Manas Kumar, Thinking out Loud

my thoughts & visions for technology

Archive for the ‘Email Marketing’ Category

Email Delivery To Inbox – The Mystery Unlocked And De-Jargonized

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Email marketing is only effective if the marketing message actually makes it to your subscribers inbox. However, thanks to the “Bad Apples”, some genuine email marketers and their messages often get trapped in Spam Filters and the sender is often painted with the same brush as a serial spammer.

Part of the problem is the mismatch in the understanding of what Spam is. direct marketing associations worldwide are the problem as the way they educate and promote email marketing to the end users (members of the DMAs) is misleading.

For instance, the DMA of USA openly suggests emailing with opt out links even if “express consent” cannot be proven.

The Can-Spam Act and other similar legislations are also very unclear and “grey” in the way the issue of Spam is highlighted.

While the government (legislators) say one thing and the local promoters (DMAs) say something else, there’s a third group who are the “key-holders” in this case – the ISPs.

ISPs have a completely different approach to Spam. Their approach is the strictest and in my opinion a bit over the top because with them there’s no concept of “benefit of doubt” – if someone complains to an ISP – even at the ratio of 1 out of 1,000 instances, you are instantly labelled as a spammer. No questions asked, no opportunity to explain your actions- you are a spammer.

However ISPs deal with spam at a content as well as consent level. While they can never regulate content (they can censor but not regulate) they can always go by a “I never gave consent” complaint and take evasive action instantly.

You see the issue of spam has never been about CONTENT. It’s about CONSENT.

Spamhaus, the leaders in educating, regulating, and attempting to eliminate the issue of SPAM altogether, believe that ” one should never be asked to opt out of something they did not opt into in the first place” – quite a statement, especially when, if you are a marketer, this is ,Iike a dagger ripping through your heart – what do you mean I can’t send campaigns with just an opt out link using the “inferred” or “deemed” consent card…

Regardless of what you think from the point of view of a marketer, Spamhaus and several other ISP level Spam fighting organizations have adopted this approach. And it is this approach that drives inbox delivery because ultimately inbox delivery is controlled by the receiving ISP.

So what can you do to make sure your emails are delivered to the inbox?

First and foremost you need to make sure you have CONSENT. Content is not such a big deal yet, first you need to establish CONSENT. This is a non negotiable as far as ISPs are concerned.

Make sure you have the ability to prove CONSENT if need be. Hence if you capture subscribers from your website you MUST capture supporting information to provide as evidence of CONSENT. capture the IP address, the date and time of subscription, capture additional information such as the operating system of the user, the browser used, the web address from which the subscription was acquired from and maybe even a screen capture of the page as soon as the user hits the “Subscribe” button.

The second option is to undertake a Closed Loop Opt in or Confirmed Opt In. Both these processes are industry recognized for confirming consent before subscription.

Once the issue of CONSENT is sorted, you then need to look at your sending procedures.

Delivering emails is no longer as simple as sending them in bulk, throttling emails so that they make it past ISP firewalls. That’s no linger enough. ISPs have become much more sophisticated and have advanced systems to detect and decide whether to send the email to the inbox, junk folder or not deliver the email at all.

DKIM, Domain Keys, SPF Records, PTR Records, Proper Reverse DNS Setup, Sender ID setup and list unsubscribe Setup are now critical for ensuring inbox delivery.

You can also ask your ESP to provided a dedicated sending service whereby your IP addresses are white listed with all major IPSs. This kind of a setup often requires you to have a premium service account with your ESP

There are only a handful of ESPs that can offer this service, with Maxmail and Constant Contact being two of the most prominent and credible providers.

The “how fast can you send” myth.

I have come across several marketers assessing email marketing platforms based on the sending speed of the ESP (email marketing service provider). Actually sending speeds are inversely proportional to inbox delivery rates. In other words, the faster you send, the least likely you are to have consistent inbox delivery.

Sometimes, even with all those technical things setup you may not get 100% inbox delivery. There are many reasons for that, the most common being the IP address you are sending from has been blacklisted or blocked by certain ISPs.

Don’t worry, it’s actually very common for IP addresses to get blacklisted. sometimes it’s your doing, other times it may be something historical about the IP address that causes it to be blacklisted. Talk to your ESP and tell them to deal with it ASAP or find another ESP.

The entire subject of inbox delivery is so huge that it takes companies years to understand this.

So remember the following simple pints:

Be able to prove that you have consent
Capture enough customer data to personalize your campaigns
Setup relevant technical stuff at the ESP level and demand a white listing service
Keep your content relevant, targeted and openly admit that the email has come from you. Keep your online identity as rock solid as you can
Do not attempt to hide or disguise your sending
Follow the best practices as provided by your local governing body regulating digital the communication in your country Include your full address in the footer of your email
Include a note in the footer that reminds your subscribers as to how and when they subscribed to your database

Once you have got all these measures in place, inbox delivery is that much more certain.

