No man is an iland
OK, this is obviously good PR for the company behind it, who happen to offer email security products. But...what a nice little website.
For those curious about spam, where it comes from and through which enslaved computers, here's a collection of constantly-updated charts and maps to warm your souls.
You can see, for example, a heat map of the world based on spam sent - no prizes for guessing which country is the hottest source of spam.
Dig further for more spam tidbits and information on various email senders.
Goodness, a sane article on email and RSS from a marketing perspective.
Rok Hrastnik does two jobs with this article. First he dissects the semantics of the situation, differentiating between content and how it's delivered, and thus explaining the relationships between email, RSS, blogs and e-newsletters.
Then he offers up a collection of ideas as to how you might use RSS and email marketing as complementary marketing tactics.
Jeanne Jennings puts her finger on the heart of the email marketing debate. If you believe (like me) that opt-in, ethical email marketing is the way to build success and brands, then that policy needs consistent application.
Jeanne points out situations where marketers and companies apply their opt-in rule selectively, which often leads to trouble, expense, bad PR and disgruntled customers.
Denise Cox throws out some suggestions on how to answer the age old question of newsletter length.
She uses ideas about people's reading and clicking behavior to suggest what might work best in the context of your needs.
There's always the option of asking readers what they'd prefer, too.
Senators Brett Davis and Ted Kanavas have put forward a Can-Spam bill for Wisconsin. Given my ignorance of all things legislative at state level, I have no idea whether this is just PR or will actually get passed into law.
Interesting to note though that it proposes banning "the manufacturing, sale, or marketing of software that can be used for the purpose of 'farming' e-mail addresses" (presumebly meaning extractor software, but might some legitimate email tools fall under this?).
It also includes a provision granting legal immunity to ISPs who "in good faith, block legitimate e-mails in their effort to block SPAM."
Those keeping an eye on developments at the big providers of email addresses should note that Gmail - Google's free web-based email service - left beta last week and opened up to everyone. Well, sort of.
To activate an account you need to have a US mobile phone number to receive the relevant invitation code. This process is to stop spammers from grabbing multiple accounts. Other countries are set to follow shortly.
So if you never had the chance to set up a test account there before, now you can (if you have the right phone). Then you can see all the wonderful things the interface does to your carefully crafted HTML email promotions.
I spent some part of last week failing to get to grips with the key email authentication technologies. Anyway, as luck would have it, the folks at eNewsletter journal pointed me at this useful reference site about one such technology.
Hosted By Microsoft, the prime drivers behind Sender ID, it has a range of information, as well as pointers to a couple of useful tools for marketers trying to understand how to adapt.
Al DiGuido is erupting with optimism in this article. Looking forward to a bright and bold future, he highlights various ideas and practices that are already taking email marketing to a better place.
It's not just about how to boost responses to promotions, either. He also preaches the holistic bible - that email is a much more flexible tool that should be used in more innovative ways than just point and press marketing.
One nice idea he cites, for example, is sending people a copy of their live chat conversation with customer service via email.
The results of a recent survey suggest that a third of the UK's top B2C companies aren't complying with UK (EU) anti-spam legislation.
Now, the survey was done by a database management company and I don't know the methodology used. But clearly a significant number of large professional corporate marketing departments aren't obeying the law.
I don't get this.
The legislation was in place December 2003. It was all over the marketing news. How long does it take to comply? And if the marketing cream aren't upholding basic email privacy requirements, what are the marketing non-cream doing?
Just like with the FTC survey that found many net retailers failing to observe the (frankly lax) Can-Spam requirements, you have to ask whether we have any right to moan about spammers and the collateral damage caused to legitimate email by anti-spam efforts and mechanisms.
"Physician heal thyself", to quote a religious source.
The more crappy unwanted commercial email gets sent to people, the harder it is to get people to respond to any commercial email.
Goose. Golden. Egg.
Karen Gedney gathers together a pick'n'mix selection of ideas for improving your email marketing results, based on past columns and current thought. Everything from vendor selection to copywriting approaches.
Must be some things in there for you to mull over, adapt or implement.
She also puts out a call for examples and case studies, so perhaps a PR opportunity for you there...
Corporate blogs are sprouting up like snowdrops in spring. And here's one from Janine Popick, the co-founder and CEO of email service provider VerticalResponse.
