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Jeanne Jennings
is Vice President of Global Strategic Services at Alchemy Worx, the world’s largest email marketing agency. She is a recognized expert in the email marketing industry with more than 20 years of experience.

Personalization is touted in email circles as a positive. I tell clients all the time that including a recipient's first name and other personal details in a message has been shown to increase engagement. But there are times when personalization can be creepy.

Take a look at the screenshot below (I cut out the middle of the mail to make it fit) - it's an email I received a few days ago from Macy's. Does anything jump out at you?macysJenningsJan2

If you didn't catch it, take a look at the subject line of the email - and then look at my name in the byline of this article. Now did you catch it?  

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The New Year has arrived and there’s no better time to look forward, assess and plan new goals and challenges. But, with all the New Year predictions and “Top X Most Important Things You Need to Do Right Now lists inundating your newsfeed - do you feel prepped or panicked? When it comes to improving your email program in 2014, there’s a little secret few are sharing - none of those lists or predictions matter one iota when it comes to your goals.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “resolution” is defined primarily as “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.” When a new year is upon us, we tend to take the opportunity to start fresh, clear the slate and “resolve” to fix whatever it is we’ve been meaning to fix, change or stop doing completely. In that sense, New Year resolutions are a good, right? Well, as with anything, that depends on the underlying motivation for the resolution.

Every New Year, millions resolve to lose weight, exercise more, eat better…but do they? Some do. But, if your resolution is something akin to, “I’m going get back to size X and weigh XXX, like I was in high school,” something very important is missing from the stated mission - attainable, reasonable and actionable goals! Perhaps a better resolution might be, “I will lose 50 pounds this year”, or, “I will transition my lifestyle into a healthy one that includes better options for eating and more opportunities for exercise.” This isn’t simply more reasonable and attainable, it’s a more actionable resolution. Being actionable makes it implementable and more likely to evolve into a successful, completed mission.

Consider this concept as I ask the following ginormous question - What do you want to accomplish this year in your email program? Sounds simple right? Perhaps your executive team has some really grandiose ideas about what those goals should be. You may have no choice but to align your goals with unreasonable expectations. Don’t dismay! There are ways to adjust your goals so that they speak to those lofty, “in a perfect world” goals of your superiors.

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In this journey, many of us have had a lot of different jobs and worn different hats. I've had more than most. Recently I made a list of all the jobs I've had. Believe or not, here it is:

I worked as a Sprout Farmer.

I have been a grave digger for a Pet Cemetery.

I did one graveyard shift at a Cement Factory squeeging the tops of Cement molds.

I was a vegetable stocker at Bread and Circus, the first natural foods supermarket in the US. 

I worked for Pat Cadell, Jimmy Carter's pollster.

I have worked in record stores in Austin Tx, Boulder Colorado, and Erie, PA.

I worked as a bartender.

At one time I made my sole living as a musician.

At one time I made my sole living as a writer.

I have taught at the college level.

I worked in a plant store in Pittsburgh.

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One of the joys of being in the digital space is the ability to test. Yet – if you ask many marketers about what they need to do more of in the next year – testing invariably comes out at or near the top. An effort we all seem to want to do, yet where few of us seem to feel success.

The question is, if everyone wants to test, then why isn’t everyone testing? The answer is that testing is simple in concept but really, really hard to execute. But not for the reasons you think.

To set up a digital test is fairly simple – come up with a variation of your current program, run it to a limited percentage of your audience and then measure the results. If the results look promising, run it to a larger percent of your audience and see if the same direction hold true. If so, roll it out to the winner. (Yes, I know – most people skip that second step.)

So if the testing process is so easy, why is it so hard to execute? The answer is simple…school.

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As interactive marketers amass terabytes of data and build extensive preference centers and user profiles, they increasingly face the likelihood of having a data loss incident or privacy mishap.  With the recent headlines of Target, Snapchat and other household brands making the news, now is the time to become stewards of consumer data.  Lead by example and demonstrate a commitment to meaningful self-regulation.

