Sep 192012

Email Intelligence and the new Return Path

Welcome to the new Return Path.

For a tech company to grow and thrive in the 21st century it must be in a state of constant adaptation. We have been the global market leaders in email deliverability since my co-founder George Bilbrey coined that term back in 2002. In fact, back in 2008 we announced a major corporate reorganization, divesting ourselves of some legacy businesses in order to focus on deliverability as our core business.  

 Since then Return Path has grown tremendously thanks to that focus, but we have grown to the point where it’s time for us to redefine ourselves once again.  Now we’re launching a new chapter in the company’s history to meet evolving needs in our marketplace. We’re establishing ourselves as the global market leaders in email intelligence. Read on and I’ll explain what that means and why it’s important.

What Return Path Released Today

We launched three new products today to improve inbox placement rate (the new Inbox Monitor,  now including subscriber-level data), identify phishing attacks (Email Brand Monitor), and make it easier to understand subscriber engagement and benchmark your program against your competition (Inbox Insight, a groundbreaking new solution). We’ve also released an important research study conducted by David Daniels at The Relevancy Group.

The report’s findings parallel what we’ve been hearing more and more recently. Email marketers are struggling with two core problems that complicate their decision making: They have access to so much data, they can’t possibly analyze it fast enough or thoroughly enough to benefit from it; and too often they don’t have access to the data they really need.

Meanwhile they face new challenges in addition to the ones email marketers have been battling for years. It’s still hard to get to the inbox, and even to monitor how much mail isn’t getting there. It’s still hard to protect brands and their customers from phishing and spoofing, and even to see when mail streams are under attack. And it’s still hard to see engagement measurements, even as they become more important to marketing performance.

Email Intelligence is the Answer

Our solution to these problems is Email Intelligence. Email intelligence is the combination of data from across the email ecosystem, analytics that make it accessible and manageable, and insight that makes it actionable. Marketers need all of these to understand their email performance beyond deliverability. They need it to benchmark themselves against competitors, to gain a complete understanding of their subscribers’ experience, and to accurately track and report the full impact of their email programs.  In fact, we have redefined our company’s mission statement to align with our shift from being the global leader in Email Deliverability to being the global leader in Email Intelligence:

We analyze email data and build solutions that generate insights for senders, mailbox providers, and users to ensure that inboxes contain only messages that users want

The products we are launching today, in combination with the rest of our Email Intelligence Solution for Marketers that’s been serving clients for a decade, will help meet these market needs, but we continue to look ahead to find solutions to bigger problems. I see our evolution into an Email Intelligence company as an opportunity to change the entire ecosystem, to make email better, more welcome, more effective, and more secure.

David’s researchoffers a unique view of marketers’ place in the ecosystem, where they want to get to, how much progress they’ve made, and how big a lead the top competitors have opened up against the rest. (It can also give you a sense of where your efforts stack up vs. the rest of the industry.) There are definitely some surprises, but for me the biggest takeaway was no surprise at all: The factors that separate the leaders are essentially the core components of what we define as Email Intelligence.

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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