Billion Dollar Bracket Spam

By now you’ve probably heard about Warren Buffet’s Billion Dollar Bracket contest, an NCAA March Madness bracket challenge that rewards the creator(s) of a perfect bracket with $1 billion. 9.2 quintillion-to-1 odds surely have not dissuaded hundreds of thousands of people from entering, myself included. Because this challenge is sponsored by QuickenLoans and participation required a valid email address (they actually made me double opt-in!) and a physical address, the sign-up process required my undivided attention, lest my inbox get bombarded with marketing emails from QuickenLoans and their partners. Being the savvier-than-average Internet user that I am, I made doubly sure to leave unchecked any opt-in for emails from QuickenLoans and their partners. I was positive the only way they were going to contact me was if I’d actually one. Perhaps updates on bracket standings, which I’d forgive since it’s related to the contest. The last thing I expected to receive was information from QuickenLoans about refinancing my mortgage. Because, y’know, I didn’t opt in. “I thought I told them not to email me about mortgage information.” So I opened the unsolicited email and was pleasantly surprised with its contents: So QuickenLoans clearly didn’t care about opt-ins because if they did, they wouldn’t have said I enrolled into receiving “information-packed email updates” about saving money on my mortgage. It is kind of funny that Yahoo is the platform they chose for the contest — nothing like an ISP co-sponsoring a spam effort — but that’s not really relevant. What surprised

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Virgin Mobile – What they do right and wrong (mostly wrong).

Virgin as a brand is widely known for their wonderful complete experience – a company that shoots for not just “customer service” but really outstanding and memorable. They pull this off quite well almost all the time, but their Virgin Mobile brand could use some serious work. Order Confirmation Email To be blunt, there is essentially zero effort given in this email. A bit of branding couldn’t hurt. I’m not saying make it overly flashy but Virgin mobile is so image focused plain text emails should almost never be used. A little bit of branding and value could be added. Change the from name and address, “FreeMsg” is terrible. Why not “Virgin Mobile” or “hello@virginmobile.com” it’s not ground breaking but it does give the sense of a less fractured brand and is more friendly as well. Don’t use my full name in all caps, only robots do that, and you don’t want me to think of you as a robot do you? Don’t advertise that you’re actively not listening. The “this inbox is unmonitored don’t email us” is an awful relic of years past. It’s just not necessary. How many people actually take the time to hit reply and email you back, 1%? Sure there will be the odd “out of office” response but it is trivial to filter these out. Any other responses you’d get could be valuable to you. If there is a customer service inquiry, your customers would be very well served by having easy access to

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There’s More to Email Marketing Than Being Really, Really Ridiculously Good-Looking

I think what Derek Zoolander was trying to say in his eponymous movie is that beauty is only skin-deep. And just as that holds true in life, it’s also an important tenet of email marketing. Pretty emails do not a conversion make, and no company — no matter how big or successful — is immune to this truth. So let’s take a look at two very pretty I’ve received over the past few weeks and figure out why I didn’t click on either of them. Want an Apple iPad? iDon’t. Subject: “Valentine’s Day and iPad. Made for each other.” This email, like most Apple products, is gorgeous. And I don’t even think that’s a subjective, Apple vs. Android thing. It’s clean, well-spaced, colorful, and it has an ideal text-to-image ratio. All of its links are clear, and the whole email maintains a singular theme. So why didn’t I click through? Simply put, Apple is selling me something I’m not in the market for. Firstly, my wife and I already own iPads. Secondly, even if my wife didn’t have an iPad, she would look at me like I had 10 heads if I got her one for Valentine’s Day because, unless it was a chocolate iPad, I’d failed her. Here’s the thing: Apple knows I have an iPad. They know my email address, which is the same as my iTunes account, which is linked to all my devices and serial numbers, so they know what I have and don’t have, what

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Could a Relational Database Give Your Email Marketing a Significant Edge?

