Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Double Opt-In

Wednesday, 27. August 2008 by Anna Billstrom

In a comment thread on The Email Wars- a little tiff happened about double opt-in compared to confirmation emails. This may just be my opinion, but I consider a set of confirmations a double opt-in process.
1- user submits their name and email address in a form on a site or via mailing list subscription method (unconfirmed opt-in)
2a- user gets, at the submitted email address, an email confirming the subscription, with a method to unsubscribe. (confirmed opt-in)
2b- user will not get any email unless they respond again with a subscription request, or click on a subscription URL, or otherwise twice ask for the subscription. (double opt-in)

With option 2a, I call this “opt-in with confirmation” and 2b is “double opt-in,” because it requires the user to ask twice. 2a just informs the user, with a method to unsubscribe if someone as a prank signed you up without your knowledge.

The Obama campaign did not offer an optin with confirmation nor a double opt-in, which has caused all kinds of ruckus in the email marketing world. Whether it’s enough to be called “stupid” or not, is up for debate.

What gets me about the Obama email campaign is that the optin-list of subscribers was handed over to Biden without an opt-in.

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!

Encoding Images vs. Linking Images

Thursday, 10. July 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Great test & article by Ron on Email Marketer’s Club, Tamara Gielen’s community for Email Experts (join!).

He did some tests on whether encoding- including the image source in an email using base 64- would avoid the image blocking of popular email clients. The result? They are still blocked.

I’ve heard this solution for years now, on various comments on blogs. I’ve never recommended it. I have an unproven suspicion report from Ron, below in the comments, that it increases the file size, which sets off all of these spam alarm flags, and makes it inconvenient for your subscriber base. I also don’t recommend crafty technical tricks to avoid spam filters.

MLMs and Social Marketing

Monday, 23. June 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Funny post the other day about social marketing gone wrong- the impending doom of a medium because (gasp!) marketers have taken it over. Funny man Duncan Riley: Pending Sign of the Twitter Apocalypse.. It’s Being Talked About by Internet Marketers.

To me, John Reese is giving internet marketing a bad name, that of MLMs! Multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes are created by selling the ‘starter kit’ instead of a real product. They’re self-referentially successful. This article, and his example, expressly says that his formula works, but you have to “add him.” Essentially, a Ponzi scheme.

Don’t blame the medium, though, or the industry of marketing. I’ve found Twitter to be a great profesisonal tool in the tiny niche of email marketing. I get to chat with other email marketers, mostly logistics on when they’re visiting town. Plurk, FriendFeed, Plaxo and LinkedIn- Facebook & Last.FM- on and on- they all serve different purposes.

The methods suggested by John Reese are *not recommended.* They’re right up there with buying email lists, sending untargeted bulk email promotions, and other bad email marketing practices. The social marketing I hold up as a poster child: target your specific clique or social demographic and join the social network, and provide something of use. Adding 1,000 followers – unqualified, just numbers-game players- will not help your business. (Unless your business is… a MLM!)

Good example of social marketing done right: creating a giveaway, finding folks who might be interested (targeted, opt-in list), and building a list of interested folks in your giveaway/product, etc. A DJ friend of mine did this recently on her newsletter- she gave away a mixed track on iTunes, and then I forwarded that download- those that like her, and like DJ music, will use social media networks to “follow” her on Twitter and join the cliquey community. Not to just increase her numbers for no point at all.

Note: To give him credit, John Reese has posted a rebuttal to the Inquisitr & Mashable posts. In reading it, though, I don’t see much defeating my claims that he’s advising creating a Twitter account to buffet his own account, which I see as the definition of MLM. Still, for a well-rounded read, check it out. Wake Up Call Web 2.0 Wouldn’t Exist Without Internet Marketers

Political Campaigns… Doing It Right

Monday, 02. June 2008 by Anna Billstrom

One of my friends, Greg Dewar, a political consultant, who is currently integrating social networking in campaigns, commented on my post regarding Political Spam, in his post, Email Spam From Campaigns in Full Force:

Political campaigns need to resist the urge to blast out lots of crappy emails just because it’s easy or free. Spamming people is a sure-fire way to piss off voters, and mealy mouthed justifications about how the CAN SPAM act doesn’t apply to ‘em just makes people even more pissed off.