Written by manaskumar

July 24, 2010 at 8:49 am

InkWorks – Missed Opportunities at Point of Sale

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InkWorks - This is some other store. I am talking about their store in the Westfield shopping centre in Henderson, Auckland.

I recently had to (or rather I was forced to) refill my HP Photosmart C8180 All-in-One printer cartridges. Thankfully I never paid for this God forsaken printer but received it as a Free gift from the folks at Harvey Norman circa 2008. No wonder Harveys wanted to get rid of these criminal machines produced by HP (A company I thought was on the right track until now) that just goes into “self destruct” mode if you dont refill the cartridges (even if you never print in color, for the “All-in-one functions to work, it needs ink – WHAT????). Anyway, never buy HP Photosmart C8180 All-in-One printer.

Anyway, this post is not about HP – its about InkWorks, an ink refill shop in the Westfield in Henderson. I was amazed by the level of customer service at this shop especially when the kind lady serving me had no technical knowledge but knew enough to do a good job of answering my questions.

So I asked her to find 0ut which one of my cartridges are empty so I can simply get those refilled, kill the print capabilities in that stupid printer and use the scanner (which is what I needed the darn thing for in the first place). By the by… she kindly gave me the Cyan and Magenta cartridges that I needed and charged me a very reasonable amount for it (cheaper than Dicksmiths or Warehouse Stationary).

PLUG for InkWorks – You guys rock!!! I strongly recommend that you checkout the guys at InkWorks when you need your printer cartridges refilled.

After that, she gave me a couple of bullet points about how they’re doing their bit to save the environment and their efforts to partake in the GREEN movement- It was genuie.

She asked me if this was my first purchase at the store and then requested me to write my details on a card for warranty purposes. She made it very clear that all she needed was my name and phone number – nothing else. I was almost waiting for her to ask me for other details but she didn’t.

Now check this out – Robert Redford taught Brad Pitt the secrets of photographic memory in Spyguy so I scanned through the form using Redford’s tips and remember the following

  • Name (both first and last were combined into one field)
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Address

On the right they had:

  • The type of printer I have
  • And 2 other fields that I am struggling to remember now

Not bad ha!

Now here’s the thing: That lady (I must say she was the kindest person I’ve met at a checkout of a store selling tech stuff), who I think was the store owner, just did not understand the importance of capturing as much detail as she could in that form. Someone must have told them that its important to know the things in the form, hence the fields set out in the order that they were.But sadly enough the lady just didn’t get the importance of such a thing.

More so, I am purchasing something that does not work if I dont have a computer – and if I have a computer, you can almost guarantee 100% that I also have internet – which means I also have an email address…but she does not have my email address though…I’m sad for you InkWorks 😦

Now on the right hand side of the form, they asked for “Which printer I had” – well of course they would. But are they using this information in any constructive way?

They know the date I refilled my cartridge. Given that they know how long it lasts, all they need is to find out whether or not I am a heavy user, moderate user or I hardly ever use color for printing; that way they’d know when next to send me a promo offer to refill – how hard do you think is that?

They also could have known which type of printer I have, so if they ever ran a promo in conjunction with the Computer Store outside the mall, they could approach me to make a purchase – I dont know…think of so many different things InkWorks could do if only they had the information.

I get frustrated with companies like these ones – they’re brilliant at what they do. Lovely people, great product, brilliant service – but poor marketing and presence of mind. Sorry guys, the world around you is changing, people are getting more and more online savvy – you need to use every opportunity you can to increase the lifetime value of a customer – LTV is GOLD InkWorks – I wish you were great at using marketing tools like email marketing and online surveys – then you’d become the number one printer cartridge refill company in New Zealand.

Another Plug: Email me if you need help in this area… 🙂

Social Media for businesses: top 10 tips

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Social media, as I have mentioned in many of my previous posts, is no longer something reserved for the teen space. Over the past 18 months, social media has grown into a phenomenon that will either have a positive or negetive impact on your business (depending on how you use it).

To understand social media, you need to first understand the transition of the world wide web. You have probably heard the term “Web 2.0” – well in reality does it mean that the internet is in it’s second version? Not quite.

It’s more like the internet has moved onto it’s next level of influence.

You see, all this while the internet has been known to be the information super-highway. You type in a question in Google and out comes the answer. Very two dimensional, very mechanical not to mention how it can be manipulated for personal gain.

Enter Web 2.0 – Now you type a question, when you find the answer, you share it with your friends – your social community. The more answers are shared, the more powerful the community. Web 2.0 has not just given birth to a new era in social interaction, but it has also opened opportunities for taking the web to one level further. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s for lunch today?

