May 312005

Just Say No

Just Say No

A recent study by AOL (published here in CNET) says that on average, people in America check email five times per day and can’t go without it for more than three days at a time.  And six out of ten respondents said they check email on vacation.

While I’m as guilty as anyone of perpetuating these statistics, I am a big fan of taking regular time off from email.  Whether it’s a day each week, or a whole weekend here or there, or at least one week vacation per year, it’s important to Just Say No every once in a while.  Even Fred took an email holiday recently, to great success, I believe.  The great thing about email is that they’ll all be there waiting for you when you log back in.

Filed under: Email

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May 302005

Decoration Day

Decoration Day

Today, Memorial Day, is the day my Grandma Hazel always calls Decoration Day.  That’s obviously a name that pre-dates me, so I thought I’d look it up today and figure out what it originally stood for and when the switch happened.

According to Wikipedia, the holiday originally called Decoration Day was first observed in 1868 to honor fallen Union solidiers of the Civil War.  As you can imagine, southern states didn’t really recognize the holiday until at least 50 years later, and many continue even today to have a separate Confederate Decoration Day (now Confederate Memorial Day or somewhat disturbingly Confederate Heroes Day in Texas) for years.  After World War I, the day came to honor all American soldiers who died in war.

The name Memorial Day was first used in 1882 but didn’t really take hold until after World War II, finally becoming the official federal name for the day in 1967.  The holiday became an official national holiday in 1971.

Excited by this?  Just wait for this fall’s Veteran’s Day, also Remembrance Day or Armistice Day.

May 262005

Counter Cliche: The VC Pass

Fred’s VC Cliche of the Week this week is called "the pass," which is the euphemism that VCs have adopted when they decide not to invest in a particular company or entrepreneur.  Fred’s VC wisdom comes down to this:

1 – Say no quickly to the things you know you aren’t going to do

2 – Don’t take an opportunity into diligence unless you are willing to spend enough time to truly  undersand it, and if you don’t invest, make sure you are willing to spend time explaining why.

It won’t make it any easier on the entrepreneur who is trying to find someone to invest in his business that you are passing, but they might learn something from the discussion, and in the end you will gain their respect.

And in this age where VCs and their money are a dime a dozen and great entrepreneurs are rare, respect from entrepreneurs is critical to success in the VC business.

The counter cliche is that the same advice applies to entrepreneurs who "pass" on a particular VC.  There are many times where startups (especially good ones) have offers on the table or are pursuing them from multiple VCs.  That strategy is a must and one that I’ve blogged about before

VCs may be a dime a dozen, but great ones are hard to find.  If you find yourself in the position of having to "pass" on one of them — follow Fred’s advice and do it quickly, politely, and without wasting any more of their time.

Filed under: Entrepreneurship

May 252005

Email Articles This Week

Email Articles This Week

I know, not a real inspired headline.  There are two interesting articles floating around about email marketing this week.  I have a few thoughts on both.

First, David Daniels from Jupiter writes in ClickZ about Assigning a Value to Email Addresses.  David’s numbers show that 71% of marketers don’t put a value on their email addresses.  I think that may be an understatement, but it’s a telling figure nonetheless.  David’s article is right on and gives marketers some good direction on how to think about valuing email addresses.  The one thing he doesn’t address explicitly, though, is how to think about the value of an email address in the context of a multi-channel customer relationship.  Customer Lifetime Value is all good and well, but the more sophisticated marketers take the next step and try to understand by customer (or segment) how valuable email is relative to other channels.

Second, David Baker writes in Mediapost’s Email Insider about Finding New Customers Via Email.  The column is a nice discussion of how important email is to retaining customers.  We at Return Path completely agree.  However, the question Baker posed at the beginning is not well addressed — “Should I use email to find new customers?”

My company works with hundreds of smart marketers every week who say, “Yes!  Because it’s effective, cost efficient and is the only way to combine the relevancy of search with the power of online advertising.”

I applaud Baker’s note of caution to marketers planning to acquire customers via email.  It’s always a good idea to plan the campaign with the same diligence you plan any marketing outreach — making sure the targeting, message, design and offer are all optimized for the prospect interest and the medium.

However, I take great issue with his conclusion that email acquisition marketing “does more harm than good.”  Our clients disprove this claim every day.  Email prospecting done well includes a synergy of organic, viral and paid techniques.  Consumers and business professionals still want to receive relevant and informative offers via email.  More than 50,000 of them sign up every DAY for email offers from Return Path alone.

Poeple who have failed list rental tests (and there are lots of them) need to ask some hard questions of their campaign strategy, their creative, their list rental partner, and their agency.  Did you try to send the same message and design to a list of prospects as you do to your house file?  No wonder no one got the message, they don’t even know you.  Was your list double opt-in?   Did you segment the list by interest category or demographics?  Perhaps your message was mis-targeted.  Did your landing page make it easy to take advantage of the offer?  Did you test on a small portion of the list before blasting the entire file?  Did you optimize your subject line to ensure higher open rates?  Did you try to do too much?  The golden rule of email list rental is “one email, one message.”

