13 posts categorized "email"

February 04, 2009

Can anyone kill the killer social media apps?

This morning I saw an interesting question on LinkedIn from José María Gil about the role of email marketing and social media platforms to "build your brand." It was a question I know a lot of people struggle with as they seek for ways to capitalize on the growing adoption of social media, so I decided to post the question and answer here.

Here's the question (modified for formatting):

In the last year I have seen a big euphoria about the opportunity that social media is for companies as a marketing tool. There are a ton of articles and posts out there lately about how to use Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc, to build your brand, establish relationships with your users, and much more. Within that euphoria, I have heard voices claming that social media y the new king, and that email marketing is dead.

However, since the moment you need an email address to sign up for any social network, that is completely false. Email and social media are good friends and not enemies. Both of them have an important and different role within our online marketing strategy.

I see social networks as a party, where you meet a lot of people and get in a lot of conversations. That is a really good way to build a community and to find an audience. But, the people that really care about what you do, is the people who are going to sign up to your email list, and the people you are going to start a more direct and personalized relationship with, engaging them with the value given through your emails.

What do you think?

The cost of entry is low, but cost of effectiveness may be steep

José -
With the current social media platforms available, new entrants into this market need to be something more than parties where people can "interact with a brand."

Typically, they don't care about the brand, and they don't care about the problems or needs of the company. They just want something that rewards them for their time, or else they'll not feel compelled to give it, email or not.

Thus, social media sites must provide some unique value that people can't get on Facebook or Myspace, and with new apps being added to these two growing platforms that generate revenue, the cost of entry is constantly increasing. It pays to be a first mover.

However, it is possible to build a reasonably priced platform that addresses the needs of a niche audience, and email marketing (if you can really call it that) can and probably should play a critical role in building relationships. The goal, though, isn't necessarily to build a relationship between the brand and the individual, but rather to help them build relationships within the platform.

This requires a lot of restraint, because the temptation is to put some backwards sales techniques to use and try to keep convincing the users that your platform is the best platform and they should abandon what they're already doing.

Instead, hosts need to be fairly passive and message users when something has happened that they've asked to be notified about. (LinkedIn, for instance, lets you know when your profile isn't complete, or when someone attempts to connect with you).

The message must be simple and to the point. Make it (in a friendly way -- or whatever way showcases a likable personality) and get out of the way.

Hope this helps! - Cam Beck

May 30, 2008

Trish Forant: Honor, Courage, Internet

J0401374 We are at war. Yet, today, through the advances in technology we can do instantly what in previous wars took weeks, even months to achieve: With the click of a mouse, we have the ability to send immediate support to a military service member.

We can send morale-boosting emails, filled with news from home and feel-good stories of Americans united. We can form online support groups collecting much needed items for care packages. We can share photos of the newest Marine in need, stories of the soldier who just became a dad, and patterns for cooling neckties we can create and ship to our guys and gals in the sandbox. We can rally our citizens to support our troops from the comfort of their computer chairs. We can do all this and so much more.

This is the new world. This is social media at its finest.

Through social media we’ve created a community of kind and caring individuals across the globe willing to take a little time out of their busy day to send and show support to our military service members. They are people of all races, religions, political parties, and nationalities with a common goal.

They come together for the sole purpose of supporting our troops on sites like MySpace, Facebook, Yahoo Groups and Twitter to name a few. They blog across all platforms and they use the power of their podcasts to send inspirational messages of support to our US Armed Forces.

These people realize that regardless of our personal political views, our troops deserve our respect, support & encouragement.

I’ve seen it firsthand because I use all these services to promote and encourage troop support through eMailOurMilitary.com. eMail Our Military is a charitable organization that supports U.S. military service members through morale boosting email correspondence, letters and care packages. eMail Our Military was created in 2001 as a response to the DoD's cancellation of the "Any Service Member" and "Operation Dear Abby" mail programs.

As a safe alternative, eMOM picked up where these programs left off.

