Archive for October, 2009

Are You Optimizing Your Email Marketing?

Friday, October 30th, 2009
Are you correctly utilizing data to optimize your email marketing?

It is time to get scientific! Well, at least more knowledgeable about your email marketing. You are ready!

While can assist you with all facets of your email marketing campaigns, there are subjects you must consider for success.

To optimize your database for the best email personalization, keep in mind — the more you can focus your message on the customer, who is your reader, the greater the effect your message will have.

A data strategy is required when utilizing email marketing. Business owners want to drive targeted email communication and marketing offers. Emails permit click measurements, which allows for easy ROI tracking. Another opportunity would be to optimize the click call to action with landing pages. It is important that marketers continually test, optimize, and refine all aspects of their strategy.

Remember, welcome messages are important because they reassure prospects that your company has a pulse, and they also reduce SPAM complaints by reminding new subscribers they have been added to your list. Welcome messages are also critical for response rates. They are an important tool for prospects to interact with your company. Many of your email recipients are presumably in a buying mode. They might even have other browser windows open to your competitors when your welcome message arrives in their inboxes. In that sense, welcome messages do a lot more than just tell new subscribers they have been added to a list. To improve response, the welcome email should also contain the following:

  1. A personal message from the CEO, founder, or owner;
  2. A coupon or other incentive to buy;
  3. Links to your most popular entry-level products;
  4. A good testimonial or two.

Most importantly, welcome messages must serve as two-way communication tools. Replies to welcome messages should be encouraged, and you should respond to inquiries immediately.

Other tips to consider:

  1. Set a goal to tailor at least one email message a month per subscriber.  We all have some data on every subscriber – use this data.
  2. Consider a different subject line for different segments, based on interest level. Replace generic promotions with specifics – a targeted whitepaper or an untapped product feature. Track performance by segment against generic messages.
  3. If 30% open your email that means 70% did not find your message helpful, or did not bother to select it from their inbox clutter. The impact of inactive subscribers was never neutral, but now carries even more risk. Subscribers will quickly block (complain by clicking the Report SPAM button) or unsubscribe from senders who annoy them – which is any brand sending irrelevant, poorly timed or too frequent offers, regardless of permission. Plus, ISPs like Yahoo!, Gmail, and Hotmail are increasingly looking at engagement metrics to determine the value of each marketer or publisher.
  4. The only way to make money is to either increase revenue or reduce costs, or both.  In email marketing, the “cost” side is counted in lost opportunity. When a subscriber complains (clicks the Report SPAM button), they are gone forever. Complaint and deliverability data are essential parts of a good email marketing optimization effort.

Finally, while using these techniques can help your business succeed, there is even more you can do to tip the odds in your favor. You will want to become familiar with a technique that is called marketing optimization. This is a technique that is intricately connected to data mining. With market optimization, you will take a group of offers and customers, and after reviewing the limits of the campaign, you will use data mining to decide which marketing offers should be made to specific customers.

*Did You Know — Response rates are almost always higher for new subscribers to an email list. According to the “Email Marketing Benchmark Guide” subscribers click through at a 25 percent higher rate in their first month than in their second, and 67 percent higher in the first month than after the first year.

What is Cloud Computing?

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

The simplest definition for Cloud Computing is the one in which data and applications are served to users over the Internet. Users no longer need applications such as Outlook on their desktop, but instead use versions of these, or other applications, through a web browser. Data is, similarly, stored centrally and served up to users as and when they need it, and on any platform they choose.

Originally, Cloud Computing was an indistinct term for a vague and distant future in which computing would occur in a few remote locations without the need for much human intervention. Infinite computing resources would be available for any need at costs approaching zero. Certainly, users would not need to know or care about how the computers, their software, or the network functioned.

Cloud Computing customers do not generally own the physical infrastructure serving as host to the software platform in question. Instead, they avoid capital expenditure by renting usage from a third-party provider. They consume resources as a service and pay only for resources that they use. Many Cloud Computing offerings employ the utility computing model, which is analogous to how traditional utility services (such as electricity) are consumed, while others bill on a subscription basis.

Sharing “perishable and intangible” computing power among multiple tenants can improve utilization rates, as servers are not unnecessarily left idle (which can reduce costs significantly while increasing the speed of application development). A side effect of this approach is that overall computer usage rises dramatically.

We cycled between periods when computing was more centralized (and seemed more remote and less accessible to users) and periods when computing was right on user desktops. No one was ever satisfied. Centralized computing failed to give users enough control and was too inflexible. Distributed computing made every user his own system administrator and was very inefficient.

In the last few years, as the cost of a unit of computing power has continued to decrease – but the cost of humans with the skills to implement and manage computer systems has not – the vision of centralized computing has returned. It has taken several turns. Some computer scientists have suggested (and experimented with) a vast Grid of computers, attached via the Internet, whose power can be combined for large-scale tasks when needed. In some cases, very large computing systems can be part of these grids for specialized tasks. Others have suggested a computing utility which would provide just as much computing power as an organization needed, on an on-demand basis, much like electricity.

Eventually, as large web users such as Google and Amazon built out enormous data centers for their own purposes, they realized they could permit others to access these “clouds” of computing power at relatively attractive prices, and so began the Cloud Computing era. Today, many companies are putting together large data centers, sometimes as extensions of their own needs, sometimes just for customers to use. Originally the idea was these clouds of computing would offer processing power and storage. Anything else would be added by the customer. As the idea became more popular, additional functionality has been added. Some clouds also offer systems management. Others are actually providing a set of applications as part of the cloud.

For most organizations, a decision on Cloud Computing will be a matter of choosing which cloud to use. Many may use several, selecting different clouds for different purposes. For some large enterprises and government organizations, a cloud of their own may be an appropriate solution. This allows the organization to optimize the cloud for its own purposes and to make it available to its own constituency.

*Did You Know — According to a recent Unisys poll, security and privacy concerns are still big barriers to Cloud Computing?  A survey asked, “What do you see as your greatest barrier to moving to the cloud?”, and 51 percent cited security and data privacy. 21 percent cited integration of cloud applications with existing systems as a potential barrier.