It's new, but so far it looks to be a mix of case studies and advice, with a little flavoring of company PR in there.
For more email marketing blogs, check this list.
And since we're on the subject, things may get a touch quiet round here as I seek to convert from one blog software to another. Wish me luck.
Allow me to drift marginally off-topic and point you to this interview with Chris Maher.
He argues essentially that marketers and advertisers need to take a look at themselves and question their role in the complex structure that is the world around us.
If nothing else, it's always inspiring to read measured words from those whose reading isn't limited to the business weeklies.
I won't trouble you with my own philosophical slant on life, love and banner ads, but there is a reason why this particular blog is called "No man is an iland."
Kevin George of Quris reviews the state of the spam situation from the viewpoint of large corporations.
After considering the present and future of Can-Spam legislation, he looks at the status of authentication and accreditation efforts.
He finishes with some advice on what the Fortune 1000 can do to help defeat spam and improve their own email marketing results in the process.
This EmailSherpa article looks at ways to make better use of a B2B house list.
Rather than take the traditional periodic newsletter approach, Smith Content got a little more sophisticated, using various email approaches to different segments with different goals.
Wendy Roth of Lyris runs over some bounce basics - what are they? What are the different types? And what useful information do they tell you?
She also addresses various deliverability scenarios, such as when perfect delivery suggests you actually have a problem on your hands.
A view from Microsoft on New Zealand's new spam legislation, which requires commercial mailing lists to be opt-in only.
The article centers around proving (or not) whether existing addresses on your list are permission-based, and the need for more clarity on the role of pre-existing business relationships.
One argument put forward is that if you go back to an old list to confirm permission, you'll lose a lot of names.
For which the counter-argument might be that if they're not confirming their interest, then they're probably not that valuable to you anyway.
If they can't be bothered to confirm the opt-in, they're unlikely to be opening, reading and responding to your emails.
Brian Quinton talks with Pivotal Veracity's Deirdre Bird, who reveals detailed criteria for choosing an email service provider based on their ability to ensure the best delivery rates for your emails.
It's pretty strict stuff - I'm not sure that very many ESPs would satisfy all the requirements.
As well as stating what you look for, Bird also explains the whys and wherefores of the selection criteria. So the article has a strong educational value in its own right.
Not to mention it will fray a few nerves at your service provider when you wave the article in their face.
Linda Schumacher offers up some suggestions for getting more people to sign-up to your house list, and for ensuring those addresses are of the highest quality.
Some basic best practices to use as a checklist for your current and future efforts.
Well, it's not like anyone expected anything different to come out of this study by JupiterResearch. No doubt you're not falling off your chair with shock.
Setting aside the cynicism, this press release has some useful numbers and insights to wave at skeptical bosses about the likely revenue and profit benefits of moving your email marketing efforts to a higher level.
This survey by Nielsen/NetRatings confirms that RSS has potential, but is still not ready for the big time.
Of those individuals who actually read blogs, just over 11% use RSS to do so, in one form or another.
The remaining 89% don't. And almost two thirds of blog users either never heard of RSS or heard of it but don't know what it means.
Given that blog readers themselves are a small proportion of total Internet users and you understand the comments about not being ready for the big time.
Brian Livingston really doesn't like the new laws in Utah and Michigan. In his latest article on the subject, he finds more ways they might be counterproductive and actually hurt those they're trying to protect.
He also talks with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who intend to launch a legal challenge to the laws. Businesses troubled by the new and costly requirements for compliance should pay close attention.
Jeanne Jennings takes a hard look at the practice of email appending. After defining what it is, she tackles two key questions:
1. Which of the two varieties of appended address lists make the most sense?
2. Does email appending per se make sense?
It's an interesting read, not least because it shows just how important it is to crunch all the numbers and consider all the alternatives and scenarios before reaching decisions.
Steve Spencer explains how the new Utah and Michigan email laws work and why they're likely to cause more problems than they solve.
As well as the usual arguments about punishing legitimate marketers, Spencer raises another issue: data protection.
Two metrics to have in your reports are churn and fatigue. Loren McDonald of EmailLabs defines them, shows how you calculate them, gives some benchmark estimates of what to expect, and then offers up some advice on how to improve the numbers.