Instead, it’s better to use online social networks, such as Facebook, to recruit supporters and communicate with them, and allow them to opt in to online communications. Everyone’s happy and no one gets spammed!

Right on- not only is CAN SPAM a courtesy to your constituents, but leveraging social networks as an acquisition channel is a gimme for politicians, if done right.

Web 2.0 vs. Email: Unnecessary Anxiety

Thursday, 29. May 2008 by Anna Billstrom

So I’m reading Chad White’s post, Inbox Evolution May Force Facebook To Change Its Business Cards, and Morgan Stewart’s earlier post, Email Is Not Dead, But Preferences Need to Evolve, also, eMarketer’s What Is the Future of E-Mail?. I once again wonder: why is everyone in Email so concerned about social networks? It’s just not a big deal. Why do I think this?

Social networks *need* email. Like a drug. How do you register for them? Email. How do you get little notifications all day? Email. It’s the intermediary step between getting acquainted and total obsession with a social network: email.

The thing is that kids & web2.0 developers don’t think of it as “email,” they think of it like water, or air, or something they’ve always had and never appreciated. Sure, we may have seen an email usage trajectory going out the roof during the early oughts, and now it’s leveling, but I refuse to be all doom & gloom about the future of email. Every time I sign up for a new social site, or sit in a meeting with Web 2.0 developers and talk about functional features, email is a requirement.

Alternatives: Sure, we’d all like RSS to be the default newsletter delivery mechanism, but for most users it’s just not there yet. And even if it was, it’s not going to be the end-all that email is. Email is- like the college kid said in the Email Insider talk, “Free,” and limitless, moreso than SMS. SMS, even twitter, with its word length and quirks, just aren’t going to replace the foundation that has been set with email. It’s creating new users, it’s branching out in new ways to communicate, but it’s not wholly supplanting.

If we’re searching around for a fear, let’s think of this: is email messaging turning into a functional, transactional realm? Are the long conversations and threads gone? If standardization happens, which I hope it does, I bet a lot of HTML and image support will be further downgraded. We may have to re-conceptualize the goals of email based on its accepted use.

Images Off Justification

Thursday, 27. March 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Why focus on it? I’ve dedicated a lot of bandwidth to the issues of designing for images-off. I was delighted to read today an article by Mark Brownlow- a great round-up – in which he mentions that a MarketingSherpa case study that shows with proper images-off design technique, said company recognized *four times more* revenue.

I did an analysis for one of my clients that reavealed: 11% of the click records were from images-off viewers, from a single email drop. That means: the recipients clicked through, even though they didn’t see the images.* That is a very significant percentage to me- and it was a promotional, weekly message, not an introductory message, which you can guarantee, always has images suppressed. To put it into scope, for that campaign they had a 2% of delivered purchased, so 10% of clicks being non-images was very important to them. Also, 10% represented their Gmail population, 10% represented a significant boost in revenue if they catered more to this target demographic. AOL is a smaller percentage, but this client dedicated serious resources to getting deliverability issues resolved. The most impressive response I got on the “11%” number, though, was from the creative group. Used to publication and prints- as Mark mentions- image heavy content is required. So finding out that the consumers were compelled by offer alone really hit home.

* Question that metric? This is how I did it. Take your clicks records, and re-query the database and find out if they have an open record. If they don’t, this is your non-open clicks, and represents the percentage of your campaign target that opened by only seeing the images-off version of your creative.

Web 2.0 and Email: A Case of Denial

Friday, 07. March 2008 by Anna Billstrom

From eROI‘s Dylan Boyd, this great writeup: Your Inbox Management Issues. A little background, Michael Arrington on TechCrunch wrote about a talk at FOWA, the Future of Web Apps (in Miami right after I was at EmailSummit), where a bunch of smart developers & founders in the Web 2.0 world- Kevin Rose of DIGG and Matt Mullenwag of WordPress, were a few I recognized, got down and dirty on building a quick new web app that would change their life.

So, what application did they decide to build in 40 minutes? An inbox reader. Their solution is that it would tell friends exactly how much you have and how much you’ve read. From Dylan:

So when you got a bunch of really smart people in a room and gave them 40 minutes to come up with a new life changing application, it was funny that they focused on inbox management.