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Eating Lunch

I don't know these people. They too, probably spend $4k/yr on lunch and coffee.

This morning I took the liberty of doing a little research along the 50meter or so walk from where I park to the office. In this short distance there are a number of cafés and as I ordered my coffee, I ask the Barista how many coffees a day would her regulars have? “2 – 3” was the reply. After finishing my coffee I decided to ask the same question in a few other cafés along my walk, I also asked how much they would spend on food. I even plucked up the courage to ask the same question of a few professional looking people walking up the street with coffee in hand. I don’t think I have to tell you the type of, ‘are you a freak,’ looks that I got as a result.

Hardly scientific I know but enough for my purpose. Here’s what I discovered with my little survey;

On average inner city workers will purchase 2 coffees per day and spend approximately $10 on food. Now let’s do some maths. When you minus leave and public holidays we work around 46 weeks per year or approximately 230 days. A flat white coffee costs around $3.80 per cup, times that by two and that’s $7.60 per day. Wow! That’s $1,748 a year on ‘coffee!’ Add to that the $2,300 we spend on something to eat and you have a total of… $4,048 dollars.

That’s $4k per year that’s going in the top end, dropping out the bottom-line and providing no investment value in the middle. In accounting terms I believe that’s called a deficit. Read the rest of this entry »

Vote for the most effective marketing channel

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In my previous post I presented you with the results of a result in-depth discussion regarding the effectiveness of commonly used marketing channels in context of the global business economy.

From the interesting responses I have received so far, I think it is fair to make your opinion public.

So here’s a public poll where you can decide and see what others think is the most efective marketing channel today.

Written by manaskumar

October 21, 2008 at 9:21 pm

In search of the most effective marketing channel

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How effective is a marketing channel - Copyright Genesis Interactive

How effective is a marketing channel - Copyright Genesis Interactive

Effectiveness of a marketing channel was measured using the following 8 criterion.

  • · Is the channel Low Cost
  • · Does the channel have a broad reach
  • · Does the channel allow personalisation (1 to 1)
  • · Does the channel deliver targeted messages
  • · Does the channel offer any viral features?
  • · Can the results be tracked?
  • · Is the channel easy to access?
  • · What is the longevity of a channel

Each criterion was scored out of a total value of 100. The scores are plotted on the line graph from left to right (highest to lowest). So, the highest socre has highest effectiveness.

Questions around cost were normalised using comparative value proposition offered by each channel.

We considered advanced targeting abilities as a measure for the “target-ability” property of a channel

Reach – Global = Maximum, Local/Regional = Minimum

Tracking: We consider a campaign trackable if you can quantitatively define the number of responses and conversions.

What do you think? Any comments?

Written by manaskumar

October 14, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Viral Email Marketing – Tap into your customers’ social network

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For most readers of this blog, you already know the importance of making your marketing campaigns viral.

The real question is how do you make your campaigns viral in such a way that your message starst spreading like wildfire.

Well, here is a solution recipe that talks about how to create a viral email marketing campaign with guaranteed results.

Ingredients:

  • A great special offer
  • A competition give away
  • List of opt-in email subscriobers (with first names)
  • A Maxmail user account (get a Free trial account here)

Preperation:

Make sure your mailing list of subscribers is clean and has first names recorded for every single subscriber along with a valid email address.

Create an HTML newsletter (doesnt have to be fancy – keep it simple) with your special offer inside. The body of the newsletter should have a 600 x 200 graphic (well designed) that talks about an automatic entry for anyone who forwards this email to a friend. Each forward counts for one entry.

Mention the giveaway prize.

Forward this email to your friends to automatically into a draw to win one of 5 42inch Panasonic PLasma TVs. Forward as many times as you like, each forward counts for one entry. Increase your chances, get forwarding now.

Make sure you have the subscribers first name in the subject line (for higher uptake) and also in the greeting line (e.g. Hello John instead of Hi there)

Send the email.

Watch it cook

John receives your email and decides to forward the email to Sally, Bod, Sue and Ryan. Because John opted Sally, Bob, Sue and Ryan into your original mailing list, when any one of them forward this email, you have an exponential growth in the virality of your email.

Consider this

How Viral Marketing Works

How Viral Marketing Works

You sent an email to John and it has been forwarded around to (in this example) a total of 29 new subscribers. You have also accumulated several competition entries. Your mailing list has grown and now you have greater interest from your customers.

Best of all, Maxmail’s viral marketing feature allowed you to tap into a list of subscribers that you didnt have access to prior to sending this email.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

Written by manaskumar

October 14, 2008 at 2:05 pm