Complexity vs. Simplicity: Can Email Tools be too Fancy to Function?

I once heard a web developer explain to a client that the easier a website is to use on the front end, the more complex the programming on the back end. He was saying this to explain to the client the potential increase in cost to make the simplicity possible. But I remembered this incident as I was reading a DMA report on complexity in cross channel marketing, and I realized how this could apply to email marketing tools as well. Marketers want more capabilities but not necessarily more complexities, but are we getting there? Are we building the platforms that can do it all without requiring a marketer to be a know-it-all? As marketers pursue the one-to-one email marketing Holy Grail, being able to segment, target and analyze is imperative. But that’s a wee bit more difficult to do than simply send out a mass email to an entire list. Ditto for tracking to track the results of that effort. That’s where we get to the tradeoff of all of this: complexity vs. simplicity. Complexity makes things possible…but it can also make them hard. How much time does a marketer want to invest in learning a platform, especially when that marketer isn’t very tech savvy? Plus marketers have plenty of other tasks on their to-do lists, so it’s not as if they have any free time for digging deep into an interface to figure out how to use all of functionality. Consider Microsoft Word as a quick comparison: There’s

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Email Deliverability Doesn’t Change…Processes Must

What’s new under the deliverability sun? Apparently not much. The latest study by Return Path, tracking email deliverability rates worldwide, really doesn’t tell us anything new. In fact, its true usefulness might be in helping us to stop worrying so much about a sudden and drastic drop in deliverability. I remember looking at the numbers the last time this study came out, and they weren’t that different from these. Even Brazil’s embarrassingly dismal numbers are similar to what they already had been. What is interesting to me is that not much has changed despite an increase in awareness around what it takes to improve deliverability in 2014-2015. The industry’s publications regularly serve up advice on improving deliverability, as well as the importance of doing so. Why aren’t U.S. organizations heeding this advice? Why is deliverability hovering at that low rate in this country? Maybe because it’s hard to change. The kind of change needed happens at the organizational level, and it requires a cultural willingness to do things differently. Some businesses want to simply drop those email addresses that aren’t working, whether because emails aren’t delivered or they go straight to the junk mail folder. That might help deliverability but it’s only a short-term solution that doesn’t address the real problem: the need to engage and/or re-engage. Businesses must stop settling for the status quo and be willing to do more, whether that means segmenting out inactive subscribers and implementing a re-engagement campaign, revamping frequency and content, offering a preference

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Social Logins Suck

OK, confession time: How many of you are tired of remembering usernames and passwords and log in to various accounts with your social logins instead of creating new ones? I’ll come clean: I’ve done it. It’s just easier that way. If I only have to remember my Twitter login, and then I can use that login on any number of other sites, haven’t I just made my life easier? Yes…but if you’re the marketer, no. Social logins make life easier for the consumer, but they only pretend to make life easier for the marketer. Here’s why: 1. You don’t own the data: If you allow users to log in to your site or platform via Facebook or Twitter, who owns that user’s data? Not you. At best you’re sharing it. Yes, you’re less likely to get the signup if you don’t offer a social login option, so there is a downside. Janrain claims offering social login improves registration conversion rates by at least 50%.But on the other hand, you own that subscriber if you require them to register directly. Facebook has thought this through, and they have rules around how you can use data; scroll down to #6 “Data Collection and Use”. (Thanks to Dave Hendricks at LiveIntent for bringing this clause to my attention.) 2. You’re watering down your brand: This MailChimp post tells a great story about the inherent issues with social logins, including the dilution of the brand when a logo doesn’t appear alone but rather alongside other brands.

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Why Is Bad Email so Easy to Do?

After 17 years in the industry, I still look at what shows up in my inbox, shake my head, and ask myself how it is that so much email still sucks in 2014. And then I remember: Bad email is too easy to do. Really, getting email out the door isn’t hard at all. Get set up with your ESP, load a list of email addresses, dump some content into a template, and send. Voila! Would other marketing channels be handled so carelessly? A TV ad? A direct mail campaign? A billboard even? I doubt it. But then, those channels are costlier to pull off, and so get more attention—much more attention—from the marketing department or a traditional agency. I’m not saying all email marketing is bad. In fact, it’s getting better all the time. But I am saying still too much of it is bad, given how long we’ve been doing it now, and how much more effective it would be if done well. Bad email marketing is simply too easy to do because: It’s easy to get email addresses. It’s easy to dump content into a template. It’s easy to send. It’s easy to email over and over again. You know what’s not easy? Building a quality list Creating great content Segmenting audiences for relevancy Testing Analyzing reports The lazy approach gets emails out the door. The calculated approach gets customers in the door. I guess it boils down to a marketer’s goal: If the goal is to get emails

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Stuck in an Email Marketing Rut?