Using social media we’ve teamed up with companies like Utterz to send multimedia messages of goodwill to our troops over the holiday season, Seesmic to support service members in Iraq, Qipit to provide fast, free alternatives to copy shops and Babble Soft to keep military families with newborns separated by deployments on the same parenting page.

Now more than ever before we have the ability to support our heroes in the easiest of ways using our computer, the internet and various forms of social media. Reaching out to our troops is simple and only limited by how much or how little you wish to be involved. We’ve got something for everyone and we encourage everybody to get started today by visiting eMailOurMilitary.com, deciding if you want to support a service member one on one or participate in a general support project.

You make the commitment, and we’ll help you connect with a military service member. It’s that easy. - Trish Forant

Trish Forant is the daughter of a veteran, a military wife and a staff writer at Veteran’s Today. She now serves as President of eMail Our Military, the charitable organization she founded to support U.S. military service members. She blogs regularly at Honor, Courage, eMail.

May 22, 2008

A Long View of Email Marketing

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently made modifications to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Rather than go through great pains to differentiate between "opt-in" and "opt-out" (which I've done before), I'll explain what the general rules are, how you can get more information and why, regardless of what the law says, it's in your best interests to set a goal to do what is right instead of simply meet the minimum legal requirements.

Here's the rule in a nutshell, if you send out commercial emails (including those sent by non-profit organizations, but excluding "transactional or relationship" messages).

  • You must give recipients the ability to opt-out.
  • You cannot require anything but a recipient's email address and opt-out preferences to allow them to opt-out.
  • You must include an accurately-registered address established by the U.S. Postal Service in the emails.

For more information, read the entire 109-page regulation here: FTC "Final Rule" for CAN-SPAM (312 Kb PDF).

The reason rules like this are created is usually because someone has flagrantly abused the wishes of the public, and the public consequently sought redress of their grievances through their representatives. The representatives, most of whom are lawyers, wrote a law that ceded authority to make some rules concerning the subject to the FTC (who, if they aren't lawyers, at least have a considerable staff of lawyers to help write the regulations).

As a result of that, anyone who wants to send out emails must become familiar with and conform to the regulations that they create. This entails:

  • Finding out about the rules (to my knowledge, the FTC didn't send anyone an email letting them know the rules have changed)
  • Reading the rules
  • Auditing your processes and policies
  • Adjusting as necessary

If everyone already did the right thing, none of this would be necessary!

So before you embark on a strategy that will result in the creation of so many 109-page documents that the rules are impossible to navigate without a team of attorneys, please -- just do what's right. I know you want your audience's email addresses, but they would be so much more valuable to you if they want to hear from you -- which you'll know if you asked them, in clear language, to opt-in, not opt-out.

Besides, attorneys are expensive. - Cam Beck

April 24, 2008

The Publisher's Paradox: Why Traditional Advertising Models Are Dead

Logo_2 While composing my latest post for Marketing Profs: Daily Fix, I suspected that I'd be preaching to the choir. The readers there are usually well versed in new media marketing and the challenges that go along with it. I generally avoid writing such articles. I figure if I'm not challenging what I or what the readers are already certain of, then I'm not adding anything of value. This one is different.

I chose to write this one because I saw a few needs for it.

First, it isn't just for existing readers, but also for those who are still struggling with this entire new media mess and don't understand the principles that affect it. They're still looking for ways to interrupt you -- through your mobile phone, through pop-up ads, through opt-out emails, etc.

If there's one thing I've learned from years of philosophical debates (including political or business-related), it's that we cannot assume we all assume the same things. It isn't that we don't assume anything. We just assume differently.

For those who aren't quite there yet, we have to occasionally make our case as conscientiously as we can if we're going to make an impact on how they think.

Second, we need less, "Do it our way or suffer the consequences," and more, "This is why it's in your best interests to listen."

To that end, I also hope the article gives you some ammunition for when you must try to convince someone that doing what they've always done is more risky than doing something new.