Make 2014 the year of Data Stewardship and support the following New Year “Data” Resolutions:

1.Do Not Be Complacent - Make Sure Your Data Practices are Up to Snuff

Marketers, service providers and app developers alike must protect their data no matter where it resides.  This includes holding service providers accountable by demanding they adopt the best practices available.  Conversely, service providers need to review their clients’ practices and be prepared to walk!  Make sure your privacy policy reflects your current data collection and sharing practices, including the use of third-party advertisers, analytics and service providers. Review use and sharing practices as new products, services and partnerships are developed.

2.Implement Leading Best Practices to Protect your Data and Consumers

The definition of “privacy” and the composition of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) continue to evolve. Applying last year’s rules may no longer be applicable. And as the dependency on outsourcing data becomes more popular, companies are increasingly sharing data that is highly confidential. While these outside parties must use this data to provide relevant services, both the business and outside party could face significant financial and reputational harm due to a data loss incident.  Make sure your partners are implementing best practices aligns with yours.

3.Secure Your Data & Communications

While there is no guarantee, make security and privacy by design a reality.  Educate employees, partners and customers.  It is a new year with new regulations. Provide internal and external security reviews to assure you are on top of the latest regulations from Canada, EU, Australia and beyond.

4.Make Security & Privacy Part of Your Brand Promise

It is no longer an option to encrypt your data files, hash passwords and or force https connections.  Follow the footsteps of the leading email box providers and social networks who have adopted “Always On SSL” and other best practices.

5.Face the Facts – You Will Have a Breach & Need a Plan

The “business shock” of a data breach will not only paralyze operations, but it will also damage relationships with regulators, partners and consumers.  Without an incident response plan, the inevitable breach will harm a company’s brand, increase liability exposure and engender a negative impression on your company’s bottom line.

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Bill McCloskey
is the founder of and Only Influencers, LLC. He has been a pioneer in fields of Rich Media advertising and Email Marketing since 1997.

In a few months, I'll be turning 60, the last 20 of which have been spent as an entrepreneur in the field of online advertising. My life has been neatly divided into packs of 20: 20 years growing up, 20 years trying to be an artist, 20 years an entrepreneur. I expect one last 20. The greatest of them all.

The unexamined life, they say, is not worth living. So I plan on carving out some of this last packet to a bit of reflection on how I got here. In this blog series, which I'm calling The Journey, I won't be writing about Email Marketing or even Entrepreneurship. This blog will be about the parts of my life that I want to document and leave behind, to my kids and their kids and to anyone else who might find it interesting.

I've had an interesting life and was lucky to be born at a time when life as we know it changed forever. And I was a small part of it.

As I watch my children graduate college and take their place in the world, I'm reminded that the thing that I'll be rememebered for, the thing I built my career on, wasn't even around when I graduated college. I could have never planned my future career, not that I ever tried.

Over the years I was a writer, a musician, an actor, a painter, a 3D animator, a father, a husband, and an entrepreneur. At one time, I was even a gravedigger for a pet cemetary. None of it was planned. For most of my life, I floated like Gump's feather.

So, let this stand as the introduction. I'm not planning on promoting these posts. I'm going to write them and leave them floating like a note in a bottle. Like a feather. This blog is going to be about those other lives, and the journey from there to here. Or to put it another way: this blog's for me.

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Tagged in: Bill McCloskey
Darcy Grabenstein
is a freelance copywriter and a Digital Account Manager at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

As we start a new year, let's take a look at Christmas emails past. The 2013 holiday season was filled with promotional emails galore. Here are a few that caught my attention.

Black Friday Subject Lines

I'd like to give a shout out to these companies with subject lines that set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd:

Betsey Johnson

A Black Friday Offer You Can't Refuse


Get your BLACK FRIDAY list ready | Over 500 Door Busters
Ready, set, click! Shop 500+ Black Friday Door Busters online.
$100 COUPON ends tonight! Black Friday Round

Current Catalog

❸ ❷ ❶ Black Friday Triple Offer Starts Now


☻☺☻☺☻☺☻ bbbbbbbbBBBBBLACK

Ethan Allen

Black Friday Goes Red: Are you ready?