Churn refers to the gradual loss of subscribers through unsubscribes, hard bounces etc. Fatigue refers to declining response rates, largely through increases in subscriber inactivity.
Derek Harding discusses how various organizations use special email addresses to find out who is sending unsolicited email. (The addresses are never knowingly signed-up to anything, so the theory is that any email they get must be spam).
He offers advice on how to avoid getting one of these addresses subscribed to your own list, and what to do if for some reason you have got one in there (other than panic).
A new service involving a bunch of big email marketing players offers an independent audit of your email deliverability practices and results.
Even if you don't plump for the audit, which looks to cost in the low four figures, there's lots of indirect info here about the kind of things you need to consider when it comes to lifting delivery rates.
Although the article reads a little like an ad for a South African email service provider, it offers a nice overview of the deliverability problems and pitfalls faced by marketers.
It also runs through some of the vocabulary used...words like greylisting, tarpitting and throttling. The latter two are what your boss does to you when your open rates fall below 30%.
Karen Gedney reports on a very simple email promoting two specialist events for technologists.
At first glance, it seems ludicrously plain, but a closer look reveals some useful insights and suggestions, particularly with regard to B2B event marketing.
Horses for courses. There are no silver bullets that work everywhere - it's about finding the right approach for a specific audience.
It's not all bad news on the spam front. Both AOL and Microsoft are going after spammers in the courts, taking their assets and then using the gains for relatively good purposes.
In AOL's case, giving their members a chance to win confiscated gold and cars. In Microsoft's case, giving money away to community projects.
The Economist.com has an overview of the past and present spam situation. The article outlines the problem, traces the impact (or lack of impact) of legislation and reports on some legal victories by the likes of Microsoft.
Funny world though when spammers get more jail time than rapists.
If you can say no to the inevitable RSS Kool-Aid, Bill Flitter begins a nice overview of the practice and potential of RSS advertising.
In this first article, he sets out the background to RSS and its immense potential.
Jeanniey Mullen takes a fresh angle on asking sign-ups to self-select the content they require.
Traditionally, recipients receive either whatever email content marketers choose to put in their subscription. Or they receive content related to whatever choices they made on sign-up.
This situation gets more complex as marketers use click tracking and other metrics to segment their audience and refine content based on past behavior.
Jeanniey opens up a debate on giving subscribers control over the content they get. Interests change - how do you deal with that in the context of giving subscribers control? Can you rely on the subscriber communicating interest changes themselves (probably not)? Interesting topic...
Here's a scan of the form part of a "Sign-up for our newsletter" postcard distributed at the checkout of one of my local furniture stores:
Spot the problem? The amount of space available to handwrite an email address is way too small; 4 cm or about 1.5 inches. I bet they have a high percentage of bad addresses once someone transcribes these into a PC.
A great tip I got from a marketer at hotel chain Affinia a while back was to include boxes (one box per letter) on the email address entry line to cut out transcription errors.
A key court ruling in the USA which implies that ISPs and similar organizations (like a university in this case) can enforce their own anti-spam filtering, even if the emails subsequently blocked conform with Can-Spam.
The important point (and reminder) here is that compliance with Can-Spam is not enough. Again: complying with Can-Spam makes an email legal, but doesn't get you close to the kind of list management best practices that help ensure your mail gets delivered and past anti-spam filters and blocks.
Not to mention read and welcomed by recipients.
One of the biggest problems cited by email marketers has nothing to do with the emails, delivery or customer response, but all to do with getting decent levels of support and interest from senior management. Hence this cartoon.
In this article, Karen Bannan gets a couple of execs to provide some handy tips on how to get visibility and buy-in for your efforts from CMOs and CEOs.
The folks from vendor Return Path offer up a simple list of potential problems identified through an analysis of your metrics, such as low open rates, or high clickthroughs but poor purchase numbers.
For each problem, they list one or more possible issues which might explain the trouble, for you to explore and deal with as necessary.
Bill Nussey continues his one-man crusade to drive email marketing onward and forward.
In this article, he essentially describes how gaining permission is just the starting precondition for modern email marketing.
We should now be aiming higher - at building what he calls email brand value, based on a holistic, strategic view of email marketing as more than just a series of standalone campaigns.