I hope you enjoy the effort. Stop by and let me know what you think. - Cam Beck

October 22, 2007

Forget the Law - Do What's Right

Logo_2 Friday morning I logged on to pay a few bills before I went to work. This has never been easier! Having already set up my accounts to be paid, I was able to do it with one hand (my non-writing hand) while I attempted to placate my little girl by bouncing her on my knee (and stabilizing her with my right hand). The process had its hiccups, though, and though it didn’t upset me terribly, represents something about a lot of marketers that upsets me across nearly all industries that are represented on the Internet.

After I logged in, I was asked to confirm my email address, and things started to go downhill. The email address was already correct, and I started to suspect they had no reason to believe otherwise. It had only been a few months since I opened the account, after all.

Read more at MPDailyFix.com. - Cam Beck

August 01, 2007

Rethinking email design

Illustrasi_email1 Email marketing is quickly becoming pure communication strategy. Email is the preferred method to reach customers and other stakeholders because it's measurable and cheap.

However it's pure measurability causes it to suffer the same fate that a lot of online media has, namely that so much focus is put on gathering and optimizing the crap out of every little piece that the big picture gets lost. Subject lines, calls to action, links, all are tested again and again to squeeze the last little bit of money out.

All of this is good but it comes with a problem. In order to understand what works best, you have to produce multiple upon multiple versions of the same email. Compound that by the need to send out emails frequently and you get a code and blast mentality. The design of the email suffers and now (in many cases) the most frequent conversation you have with your customer is a disaster and is just another useless email in their inbox.

So what's an emailer to do? Before you code and test, take a step back and understand what works. eROI has a report that's put out quarterly that's a great resource. A friend of mine from a past life, David Baker's blog WhiteNoise is a great resource to stay up-to-date. Marketing Sherpa has a specific section dedicated to email marketing. All of these resources have a direct marketing bent to them but their a great resource to get a foundation.

Once you have the foundation, contrast, compare and evaluate. Look at your subject lines and determine if the fit your brand messaging. Look at your emails next to your online ads, next to your print ads, next to your brochures. Do the emails measure up? Are they appealing and consistent? Do they stand out? Be honest.

When designing emails, go through the same process as you would to design a web page (hopefully you go through this process!). Document what the objective of the email program is and of individual emails. Develop wire frames for the emails so that art directors can focus on the look and feel and graphical design.

Stop the code and blast madness. - Paul Herring

May 09, 2007

Permission based marketing- What's good for the goose....

Microsoft_adPermission based marketing is basically honoring customer choice. Don't try to trick them to opt-in to your program. Allow them to opt-out quickly. Monitor activity and if some customers aren't active, ask them if they'd like to still be part of your list. If they're really inactive over a long period of time, remove them.

It's a good rule. It's one that keeps things open, transparent and doesn't try to trick people into receiving  communication just to try to boost your number.

And if your looking for rules to be permission based, here are 10 rules from Microsoft Small Business.

Wait, was that Microsoft? The same one who tries to change my home page when I upgraded my browser? The same one who tries to become the default player for all my media files? The same one who continually tries to default my browsers search to their site.

Are the rules any different for big companies? Does making billions and billions give you the right to not follow your own rules?

Practice what you preach. - Paul Herring

November 14, 2006

Still Thinking Like Old Media?


Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently caused some buzz by suggesting that consumers should either get free mobile phones or free airtime for agreeing to watch targeted ads. Mr. Schmidt's saving grace here is that he is decidedly unspecific on how this should be carried out.


Old media would say, "Let's make them watch a 30-second spot before making each call." Is that what Schmidt had in mind? Because even though exceptions would probably be made for emergency calls, I wouldn't bet my life on it; not every emergency entails a call to 911. People want to use their cell phones when they pick it up to dial, not after they've watched or listened to a 30-second spot.