(I'm a sucker for alliteration...)


Black Friday Frenzy! 20% Off, Plus FREE SHIPPING!

(interesting how both the e.l.f. and Hartstrings subject lines were exactly the same; Hartstrings showed up first in my inbox...)



Imagine Toys

Tech the halls

(and in true J. Peterman style...)

J. Peterman

Unequivocal Blackness Today - Up to 67% Off & Free Shipping.


Gift Ideas She'll Definitely Take A Shine To + Free Overnight Shipping!

Judith Ripka

Bling in the New Year with Judith Ripka

Magic Cabin

Black Friday savings with all the fixings

(This gave me an idea for a subject line for a Black Friday reminder email: A second helping of Black Friday sales)

Nasty Gal

BLACK OUT—40% Off All Black Everything!

Nicole Miller

Don't Go Cold Turkey - Shop Our Sale. Up to 70% off.

The Container Store

Oh! Oh! Oh! FREE SHIPPING on Stocking Stuffers

Both Ikea and Mod Cloth had similar headlines with a play on words that captured both the immediacy of the offers and their value:


Seize the days

Mod Cloth

Seize the deal

Mod Cloth also wins points for including content as well. The subject line – Feast your eyes on 5 Black Friday Tips + our fab 50% off sale! – says it all.

And now for the emails that made my list of nice and not so nice...

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Ellen Watkins
is a marketing leader with expertise in global marketing automation and communications strategy, sales and training.

She helps business and personnel within Fortune 500 companies achieve their visions and goals by implementing creative solutions to complex problems.

Through her approach of identifying cross-functional needs, Ellen helps develop manageable and actionable strategies to enable stakeholder and project success.

Title: Global Marketing Operations, National Instruments

Linkedin Profile

Whether you think email is dead or not, or if mobile is taking over, is irrelevant…the industry is changing and we have to manage that change. Our businesses are consolidating. Our organizations are growing into global companies and expanding. And, because of that our vendors are changing…and will continue to change. Unless you can tell the future, we’re all facing the same facts. As leaders, we are driving it and leading our teams through it.


Problem: How do you deal with, and lead, the changes in an organization?

Answer: You understand the process of change and apply it to the situation and person.

It's scientifically documented, we all go through the same process of change... no matter what the change... no matter who the person. Some people go through it smoother and faster than others. Some people get stuck in a step or two along the way... and maybe repeat it. Once you know these steps you can see it happening. You can identify who is stuck and who barrels right on through, almost seeming to jump over a step.

I've seen it listed a few different ways throughout different industries, but ultimately the information says pretty much the same thing. I use the steps this way:

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Darcy Grabenstein
is a Freelance Copywriter and a Digital Account Manager at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

As email marketers, we cringe over what can possibly go wrong with our deployments - typos, broken images, broken links. And we lose sleep at night over the even bigger bloopers - missing or expired promo codes, products that sell out before the promotion is over, website glitches and more.

Let’s face it - it’s not the end of the world (although it could be the end of a job, depending on the severity of the error).

What resonates with customers, however, is how your company handles such “whoopses.” A sincere apology – especially when combined with an additional offer – can go a long way to restoring trust in a brand.

In this example from Rocawear, the company speaks its customers’ language with “Our Bad!” The subject line – We Apologize - Take An Additional 10% Off – gets right to the point. What I find interesting is that Rocawear did not remove its sharing link at the bottom of the email. (Of course, promo codes like this end up on sites like RetailMeNot anyway.)

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Jeanne Jennings

Vice President, Global Strategic Services
Alchemy Worx, a 100% Email Marketing Agency


Jeanne Jennings is Vice President of Global Strategic Services at Alchemy Worx, the world’s largest email marketing agency. She is a recognized expert in the email marketing industry with more than 20 years of experience, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s.