That means engaging the customer through appropriate targeting and relevancy. Hear, hear.
If you want a checklist of things to do to improve your deliverability, this is pretty much it. A whole host of tips, suggestions and recommendations from Kirill Popov and Loren McDonald.
They cover such issues as permission practices, W3 standards compliance, list hygiene, ISP relationships, identity and reputation management, certification, testing and more.
A look at how a tea retailer went about creating a successful e-newsletter and building a list.
There's a nice bit about how they actually let subscribers determine the newsletter's contents. And important anecdotes about the difference between online and offline customers, and how this affects your approach to email content.
And since we're on the topic (see below post), Jeanne Jennings has her own selection of tips and reminders to improve the value you (and your subscribers) get out of the list welcome message.
Welcome messages are low-hanging fruit, one of the elements of an email marketing strategy that often gets overlooked in the search for bountiful segmentation and other techniques. Spare some time to take another peek at those automated list management emails.
Nick Usborne is a name synonymous with (copy)writing for an online audience. In this article, he bemoans the fact that too many people think the "auto" part of autoresponder applies to the tone of the message rather than the means of delivery.
He then goes on to offer several tips to breathe life (and success) into these kinds of sequential emails. Particularly useful for those list confirmation and welcome messages...
Instead of taking pre-paid orders for temporarily unavailable products, eHobbies tried an alternative. They don't take the pre-order, but invite people to sign up for an email alert that goes out when the item is in stock.
As soon as the warehouse receives new inventory, this triggers an appropriate alert to go out immediately to relevant customers.
The article reports on the results and includes various insights about likely conversions, customer satisfaction issues (the main driver behind the change), benefits regarding supplier relationships and when not to use this approach.
This all fits in nicely with the idea of action-driven email marketing, as opposed to campaign-driven email marketing.
Brian Livingston follows-up his previous article on new email marketing laws in Michigan and Utah with a further assault on the underlying premise of the legislation.
As well as reinforcing his earlier criticisms, he also highlights the likely (high) costs to legitimate email marketers and reports on a teleseminar held on the topic by the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy.
Since the potential financial burden involved with compliance is so high, I'm sure we'll hear much more on this.
The case study essentially promotes a new vendor service, but I can forgive that since it's an interesting and innovative one, namely image personalization.
What that means is that images in the body of an email can be personalized just like the opening text salutation. So a photo of candy hearts, for example, includes one with the recipient's name on it.
The clever technology to produce personalized images on-the-fly is definitely worth a look and some creative thought. Only addendum would be to remember to design the emails to work for those who won't see images in their email client, as is increasingly the case. Very cool, though.
The FTC drew up a list of 100 top retailers on the Internet, signed up for their email offerings, waited a bit, unsubscribed and then waited to see if they still got any email.
The results? 89% of retailers complied fully with the unsubscribe requests. This is described as a positive result by the FTC.
So 11% of top e-tailers still aren't fully obeying unsubscribe requests?
Given months and months of coverage and hoohah about Can-Spam, not to say email marketing best practices, I'd rate 11% as pretty disappointing.
Especially when you think of all the not-so-top retailers likely even less clued in to legislative requirements and the nuances of permission-based marketing.
Maybe before we complain about spammers, we should get our own houses in order.
This article looks at how legislation has added constraint on constraint to mass marketing and is forcing marketers to be more sophisticated, selective and relevant.
Included in the analysis is a look at the impacts of Can-Spam, with the general tenor of the article being that legal compliance is akin to applying basic best practices, and thus no bad thing really.
(Notwithstanding the occasional problem with legitimate marketers suffering from legal constraints because of ignorance, ineptitude or pure misfortune.)
A super article for the creative types. Author Mark Wyner goes into loving detail to describe his technique for ensuring the integrity of his HTML email designs based on CSS style tags.
He also describes the idiosyncracies (when it comes to handling CSS tags in HTML emails) of various email clients and web-based email systems like Gmail and Yahoo.
Excellent information for those looking to create nice-looking emails that look good across different clients and applications.
UK consumer survey with insights into what people don't like in emails. Perhaps some implications for customer service and transactional emails in particular?
Seems it's probably not a good idea to end your order confirmation mails with a few kisses in a pink font.