Archive for March, 2009

Learn The Rules… So You Can Break Them!

Friday, March 27th, 2009

We have all heard the phrase, “rules are meant to be broken,” right? Well, in some cases, rules really are meant to be broken. In the previous two newsletters, we gave you some rules that are generally applied to email marketing. But, are there any exceptions to those rules? When is it a good idea to follow your own instincts? As a client, it is extremely important t you know what you want for your website, email marketing campaign, or newsletter. Remember, a service provider is there to bring your ideas to life and give you sound advice on how to proceed. If you know what you want, you are more likely to get it!

Here are some familiar names that are doing email marketing by their own set of rules.

Costco, we have all heard of this company, right? Well, Costco has bypassed the all important rule that says you do not want to saturate your preview pane with too much information. Instead, Costco offers quite a bit of detailed information in this area. Why does this work for Costco? Maybe because we all recognize this brand and the services offered. Many of us will take the extra step, click on a link, and scroll up to the next column to see what Costco has to offer.


Who else is blazing their own trail? Nordstrom is following a different set of rules when it has to do with subject lines. Subject lines typically contain 35- 45 characters. However, the subject line for Nordstrom’s email marketing reads, “GET FREE Shipping with Any Shoe Purchase.” This immediately sets up the viewer for an offer for free shipping, but instead “sets up the subscriber for the sight of great shoes.” While the content and intent of the email is not exactly clear, the shorter subject line and enticing header is something that gets a reaction from people.

How about Pandora? According to best practices, “Pandora’s copy is long, and the message is not direct (it doesn’t steer subscribers back to the website). Because Pandora is a free service that does not need to upsell to already-engaged subscribers, the company uses its welcome message to highlight its human face and to introduce its accessible customer service.” In other words, Pandora does not need to re-sell services to those already receiving their email marketing. Instead, Pandora reinforces the importance of customer service human interaction.

Lastly, we take a look at Backcountry. This company basically spoofs itself and the whole idea of “call to action” by being irreverent, “light it up.” Yes, normally any call to action would be highlighted and right at the top, where the subscriber can clearly see what is being asked of him or her. However, there are times when a more lighthearted approach does the trick. Backcountry is the perfect example of this approach.

So, what does all of this mean to you and your business? It means not every rule will apply to you or to the type of business you are promoting. How you promote your business depends greatly on the audience you are trying to reach, the services you are providing, and branding. The best way to conduct any email marketing campaign is to discuss your goals with a savvy email marketing provider. A good provider will not only listen – they will also offer you sound advice on how to reach your target audience.

*Did You Know – email ad spending will increase to $677 million in 2011, from $492 million in 2008?

What You Need to Know About Email Lists

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Now, we all know what an email marketing list is right? If you still do not grasp the entire concept of an email list, here you have it — “An electronic mailing list (sometimes written as elist or e-list) is a special usage of e-mail that allows for widespread distribution of information to many Internet users. It is similar to a traditional mailing list — a list of names and addresses, as might be kept by an organization for sending publications to its members or customers — but typically refers to four things: a list of e-mail addresses, the people (“subscribers”) receiving mail at those addresses, the publications (e-mail messages) sent to those addresses, and a reflector, which is a single e-mail address that, when designated as the recipient of a message, will send a copy of that message to all of the subscribers.”

The aforementioned can be of great importance in your company’s attempt to disseminate information to new and existing clients. But, what happens when your list is either too long or you do not have the time to manage this on your own? Simply stated, you look to a company that can handle this seemingly daunting task for you. But what things should you know before handing over your email list?

First, you should inquire about a confidentiality agreement.  What exactly is a confidentiality agreement and how does it protect you? A confidentiality agreement is a legally binding contract between two entities that outlines confidential information and its intended use. By offering you a confidentiality agreement, this company is in fact stating they will not use your email list in any way other than the terms of which you have agreed. In other words, they cannot sell your list to a third party or use it for their own benefit.

Secondly, you should ensure that every single email sent out on your behalf will include an Opt-out option. What does this mean? This means every recipient will easily be able to discontinue receipt of your emails at any time. This step is not only important – it is also mandated by law.

Thirdly, you should ensure this company is antispam compliant. Antispam complaint means the information you are sending out to recipients has been requested. If at any point, someone on the list opts out or worse yet, someone who never requested your information receives it, you are then spamming.

Lastly, you should ensure the company you select can provide response handling and email tracking capability. What does this mean? Ideally, you want every email opened and every email to reach the intended email address. Realistically this does not happen — people change email addresses, forget to add you to their safe email list, or simply lose interest. No matter the reason, you want to know how many emails were opened, bounced, never opened, and returned. Bottom line, your email marketing provider should be able to give you an extensive report about your email marketing campaign. 

In closing, I will say selecting an email marketing provider is not something you do on a whim or based on a gut feeling. There are important criteria that should be met by the company you trust with your customers. If a company cannot provide you with what we have discussed today, they are not the company for you.

*Did You Know – S.P.A.M. stands for Stop Pornography and Abusive Marketing.

If You Format It… They Will Read Preparing Newsletters for Email Marketing – Part II

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

In Part I, we discussed the reasons why some newsletters are successful and others fail miserably. We talked about the importance of personalizing each newsletter and drawing in your audience, with simple and direct writing. However, there is more to making your audience feel your newsletter is a must read. As a matter of fact, some of the things we will discuss today will seem like common sense, yet this common sense has the power to take your email blast all the way to the top of any search engine.

So, let us begin with HTML vs. Plain Text. There are several advantages to either one of these options. If at all possible, the best thing to do is to give your customers the opportunity to choose how they would like to view your newsletter. HTML is believed to have twice the click through rate than that of plain text emails. The effectiveness of your email offerings can easily be tracked by using link tracking codes. These codes also can be used in plain text; however they make the URL too long to display in a text newsletter.

Now that we know the advantages of HTML, let us discuss Plain Text. With plain text emails you are offering universal readability. What does that mean – simply put, you cannot go wrong with plain text, and everyone will be able to read it. With plain text you can be assured your newsletter will look exactly as you intended, when it is opened by your customers. Many companies strip out HTML due to possible viruses and downloading time. Since HTML can often be misconstrued as spam, plain text seems to have a higher deliverability rate. Therefore, you can choose to send out your newsletter in “multi-part MIME” instead of just HTML.

According to Web Marketing Today, your best bet when dealing with images in your newsletter is to “optimize every image for the smallest possible file size. Your designer should do this routinely, but many neglect this. Here is a good rule of thumb: If the graphic is a photograph, use a .JPEG image type with a low-to-medium image quality. If the graphic is clipart or primarily fonts with few gradients, use a .GIF or .PNG image type. GIF images can display up to 256 colors, but the file size will be larger. Reduce the number of colors in the image as far as you can without noticeably degrading the image quality. You can aim for 16-to-32 colors if possible. It makes for fast-loading graphics.” Always keep in mind that not all of your customers will have a broadband connection, others will have a slow DSL or dial up connection, and this will make downloading the graphics that accompany your newsletter an annoyance for your clients.

Web Marketing Today also suggests always staying away from clutter. As tempting as it will seem to load your newsletter with graphics and information, you should steer clear of it all cost, it will hurt readability. Avoid navigation buttons above your content if they are not absolutely necessary. The best advice we can offer you is to keep it attractive, simple, and informative. If you provide interesting content and an easily navigable newsletter, they will read it.

*Did You Know – ID fraud increased 22% in 2008 from the year before?