The success of many marketers using list rental today can not be ignored.  Done well, email acquisition is extremely powerful.  And, the addition of new lead generation, co-registration and offer aggregation opportunities create even more custom and targeted opportunities to connect with prospects.

It’s too easy to dismiss something that didn’t work two years ago by blaming the medium.  Instead, recognize that old experience for what it was.  A well-intentioned effort to test out a new medium, that didn’t work because many tried to apply practices from other media to it.  Times have changed, and email acquisition has proven its value.

Stick with Daniels’ article, figure out how valuable an email address can be for you, then go out and collect as many of them as you can from customers and prospects who will be all-too-willing to give them to you in exchange for content, offers, and other points of value.

May 222005

Mental Math

Mental Math

One of the most important things a CEO can do when thinking about conversations with Board members or investors is to do mental math. That’s how directors operate. They remember key metrics from time to time and project them forward in their minds. Whatever your financial or operating results, you need to make sure they will mesh with your investors’ mental math.

Looking at your cash balance? Look back at the last financial statement’s cash number and mentally work your way to the current statement: operating profits or losses, big swings in AR or AP, CapEx, and other "below the line" items. Do they add up? Be ready to walk everyone through the mental math at your next meeting.

The same thing applies to operating metrics — the size of your database, your headcount, your sales commission rate. Directors only have so much time to be in the details of your business…make sure you know the metrics they zero in on, and work that mental math!

Filed under: Entrepreneurship

May 182005

How Much Blogging is Too Much Blogging?

How Much Blogging is Too Much Blogging?

After being completely (and blissfully, I might add) offline for 11 days, I have returned to find 247 new postings in my Newsgator folder.  Only a short year ago, I would have come back from vacation to too many emails…now I get to sift through too many emails AND too many blog postings.

On the bright side, I have at least these two images of the Barolo wine country Barolo_landscape_largeand the Amalfi coastAmalfi_coast_large solidly etched in my brain to ease re-entry to work. Anyone interested in a brief travelog of the Italian countryside, click here and follow the top link.

Filed under: Travel, Weblogs

May 062005

Blogiversary

Blogiversary

Next week will mark the one year anniversary of my blog (and for that matter, Brad’s blog).  It’s been a lot of fun, so I think I’ll celebrate by taking two weeks off and going to Europe with Mariquita (well, ok, I was planning on doing that anyway).

Even if no one read OnlyOnce, I’d be happy I’m writing it for all of the reasons I expressed here back in June.  But lots of people do read it, more and more every day.  In fact, an executive at Yahoo! who I met earlier this week actually quoted it to me — as Bruno Kirby said in When Harry Met Sally, “the first time someone has ever quoted me back to me before.”

In my very first posting, which explains the blog’s title and mission, I said I’d try not to be too extraneous with the material I post.  So I took a look through some stats this morning about the last year of blogging:

– Including this, I’ve written 131 postings, about one every three days

– Typepad doesn’t keep stats on blog topics/categories, so this is an estimate (and postings can be associated with multiple categories), but it looks like I’ve posted 6 times about books, 10 times about current events, 4 times about travel, 7 times about blogs, 9 times about “business” (whatever that means), 52 times about email/web/tech, 40 times about entrepreneurship, and 38 times about leadership/management.  So at least I stayed more or less on point.

– I’ve received a total of 125 comments, or less than one per posting (this is NOT a truly interactive medium!)

– I have about 1,000 regular readers, roughly 70% via RSS feed, 20% via email subscription, and 10% via live alerts or just regular web visitors

– My Amazon Associates link has generated about 150 sales for a total of $2,700 and about $170 in affiliate fees to me, which basically covers the cost of my Typepad subscription

Thanks to everyone who reads and comments.  Feedback is always welcome for year two!

May 062005

Book Short: More on Email Marketing

Book Short:  More on Email Marketing

My friend Bill Nussey’s The Quiet Revolution in Email Marketing is a good read for those in the industry.  It’s a little different in focus than our recently published book, Sign Me Up!, and in many ways is a good complement.

Bill develops a good framework for Customer Communication Management (CCM) based on his experience as CEO of SilverPop, one of the leading email marketing companies.  He builds on Seth Godin’s permission framework and applies it directly to email marketing, point by point.  He addresses head on every email marketer’s nightmare, when you tell someone what you do for a living, and the person replies “oh, you’re a spammer.”

The book also has a wonderful quote from Bill’s SilverPop colleague Elaine O’Gorman:  “Locking down email policies and enforcement too tightly i like cooking a potato in the microwave.  If you don’t poke some holes in the potato before turning on the microwave, you’ll be doing a lot of clearning up afterwards.”

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