The irony too, for me, is that FOWA and web 2.0 apps have actually increased my inbox problem. I’m constantly deleting Facebook emails. I took a snapshot of my eHarmony situation- 7 emails a day. So for these futurist developers to start screaming about inbox issues is funny to me- stop oversending! Think of contact frequency! Of course, these are the guys that developed twitter, my favorite whipping boy.

More irony is that when I talk to Web 2.0 developers and business people about email marketing, they literally cringe. If I say “permission marketing,” they have very little understanding. I’ll always remember one editor of a web site on indie pop saying, “but do people really buy from email?” and then a light went off and she said, “I love my MINI! I buy accessories from email all the time.” When I discussed transactional email messaging, they got more excited, and through the conversation, I realized that using the common corporate terms for marketing would not work.

So we see Web 2.0 companies flounder in the email marketing world because of a huge case of denial that what they do is email marketing, and by implementing certain standards- like optin process (for Facebook)- they could avoid common pitfalls. But wait, is Web2.0 actually doing email marketing?

The difference in my mind between Web 2.0 email processes and traditional email marketing:
- web 2.0 emails are not salesy
- completely functional
- live/real time
- text-only
- part of a multi-channel approach including RSS, SMS
- usually notifications
- part of a functional request to receive email, not a global preference – far more specific than usual email preference centers

Here are some samples from my inbox
- Someone is following you on Twitter (the stalker note)
- Someone wrote you a note on Facebook
- Summarized google alerts from the entire day (a stored search on keywords)
- Your turn on Scrabble (You can select this for each game)
- Someone commented on a blog you are following (note: also available via RSS)
- “nudge” requests on Facebook
- Moderated comments in WordPress

You’re saying: wait, Anna, these are not marketing messages but parts of an application. Are they? Aren’t some goals of CRM groups to create stickiness and reasons to return to the site? Aren’t those the same goals- adoption and use- of most Web 2.0 sites?

I think the relationship between traditional email marketers and Web 2.0 developers can grow- much like SEO and application developers. We’ve learned things, and we can contribute, and they are showing us a part of the inbox that is wide open: very customized, transactional, personalized emails that give the consumer a lot more control- the what, when, and how- of the information they receive.

EmailSummit: Hallway Conversations

Thursday, 28. February 2008 by Anna Billstrom

First: click over to Tamara Gielen’s photoset on Flickr of conference photos. It was very fun meeting Tamara and putting a face to an online presence! She does a round-up of conference blog posts on her blog, BeRelevant!, if you want to read more.

You know the best bits of conferences (MarketingSherpa’s Email Summit 2008) are the random conversations you have in the hallway or the connections you make accidentally- who is in line behind you at the coffee urn, or stranded with you at the baggage terminal. Here are some highlights, and interesting too in a social science element of “what people are talking about.”

- Lively discussion with Stefan Pollard, all-around expert and writer for ClickZ (great post he wrote, recently here), about that lovely conversation you have with clients sometimes about why transactional emails and segmentation work. We were chastised for talking “about work” by the other email marketers at the table, but I really enjoyed talking with him, someone who I have loved reading online.

- Another lively discussion (see a pattern?) with a fellow- who I exchanged business cards with but can’t remember!- about the implementation of CAN-SPAM and changes in the industry, as well as my favorite topic, the “anti-click” metric, when you can track folks who click through an email with images off, as in, no open record is associated with the click record.

- As I’m getting out of the plane, notice another attendant and we start talking about their RFP, big ESP vendors in the space, and others corporations that were shuffling around getting dinners out (winner of the prize of expensive dinners that trip was a $2,000 one, including $60/ounce Kobe steak. Wow. I was not the diner in that scenario, needless to say. The best deal I saw was Little Havana beer & empanadas for 3 for under $20.)

- Conversation with Dell email marketer and presenter Elias Haslanger about images off, working with creative groups on the delicate balance of managing suppression and having a great looking email, and retail email design challenges as compared to other companies at the talk. Also, of course very happy that he used KodakGallery’s emails as an example of successful examples of how to manage email suppression.

- Ongoing conversations with presenters, vendors and colleagues about managing AOL users, sender reputation, and challenges in approaching and communicating with that segment.

- The Question & Answer periods of most conferences were some of the best content, and I tried to capture them in my recaps. Sorry for blogging so late- expect a few more coming out today! I’m really glad my mom taught me to type fast enough to simultaneously transcribe, only problem now is reading my shorthand speak!

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.

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