She’s been focused on email since 2000, when she was head of email product development for Reed Business Information US, a division of Reed-Elsevier. Prior to joining Alchemy Worx, she ran her own successful email marketing consultancy, focused on strategy, building relationships and improving bottom line performance; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Network Solutions, PRWeb, Scholastic, Verizon, Vocus and WeightWatchers.

Jeanne is an active member of the Email Experience Council, the US DMA’s email marketing arm; she writes a regular column on email marketing for and her book, The Email Marketing Kit: The Ultimate Email Marketer’s Bible, was published by SitePoint in 2007. Jeanne is a sought-after speaker on email marketing for industry conferences and training workshops. She's based in Washington, DC and is a huge hockey fan – Let’s Go Caps!

With offices in both London and Atlanta, GA, Alchemy Worx provides strategy, planning, design, copywriting, production, testing, reporting, and analysis of email campaigns to a host of top-tier clients. These include Aviva, Carphone Warehouse, Charles Tyrwhitt, Getty Images, Hilton, Kraft, Sony Playstation and To find out more, please visit:

Back in September I wrote a post for this blog about the mindset of great email marketers ( -- that they are always looking at the data and using the quantitative results to improve their future performance.

Anyone who visits your site is a good candidate to become an email subscriber – well, with the exception of those that are already subscribers. Which is why I use a metric that attempts to adjust for this.

I call it the Website Email Conversion Rate.

It’s calculated by dividing the number of email signs-ups by the unique new visitors to the site. Here’s an example:b2ap3_thumbnail_jeannejennings.png

I use the new visitors number instead of total visitors as an attempt to weed out those who are already subscribers. It’s not a perfect solution, I’ll admit. But it’s a good start.

Now, I realize that not everyone will sign-up for your email newsletter during their first visit – for some it may take a couple times before they’re convinced. But your goal should be to convert as many first-time visitors as possible.

I’ve see this metric as high as 80% -- but that was for a micro-site with the sole purpose of lead generation (and, as you can see from the metric, it was very good at that). I’m also seen this metric below 1% -- which means there was a huge opportunity for improvement.

So what should your goal for this metric be? Most of the clients I work have Website Email Conversion Rates between 5% and 20%. There’s no right answer to this – and remember that this doesn’t take into account quality of the subscriber (meaning do they open, click and act on your emails).

So how do you set your goal? Figure out your current baseline and then make it a goal to increase that by 10%. If you’re average right now is 10.2% (from the example above), set your new goal at 11.2%. Then start testing.

There are really simple ways to improve your Website Email Conversion Rate. Here are a few.

It’s always good to look at your sign-up process itself, calculate the completion and abandon rates from the first page of the sign-up form to the thank you page and see if you can improve. But this is a detailed optimization process.

Let me give you some ‘quick hit’ ways to improve your conversion rate which don’t take much time or many resources.

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The give and take between buyer and seller has always fascinated me.  For example, those who sell spend a great deal of time trying to navigate the organizations that they are targeting.  Who’s in charge?  What drives them to be interested enough to talk with us?  Who are the key influencers in the deal?  What is the desired outcome for the prospect? 

In the last several years the Corporate Executive Board has conducted extensive research indentifying which sales people were most successful.  They determined the following five sales types that interact with customers:

  • The Relationship Builder
  • The Problem Solver
  •  The Hard Worker
  •  The Lone Wolf
  • The Challenger

Reading through this list, I’m sure you can think of a few people you’ve worked with that fit into these sales types.  It may shock you to learn that one of these sales types significantly outperforms the others in complex sales, which is exactly what buying email marketing technology is.  In fact, much of the way that you perceive a vendor is generated during the sales process.  Did you realize that?  The sales type that drives highest value in the selling cycle is also the type you may struggle with the most as a buyer.  Let’s see if you agree with the description of the most successful sales type:

