New Year’s Resolutions

Most of what I have written this year about e-mail marketing has been complaints.  So these are my New Year’s resolutions for e-mail marketers:

1.  Target your e-mails.  Resist the temptation to blast everyone on your list regardless of whether they will be interested in what you have to say.  A good e-mail is timely and relevant.  If you send out too many e-mails, your recipients will report your e-mails as spam, hurting your reputation and possibly your ability to send e-mails in the future. 

2.  Send trigger emails.  I am a big fan of Barnes and Noble.  I love purchasing books on-line and they make it so easy for me.  For example, their website indicates how quickly each book typically ships.  When I place an order, I receive confirmation almost instantaneously and then am kept abreast of the shipping status of my order.  I love knowing exactly where my books are and when I can expect to receive them.  As a result, I appreciate trigger emails and expect them to be timely.  If I sign up for a new service on-line, I expect to receive a welcome e-mail within 24 hours, if not sooner.  I am amazed and disappointed by organizations that do not send trigger emails as they are important for reinforcing the relationship and offer an up-sell or cross-sell opportunity. 

3.  Create a preference center and follow it.  Allow subscribers to determine the frequency, content and even form of communication.   DailyLit is a great example I wrote about.  DailyLit allows subscribers to choose the amount of text they receive, the frequency and timing of communication and whether users receive emails or RSS feeds.  Thus, their communication is more likely to be read.

4.  Create your emails with image blocking in mind.  I wrote about image blocking in one post and then had to resist doing it again and again as I received more and more e-mails that clearly were not designed for e-mail providers who automatically blocked images.

5.  Reactivate or eliminate inactive e-mail subscribers.  As I noted in an earlier post, it is nice to be asked if you want to continue to receive emails from an organization.  This gentle reminder reengaged me and reestablished a relationship.  Alternatively, marketers could create a formal reactivation campaign as part of their campaign cycle. 

6.  Measure your campaigns and continuously learn.  I believe strongly in testing and measurement, comparing campaigns to benchmark rates or past campaigns, and determining the return on investment (ROI) of campaigns.  In the end, everyone one wants to know what worked, what did not work and whether the campaign was successful.  If you are interested, past posts have provided sources for e-mail metrics and a discussion of A/B testing

Happy New Year!

Blogs: Hello and Goodbye

Social media is a hot topic this year and it is likely to remain a hot topic in 2009.  I even found myself talking about it over dinner last night.  That is what happens when two marketers get together for dinner and a movie.  Somehow we end up talking shop.

So you may yawn when I say that I have suggested to a client that she develop an internal blog.  However, it can help her achieve her goals by educating users about an internal resource, disseminating information about enhancements to the system, and reducing calls to the internal help desk by building a community of users that learn from each other.  Believe it or not, there are companies that do not have blogs yet.  I can understand their hesitation.  Blogs result in a loss of control as the blog may move in unintended or undesirable directions.  Further, it can inspire resistance from managers.  There is also the additional work involved as it requires that staff monitor the site and address questions or criticisms at a minimum.    They will probably need to write posts.  Blogs are a lot of work.  Ron Shevlin in his blog states, “a helluva lot of time and effort” went into creating his posts.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I had the pleasure of working with Ron a few years ago.)

To be successful, the blog must focus on what users care about;  it must be about their needs rather than the needs of the company to have credibility and gain acceptance.  If it does so, it will develop a devoted audience.  Again to use Ron’s blog as an example, his post announcing the end of his blog has 55 comments as I write this.  This was after just writing his blog for two years.    I too will miss Ron’s thoughtful posts.

What is the value of a banner ad?

If there is a silver lining to this recession for marketers, it may be the focus on analysis and measurable results.  With every marketing dollar being scrutinized and questions being asked about return on marketing investment, every  tactic is being reevaluated.  For a long time, I have questioned the value of web banners.  They are easy to ignore and, as a result, have lower response rates than other marketing vehicles.  Advocates justify the low response rates by pointing to their relative low cost.  Others say that rich media will breath life into banner ads but I remain unconvinced.

Recent articles make me think I am not the only one.  Mike Shields of Mediaweek wrote about display ads a few weeks ago.  He quoted Greg March of Wieden + Kennedy as saying “Advertisers want to deliver impact, and I don’t think the impact for these ads is always that strong.”  Shields wrote that “click-through rates for banner [ads] rarely approach 1 percent”.  I have seen much smaller rates than that.

A recent BtoB special report on 2009 marketing plans, found that 30.6% of B2B marketers surveyed were planning on increasing their spending on banners.  This sounds promising except that other online tactics had higher growth percentages:  email 68.3%, search 50.0%, web-casting 42.9%, web site development 66.3%, and social media 46.6%. 

With new tools, analysts may be able to measure the impact of online ad campaigns, taking into account every ad served up to the user regardless of whether or not she clicks on it.  Hopefully we will soon be able to answer the question, what is the value of a banner ad?

Prices are rising!

You probably already know that but, in this case, the United State Postal Service has announced that it will be raising its shipping rates on January 18, 2009.  There is a link on the home page of with the new shipping rates.  

Any price changes related to mailing services, which includes stamps, will be announced in February 2009 and will go into effect in May 2009, according to the USPS website.