I was talking with one of iContact’s lead developers last week about the direction our company is taking with regard to new features. And he said something to me, Developer to Product Manager, which really resonated. “It’s all about asking the right questions.” You see, a lot of what Product Managers do is ask questions. Behind all the requirements and methodologies are questions. And if you manage a particular product long enough, you keep asking the same kinds of questions, with little regard to whether or not they’re still the right ones. I’m guessing there aren’t many PMs reading this post, but the lesson still applies to email marketing managers. If you’ve been in the industry or with the same company long enough, you might have strategized yourself into a routine. That’s what this post aims to correct. Here are a few tips to set you on the right track and keep you out of an email marketing routine. Keep a content calendar Content calendars are great ways to ensure that you’re putting the necessary forethought into your email marketing efforts. Keeping a content calendar also makes you a planner, and being a planner is quite beneficial to email marketing. Perform a quarterly metric analysis Some people — the kind of people that use the phrase “Big Data” seriously — can get a little analysis-happy. The pore over every send and scrutinize every metric as it happens. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this approach, but it can prevent you from

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How to Over Mail—And Have Your Email Subscribers Love You for It

One thing about email frequency: Marketers and customers view it very differently! Marketers tend to have a narcissistic view, thinking, “But of course they want to hear from us again this hour/day/week/month! We have great gizmos and great prices and heck, the world loves us!” Sometimes marketers seem to think they’re emailing their mothers, who are of course glad to hear from their kids any time all the time. But your subscriber is not your mother, and in their opinion, any time you send more email than they want to get, you are over mailing. The definition of over mailing will therefore differ from person to person. While Bob might be okay with hearing from you twice a week, Barb might only want a monthly email from you. Although your frequency might be the same for both, one thinks you’re over mailing and the other doesn’t. The danger of over mailing. Sending too many emails too often can have several negative repercussions. The first is the tuning out of your audience. I’ve done this, and I’m sure you have too, right? I sign up for emails from a brand, and all of a sudden, I’m getting too many emails from them so I just ignore them, deleting them during my daily email triage. I wanted to hear from them, but not that often, so I ignore the emails. The second negative repercussion builds on the first: a lower email deliverability rate. When subscribers fail to engage with your emails by

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Hey, They’re Not Apples! Pricing for an Email Service Provider Comparison

Doing an email service provider comparison? Although you’ll have a lot of factors to consider, price will likely be foremost on your mind. So let’s take a minute to talk about price and how to factor it in when comparing ESPs. Because you won’t be comparing apples to apples here. It’ll be more like comparing apples to oranges to kiwi to pomegranates. Why price isn’t the deciding factor Many ESPs have a cost based on your send volume, usually referred to as the CPM. Although the CPM (cost per mille—mille meaning “thousand” in Latin) is such an easy tangible to wrap your head around, beware the temptation to focus too much—or even solely—on this price. Email service providers might all charge something different (or the same) for each send, but you don’t want to focus on CPM. You want to look at everything because of the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rules says most ESPs are about 80% the same, meaning they can all do the basic functions like send emails and serve up reports. But that’s not where your email service provider comparison is going to happen. It’s going to happen in the 20%, meaning in the special features offered by each ESP. Make sure you know what the 20% is going to cost you, since it’s probably the 20% that drew you to that ESP in the first place. Also, if you’re tempted to base your email service provider comparison on price alone, you could very well set yourself

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Why Email Design Matters [UPDATED]

We recently created the World’s Worst Email, which breaks nearly single marketing and design best practice imaginable, and mailed it to a subsets of our subscribers. Although an over-the-top exercise, as the stats below confirmed, it proved to be a great device for shining a spotlight on why marketers should invest more resources in email design. Some experts say that good design relates to humankind’s wellbeing. I don’t know about that but, on its most basic level, email design reinforces a company’s image. After all, email is the primary channel most sellers use to stay in front of their customers. That’s a big deal. More directly though, email design is powerful contributor to increasing profitability and user-satisfaction. How your customer feels, and therefore if they’re going to engage and buy, is initially influenced by the design of an email. It’s the gateway to  meaningful actions. An let’s not forget that the world is rapidly moving to mobile. In fact, there is close to a 50% chance you are reading this post from a mobile device right now. That’s also true for email opens and clicks; needless to say you’ll want to truly embrace mobile-friendly email design as part of your strategy. Properly applied, good email design can give sellers a sustainable advantage, help them gain market share and even command a premium price.  I’ve seen it with my open eyes, time and again. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, quality content matters, but superb email design matters too. Most importantly, it’s

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B2B Subject Lines That Mean Business

As a Product Manager for a SAAS provider, I get a lot of B2B marketing emails. I’ll be honest — I delete most of them. Heck, I didn’t even opt into receiving many of them. The irony that an email marketing product manager is getting spammed is not lost on me. But every now and then, a great B2B subject line grabs my attention. And if I’m lucky, a horrible subject line will show up right after it, helping me appreciate the good one even more. That happened this morning. Here’s a look at my inbox in its standard view: Right away, two things jump out to me: Vidyard’s subject line is good. It’s short and engaging. A good subject line is always both of these things, and that rule of thumb is doubly true for B2B marketers — you’re not just competing for your recipients’ time; you’re competing against priority, budget, immediacy, company interest, and myriad other factors that aren’t even in your radar when you click Send on your campaign. What you can control is the length and tone of your subject line, and it should always be short and engaging. Qlik’s subject line is long. The screenshot above tells you there’s more to this subject line than Outlook is willing to show me. While it’s true my inbox pane is vertical and probably narrower than most, I’ve allowed Qlik 48 characters including spaces to engage me. But Qlik chose to waste 20 of those characters giving their

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