  • The representative offers unique and valuable perspectives on the marketplace
  • The representative helps me navigate alternatives to solving my problem
  • The representative helps “me” avoid land mines
  • The representative educates me on new issues and new outcomes
  • The company they work from is easy to buy from
  • The vendor has widespread support from within my organization

The challenge that sales folks face in the email space is differentiating between competitive vendors. It’s hard to do.  It’s made more complex by the fact that many times the buyers don’t do a good enough job of identifying their needs and truly understanding the core variables that each vendor brings to the table.  The reality is that all of the ESP’s can handle sending email and sending it well.  Trying to differentiate between basic features that accomplish this table stakes task isn’t going to yield insight for the buyer. Understanding which sales team is bringing you value, versus the one who is interested in winning the commodity race, can have a huge impact on your decision making.

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Tagged in: Email Only Influencers

    To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain

    is to be ridiculous.

    --Chinese Proverb


My modus operandi after graduating college was to eliminate uncertainty in my life as much as possible. The alternative for me at the time was to feel like the feather in the wind which would one day be artfully shot in the opening of the film, Forest Gump.

After becoming the CEO of a direct marketing company, the magic word for me was “visibility”. I wanted predictable results…predictable processes…and craved the comfort of certainty. When uncertainty reared its head, I felt all that was needed was more information. Just be a little smarter.

I hungered and thirsted for information but was starved of real knowledge.

     “…rare events cannot be estimated from empirical observation

         since they are rare.”

         --Nicholas Taleb, Author of The Black Swan

Our most profitable catalog was a military video catalog featuring over 1500 videos on military subjects. It took four months to get a catalog from product selection to somebody’s mailbox.

Then one day after sending out a few million catalogs, President George Bush (41 that is) launched a massive military operation called Desert Storm. Our response rates fell 80% and nearly bankrupted us. Nobody wanted to watch videos of past wars while there was a new one brought to living rooms via CNN.

Yet Albert Einstein’s famous saying, “God does not play dice with the Universe” was terra firma for me. Randomness and uncertainty could be tamed by working harder than everybody else. In those years, I often left home before my kids awoke and got home long after they went to sleep. Hey, eliminating uncertainty is hard work. When uncertainty reared its head, the remedy again was to be a little smarter. Develop better predictive models.

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Tagged in: Entrepreneurship

samnov1The dog, man’s best friend - but, why? Why does the dog consistently champion his leader and abide his wishes? How does a dog know to give his loyalty – his trust - to just one person? It’s simple. It’s so simple that it’s easy to miss. It’s not because his human gives him treats. It’s also not because he feeds him and keeps him healthy with a roof overhead. It’s still not because he takes his pooch for walks and runs, or even plays ball with him. - It’s not even for belly rubs! It’s so simple I already said it - Consistency.

I know what you’re thinking – “what does a dog have to do with email marketing?” There shouldn’t be any question about it! Being consistent – for the pooch – is being consistent with love and affection, care and adoration. The consistent owner is the Alpha dog and is rewarded with both respect and loyalty. The consistency in care given to your subscribers is akin to the love given to your pet. Being consistent with your subscribers is not only paramount to engaging and retaining them - it’s a necessity for deliverability.

sam2novIt amazes me how many companies start email “strategies” without putting much thought into the impact of a poor, or typically complete lack of, planning. It’s not easy to start emailing customers, potential customers or subscribers, or to add new campaigns to existing channel strategy – but, it all starts with understanding what they want followed by consistency.

The initial step far too often overlooked, and far too important, is analysis. Let’s discuss Rover again – you wouldn’t continue to give your dog food that they didn’t like, or treats they won’t eat, right? So, the analogy begs the question of why would you do so with your email subscribers? From basic analysis through the complex variety with behavior modeling – anything available is better than no analysis at all.

