, as he had hands-on experience talking to them every day! His email went out each month, and on the third month, the one that got us *tons* of clicks and opens, he asked for user submissions. So user-generated content was one of the many factors that we attribute to why this email created such a stir.

This segues, for me at least, into how essential it is to engage the customer, and use email as a highlighter of sorts, to focus and complement the user base. We speak from the pulpit all the time, but once in a while, hand it over to the users.

Another factor is that by highlighting the nature of the company, and how it engages with the customer, we impressed upon the audience how meaningful the relationship was, which spurred activity and purchases on the site. Offer-based emails and direct calls to purchase work with some segments, but other segments respond to deeper connections. I don’t think marketers- at least the emails I see in my inbox- address enough this larger, sleeping giant of a segment.

Getting Started in Segmentation, It’s Not Just RFM

Tuesday, 22. April 2008 by Anna Billstrom

A snippet from an article I wrote on MarketingProfs:

You may or may not be using the basic segmentation strategy of RFM (recency, frequency, monetary)—that is, dividing your mailing list into a few buckets based on recency in ordering or visitation to the site, the number of times they’ve ordered or visited the site, and the lifetime spend.

My issue with RFM models is that I would instead like to see each threshold between activity, and tweak it on an ongoing basis. That’s the joy of email marketing, it’s all so available and adjustable, and in real time.

The article, on MarketingProfs.

Celtics: Winning With Segmentation, Multi-Channel, Series Campaign

Tuesday, 26. February 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Just when I thought this conference (MarketingSherpa Email Summit) was too lightweight, I stepped into a great talk- a little misnamed, but regardless- very interesting. Matt Griffin, director, sales & marketing of the Boston Celtics, talked about targeted messages and a series, multi-channel campaign that really has no need for improvement (despite his own admission, see end of post).

Roughly, they have 3500 unsold tickets and have 30 days until the game commenced. They designed a series of emails to sell through in aggressive campaign.

Some high level marketing aspects of the Celtics: they have a regional marketing focus– around New England, 75 mile radius around stadium. Their profit, as tenants, is mainly around perishable, event-based items (tickets) and sponsorships- nothing else, no parking or concessions. This is a major reason why pushing to sell out games is so important. 80% of the tickets are sold online, which is quite a flip from 10 yrs ago, when it was 20%. They focus on the impulse buy.

Some more breakdowns, just in a bullet form, for their marketing, and knowledge of their customers:

  • Very emotional customer target/segment
  • Very broad demographic appeal
  • Varied reasons customers come to the game
  • Pre-defined customer clusters, clickthrough behavior is segmented out, pre-defined
  • 800,000 price points – every seat has a different value that fluctuates day to day, email marketing tests and probes price tests
  • Reacting quickly (from the click traffic) helps with the quickly shifting win/lose season with the team

I asked him about static segmentation versus dynamic. I wouldn’t think pre-defined was something to brag about. I pride one of my clients on their ability to shift around their segmentation as much as they want. He said that they shift it around every year based on statistical reports and that is usually enough, he’s found.

The case study he talked about was the 12/15/07 game against Denver Nuggets, holiday season meant not a full house, so they identified the open seats, which were in the upper balcony/loge, and then designed a 2-phase multichannel email campaign.

First phase was a targeted email to pre-determined clusters, to sell the large blocks & balcony, which are great for a group sale. Various sampling of targets were:

  • Every customer who had bought on same night as this game, Friday, which is basing it on purchase time and date
  • College domains
  • Special family offer to customers with children- Offer was hot dog + soda, drop price, create a package,
  • Anyone in past who had bought,
  • Target against key players’ alma maters such as Syracuse, alma mater of Carmelo, U-Mass, which is the alma mater of Marcus Canby, etc.
  • Survey takers got an offer, contact-us offer ticket;
  • And almost all service outbound tickets had specific Denver offers.

All in all, there were 24-36 distinct offers created for filling the stadium for this Denver game, most based on the segment and data points for each demographic.

Phase 2: Clicker conversions, multichannel. They generate a a “click list”- all of the customers that had clicked on links regarding the game, but had not purchased, and issue that list to telemarketing group. These are highly effective list calls, the sales people really like it, salesperson has the entire list available to them, on the phone, they can re-offer better offers or seats, or determine reason and follow-up or store the reason for refusal. ROI is better than email on follow-up phone calls. I asked him whether they store those responses for analysis, he answered they do, and I think that is a real key to evaluating offers and campaigns. Very impressive data capture.

The result of this effort? It was a sell-out game, Pierce told the marketing group that “the crowd really carried us,” which is something “us marketing folks feel good abou.” Score: 119-114, and it was the best game of year for this team.

Phase 3, was to follow up on the attendees, selling 6-game package, season passes and merchandise.

These series generated over 2x over standard email campaigns. Because this kind of sales drive was a near sellout, the initiative has become standard with for games with same ticket buying standards. In the league they are the best practice at doing this, Cllick Tactics is the partner.

Questions from the audience…

Q: How do you manage contact frequency, is hitting them every game? Also merchandising, surprised you weren’t doing that earlier.

A: how do we avoid email fatigue? only send out 1/4 the database, and rotate, so not more htan 2 a month from us (wow, very infrequent) learning from 2 years ago, when we “carpet-bombed”, and our consumers were getting to coupon-hunters, offer-hunting, so not conditioned to keep waiting for them

Q:Why are you not focusing on merchandise, thought that would have been done already.
A: We’re trying to get premium packages and merchandise, jersey, playoff-strip, trying to get more than face-value.

Q: Clicker-non-converters, how do you follow up with them, if you do?
A: People who click and don’t purchase, less effective leads than non-click/non-purchase leads, strangely enough. I’ve tested, and that’s how it turned out.

Q: (my questions!) Do you store the refusals from telemarketing? What CRM package do you use? And, why not do dynamic segmentation?
a: Yes, we store the refusal in database. We found that we don’t have to analyze that frequently, once a year is enough. And Archtics (from TicketMaster) is the CRM package (from the ticketing sales system).

Q: I’m a season holder, and very happy with the programs.
A: You shouldn’t have received any emails last year, we suppressed you!

Demographic Append via Targeted Content

Saturday, 09. February 2008 by Anna Billstrom

I’ve had this brilliant idea for months now (pat self on back) but have yet to test it out. Basically- instead of hiring outside data vendors to append data to your internal database, let the audience self-select. Target a random sample percentage of your database, and email a specific targeted content. For one client, who thinks that the senior citizen demographic may be a lucrative segment of their population, they could send grandparent-specific content, then based on the opens and clicks for that email, identify that group as “interested in grandparent content”- if not grandparents themselves.

One client did this on mother’s day and saw a significant boost in opens and clicks. This technique is great if you don’t have a lot of data- mainly for retailers, and online brick and mortar. Keep the history of your campaigns, and segment out those active responders from previous, similar campaigns into one segment. Add a new random sample (to continue the targeting). Remember to use this segmentation next time you run a similar campaign.

Respondants from 2007 Grandparent Content Campaign 10,000
Random sample of database- for further demographic profiling 5,000 Total for this campaign: 15,000

Let’s say 700 folks open or click from the new segment- next time you run the campaign:

Respondants from previous campaigns 10,700
Random sample from database- for further demographic profiling 5,000
Total for this campaign: 15,700

And so on.

You can even literally append the data to your database by creating a table of customers, and their respondant interests.

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