One would hope that, at least coming from Google's CEO, there is something else afoot here. Perhaps cell phone users would have access to video content if they first download an ad. Depending on the content being accessed, this might make sense, but I would caution against overdoing it. After all, marketers tend to do that once they discover a new medium to exploit.


I suggest a different approach: replace ring tones with quick advertisements or brand messaging.

No, not the kind that plays "Eye of the Tiger" when your workout partner calls you, but the kind you listen to when you're calling someone else. Technology already allows us to play custom messages for friends when they're waiting for you to pick up the phone, so why not make more productive use of the time when the customer is waiting for something else anyway?


This would have to be complemented by a customizable call to action of some sort, either through a corresponding text message or email to a designated address as a follow-up. It can't be overdone, though, because people will quickly tire of their text message or email in-boxes getting filled up with spam, which will ultimately reduce that method's effectiveness anyway.


Perhaps advertisers could limit themselves to a 1:10 or 1:20 ratio of advertisements to text messages to prevent themselves from overdoing it. Users will still be exposed to the advertising if they use the phone to make outgoing calls, surf the web, or watch videos, but advertisers are still respecting the desires of users, which is necessary to build relationships and loyalty.


And, as Schmidt said, though, the advertising must be targeted. Don't advertise baby diapers to someone without children or beer to alcoholics or people under 21. When signing up for free or subsidized cell phone service, customers would have to first agree to participate and select the sorts of advertising they are willing to experience. Perhaps the amount of the subsidization could depend on how much advertising users agree to experience.

I suspect most people will never agree to accept such advertising if they feel like the advertisers are going to be relentless and keep them from their primary purpose of acquiring the cell phone. Hint: it wasn't to watch or listen to crummy advertising. That's why publicized restraint is so important. It's also why any old ad simply won't do. Take advantage of the medium. Encourage participation. Don't shout at your customers when a whisper will do.

Advertisers should also remember to give users a reason to interact with the brand, which is why relevant follow-up is just smart. But in their zeal for generating that ROI, advertisers should not abuse their status as guests invited into the daily lives of customers. If they do, the ad-supported model Schmidt envisioned will surely fail. - Cam Beck

August 14, 2006

Email basics first, then play the days

This week must be the week to talk about email marketing. Just like a lot of people I receive email newsletters to help me keep up on what's going on (more and more I'm using my RSS feeds but that's a different story). Today, one of eMarketer's focus was on a recent report from eROI on the best day to deliver an email. Without even reading the article I knew that the day had changed. In the last years it seems everyone has been trying to guess the magic day. I sometimes wonder that, if the magic day exists, once it gets publicize it automatically becomes the worst day as everyone begins sending on that day cluttering in-boxes.

It seems to me a better approach is to get the basics right before worrying about the magic day. The Email Insider today written by David Baker lays out some pretty good plan for how to start the relationship once someone has signed up for your program. Among other things he recommends:

  • quickly identify those who show interest by opening and/or clicking;
  • test offers and response;
  • identify potential laggards (defined as those who do not respond at all);
  • systematically increase a subscriber’s knowledge about us and our products;
  • use consistent layout, copy, look, and calls to action;
  • build a relationship with subscribers while they are still in the “honeymoon” period; and
  • set the stage for future interaction

    These activities require a little more work than picking days. In the long run, however, they'll create a much stronger competitive advantage than picking the right day. - Paul Herring

  • April 03, 2006

    Email, RSS and blogs

    Emailinsider Why is it that more email programs don't have blogs as their back end? Email is a great (and extremently measurable) way to push communication to consumers, especially those that have more or less passtionate interest in the brand. Blogs don't push communication but do allow a two way conversation. The two of them combined seem very powerful to me. There are a few blogs that use FeedBlitz to send out updates on recent postings but I've never seen this used by a consumer of b2b brand. There are so many successful email programs out there, why haven't many of them used blogs as a back end? I recently wrote an article about how this could be done. Let me know what you think by posting to the comments on entry. Join the conversation!  -Paul Herring