The past few weeks were spent with two different clients on opposite ends of the B2C spectrum. Both have mountains of data and both have challenges digging into it. This is a common problem for companies of every size, and especially for monster corporations that have been around for so long that they didn’t have a chance, or simply didn’t realize how, to keep up with data technology as they grew.

The quandary has a simple answer – make the data work in your marketing efforts to increase relevancy, engagement and therefore, loyalty. It can feel a bit like climbing Mt. Everest and can take enterprise-wide initiatives, several years and a healthy budget to make it happen.

sam3novDon’t panic! There are several more simple analyses that anyone can do, albeit manual unless you’re lucky enough to have some great marketing tools at your fingertips (or a fabulous strategic consultant!) that can help identify opportunities in your email campaigns. Here’s a few to wet your dog whistle:

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Three years ago the Only Influencers family and the larger email marketing community lost someone very special. Stefan Pollard was a respected industry expert, a ClickZ columnist, a husband and father and, to many of us, a good friend.

His death was sudden; none of us had a chance to say goodbye or to properly thank him, not only for his positive and lasting impact on our industry but for the rock-solid friendship he offered freely to anyone who loved email marketing as much as he did.

This time of year, when nominations open for the award that bears his name, is always bittersweet for many of us. It’s nice to remember what a wonderful person Stefan was; but it also reminds us of how much we all miss him.

The real point of this article is to encourage you to nominate ‘rock star’ email marketers for two 2014 Email Experience Council awards: one, named for Stefan, for client/brand side marketers and one for professionals from the agency, technology or vendor sides of the business.

I worked in the publishing industry for years and one thing I learned from my editor friends was never to bury the lead. So I’ll make you a deal. I’ll include details about the awards and how to nominate someone below -- as long as you promise to indulge me and read past that to learn more about my late friend Stefan Pollard.

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Tagged in: EEC email marketing

Cover SmallFor the past few years, I’ve had a front row seat to the content marketing revolution.  I bought into it hook, line, and sinker.  Indeed, a decade ago, I was trying to convince clients to create more video content because “with instantaneous, worldwide distribution, every company is a publisher, broadcaster, and entertainer.”  I’m sure many of you had similar conversations.


However, there’s a funny ailment that you may encounter in content marketing circles.  I call it “Assumptive Audience Disorder.”  It is this belief that your content is so fabulous, so magnetic, that all you need to do is put it out on the web, and the Google Gods will shine brightly on you, delivering traffic beyond your wildest imagination.  You would have thought that this “build it and they will come” mentality would have died thanks to the Internet bubble over a decade ago, but it seems to rear its head every few years with digital marketing’s channel du jour—and we have to relearn the same lesson over again: publication does not an audience make. 


Content needs audiences to make an impact.  Audiences need to content with which to engage.  They are different sides of the same coin; and yet, while I can name you many non-publishing/broadcasting/entertainment companies with a Director of Content Marketing, I can’t name you one with a Director of Audience Development. 


I think this has to change, and it’s why I wrote AUDIENCE: MARKETING IN THE AGE OF SUBSCRIBERS, FANS & FOLLOWERS out this Monday, November 11th from Wiley. 

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As a life-long practitioner of segmentation (I actually know what the Z in PRIZM stands for…and know what ACORN is…), it’s with a certain degree of bemusement that I see all the proclamations that “segmentation is the KEY to email success” or “you can never have too many segments” or “a three hundred sixty degree view of the customer (ewww)” or anything along the lines of “if you’re not segmenting, you’re not doing it right.”

Here’s the problem I have with segmentation…most of it – for email marketers – has yet to show that it actually pays in either increased sales or increased customer engagement. People seem to feel that segmentation is good, yet have little proof that it makes a difference. As an email marketer…I like proof.

In thinking about segmentation, it’s important to understand the soil from which almost all segmentation grows – expense. Almost all traditional media elements are expensive – especially things like direct mail and/or its segmentation-centric cousin, catalogs. The cost for a badly targeted piece of mail was high – ranging from a low of .$40 per piece to a high of…well, whatever expensive catalog you can think of.

