Apr 172007

These Things Do Take Lots of Care and Feeding

These Things Do Take Lots of Care and Feeding

Pete Blackshaw wrote a really thoughtful piece in ClickZ today entitled “Ten Reasons Why I Should Stop Blogging.”  It’s a good read if you’re a middle of the road blogger…or particularly if you’re thinking about starting a new blog.

Oct 062006

What Convergence Really Means

What Convergence Really Means

Rebecca Lieb wrote a great column last week in ClickZ about Advertising Week and how disappointed she was in it.  The article is worth a read for many reasons, but there was one quote in particular that stuck out to me as I re-read it tonight.

Some people talk about convergence as the coming together of old media and new media.  Others talk about digial meeting analog.  Still others talk about the melding of cable, telco, Internet, and wireless.  A brave few even talk about direct marketing and brand advertising.

But Rebecca quoted the head of global advertising for American Express, who really nailed what convergence means in the world of media today — the convergence of advertising and publishing:

“No longer can we view our job as filling gaps between other peoples’ content,” said Scotti. “Soon, there won’t be gaps to fill because everything is content.”

Boy, isn’t that the truth?  And it’s not just the much-hyped world of user-generated content, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and blogs.

It’s as much about advertisers getting smarter and becoming content publishers themselves.  Think about any good email you get from a marketer.  What makes it good?  Sure, a nice discount, maybe free shipping, certainly a relevant offer based on your preferences and purchase behavior.  But the other thing that makes it good is the presence of content to surround and drive the marketing messages.  The applesauce around the pill, if you will.

It works.  We see it every day.  And we only see more of it happening in the future as consumers get smarter and more discerning about the brands with which they choose to interact.

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.

Mar 292005

Prepping RSS for Prime Time, Part II

Prepping RSS for Prime Time, Part II

David Daniels from Jupiter wrote a good article yesterday in ClickZ about RSS and email marketing.  It reads like a response to comments he received after publishing his main report on this topic earlier in the month.  He tackles three main points:  spam/clutter, personalization, and the (impending) flood of vendors.  It’s definitely worth a quick read if you care about the RSS/email debate and space.

I addressed this topic a little bit last June here, although somehow I forgot about the personalization challenge.  I think RSS is closer to prime time than it was then, but it’s still not quite ready to go toe to toe with email or other forms or more direct/addressable media yet.

Filed under: Email

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Aug 052004

Challenge Response: Oy!

I don’t think the news about AOL buying Mailblocks and its challenge response anti-spam product is such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But it does give me a quick opportunity to rant against challenge/response.

First, I don’t think the world is in danger of mass adoption of challenge/response. Earthlink, which in general has much more sophisticated customers than does AOL, has had a hard time gettings its adoption level of this up to the 7-10% level over a period of at least two years. I think it will be even tougher for AOL. I applaud AOL for trying to do more to help members fight spam, but I don’t think this is the answer.

So onto the rant. Challenge/response is a pretty poor solution to spam. Or, rather, I should say it’s an excellent solution to spam with humongous side effects. Some are documented in Pamela Parker’s article in ClickZ about this, but my top three issues are:

1. Challenge/response effectively eliminates everything other than personal email from people who like you. In other words, no emails from people like Fred who don’t have time to respond or work offline, no newsletters, no Wall Street Journal email alerts, no Amazon shipping confirmations, no eBay bid responses.

2. The flip side of the previous point is that for publishers and marketers, challenge/response is a nightmare. Manually responding to dozens of emails is hard enough — that is, if the marketer/publisher can find them and respond to them before they “expire.” But when the volume gets into the hundreds or thousands, it becomes a nightmare cost of being a non-spammer.

3. My final pet peeve? David Daniels nailed it in his quote in Pamela’s article — it solves the problem of too much email by tripling the volume of email (one email, one challenge, one response)!

Overall, it’s a crude solution to the problem, and one that I think will be obviated over time.

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