You could make really a fancy decile analysis based upon the cost of sending all that bad mail. Many times, you could cut out the bottom 40-60% of your mailings and still not suffer a profit drop.

In applying segmentation-based thinking to email, a significant problem emerges – email is CHEAP to deploy yet relatively EXPENSIVE (in comparison) to create. Even if you’re paying a ridiculous CPM of $10, you can still be wrong roughly 500 times in email for every one wrong direct mail/catalog error.  The low cost of email also blows a rather significant hole in your decile analysis – you can certainly be more efficient but at the cost of total revenue.

For Example, take a look at this direct mail chart –

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When we started this team almost 8 years ago, we were just trying to easily automate our email conversations and scale globally. Looking back on it now, I can see the phases of development to our current model. And, I can see where we are headed.

Phase 1: Punt it over the wall and pass it out: Distributed Model

Back then Corporate and US/Canada were one entity. All content was created with the corporate lens, but for the US/Canada market. At the time, they literally passed the information to us and we’d package the emails and automated programs and send it to the regions for pick-up. We explained the value and why regional teams should leverage this instead of re-creating local content, but all pick-up was optional. If the content was adopted, it was usually highly localized and was changed in many ways.

What worked:

  • Creating standard packages so regions easily knew what information was provided: Name of project, file path, goals, overview of the message, CTAs, segment/ filter information, metrics, recommended send dates, final content.
  • Developing lines of communication. We set monthly calls with each region (which continue to this day) and having one main point person into the team, so they knew who to contact with questions.
  • Sending emails, as-needed, on behalf of regions which had limited resources.

What didn’t work:

  • Mandating this information. At this time all regional offices operated at an independent level. We had to gain their trust first and prove our knowledge and willingness to support their initiatives.
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sam1Considering the season, chances are you’ve been receiving a lot of creepy and scary Halloween emails lately. Some of them have been funny, some of them timely and others complete rubbish. Sure, I could discuss what makes an email good or bad, aesthetically as well as technically; however, wouldn’t you rather know what you may be forgetting to think about with all these tricks and treats distracting you? That’s what I thought!

The way I see it, Halloween is the unofficial start to the Holiday Season – the end zone for retail brands and an opportunity for any brand to make a positive impact on ROI. With that, if you’re holiday email strategy isn’t already in full swing, you’re already behind the curve – EEK! Talk about frightening! The good news – all is not yet lost and opportunity abounds if you take a moment to realize it.

The holidays aren’t just about retail. It’s a great reason to connect with subscribers from B2B through Financial as most everyone enjoys some holiday wishes. The retail world brings some great examples of how to connect and to use the holidays to your benefit. Halloween is that first opportunity and the beginning to the rest of the season – but, where to start now for 2013?

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Basketball season is upon us (and the holiday season), and as a fan of the sport, I was reading about John Wooden who is widely considered the best collegiate basketball coach in history, and one of the best coaches in any sport ever. I walked away thinking that managing and email program is a great deal like coaching a basketball team. Both require the mastery of fundamental skills, dedication, focus, and practice.

Even though Wooden was focused on the task at hand, great basketball, he took real pride in the successful professionals and citizens that came out of his program, even if they didn’t go to the NBA. He required players attend classes, get good grades, and become part of the community.   He was tough, consistent, fair, and open-minded. The same should apply to all the teams you manage, especially email which requires a high-level of skill mastery.

I’ve picked three ideas from Wooden that I think can improve the most common weaknesses I see in email programs:

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Progressive profiling is hailed as a marketing technique that boosts lead generation, improves marketing intelligence, generates more conversions, and helps you gain more information about subscribers over time.

Wow. It’s like listening to a commercial for Ginsu knives: “And that’s not all!”

Progressive profiling isn’t all bad, but it isn’t as good as a Ginsu knife commercial would have you believe either. Here are some guidelines for when to use it, and when to look for other tactics.

Progressive Profiling Works When…

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