The world is growing ever more complex and businesses right along with it. And the more complex a business becomes, the more sophisticated its email marketing strategy must be. In order for that to happen, most business will need to use a relational database as part of their email technology. Or maybe I should say all businesses will need to have a relational database–those that want to compete and succeed, at least. What is a relational database? A relational database is “a database structured to recognize relations among stored items of information.” In other words, you can “relate” a piece of data to other pieces of data without having to add new fields. From an email marketing perspective, relational database gives you unlimited possibilities for segmenting and targeting. This differs from a flat file database which is limited in functionality. In a flat data file, every time you want to add new data, you have to add a field. For example, consider a restaurant that wants to track which food and drink items specific customers order so they can target future marketing messages appropriately to those customers. The restaurant might want to track data such as how often the customer dines there and when, what they order and their beverage choices, their average meal ticket amount, etc. In order to track this with a flat file database, they would have to add a field to the flat file database every single time…for every single customer. Or think of it this

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5 Surprising Email Marketing Lessons from the Golden Globes

Forget your email marketing bookmarks. You can learn so much about email marketing just by watching the Golden Globes. No, really. Now, I won’t pretend that I thought about this post while watching Sunday’s Golden Globes; I was clearly far too invested in the action to think about work. But it hit me Monday morning while reviewing the winners over breakfast — the Golden Globes winners can teach us something about email marketing. Lesson 1: A spark of originality goes a long way. Spike Jonze’s Her sat in a class of its own this year. The story of an introverted Los Angeles writer who falls in love with his advanced operating system, it was unlike anything moviegoers and industry types had seen, and it was rewarded last night with three nominations and a win for Jonze for his screenplay. His and the movie’s success teaches us that being original helps you stand out. Don’t be afraid to commit a fresh idea to code just because you’ve never done it before. Experimentation is half the fun of email marketing and it often can lead to sizeable reward. Lesson 2: If the rules don’t work for you, rewrite the rulebook. A lot of the talk last night was about Netflix. On the strength of House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Arrested Development, the online streaming service turned production company racked up six nominations and one win in the TV categories. They got there by completing flipping the script —

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5 Ways to Use Email Scripting for Superior Marketing

“Emails must be relevant.” “Companies must personalize.” “Consumers want one-to-one messaging.” We marketers hear this kind of email marketing advice all the time, and we know—we know—this path is the only one that will maximize the effectiveness of our email programs. But it’s admittedly a challenge to figure out the email technology choices that enable this kind of personalized messaging. Email scripting offers one solution to the challenge. What is email scripting? Email scripting is just what it sounds like: It’s using a scripting language within outbound emails in order to provide dynamic content to recipients. In its simplest usage, email scripting can populate emails with current date or pricing information. At the other end of the complexity scale, email scripting lets you query your data extensions to pull up and use personalized data in your email marketing, for truly relevant content and one-to-one messaging. Some ESPs have scripting languages (a.k.a. Merge fields) that can do more than email. For example, ExactTarget’s email scripting language is called AMPscript and it can be embedded within HTML and text emails, but also landing pages and SMS messages. 5 ways to use email scripting for better marketing Email scripting enables you to do all kinds of things with your data. It can parse data, invoke things to happen and do math, plus much more complex tasks. Rather than give you a laundry list of everything it enables, below I describe just 5 things you can do with this email technology. Read through this and

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Gmail Image Caching Sends Email Marketers Into a Tizzy

I wanted to take it easy at work this December. I wanted it to be a relaxing couple of weeks leading up to a well-deserved vacation. I figured I’d flesh out a few ideas for new product features. Maybe devote some attention to inboxygen.com. If I had some spare time, I’d clean up my shared folder. But then Google had to get all Google on us, what with their constant innovation and forward-thinking approach to how users interact with the Internet. The nerve. First, Google sent email marketers into a tizzy when they announced that Gmail will be caching images in your emails. People started freaking out over open rates and privacy issues. And then, Google said they’re doing away with image display confirmations. As a result of the caching, all images in emails will automatically display for Google users. You can read all about it on their blog. On the surface, Google says they’re doing it to improve Gmail’s users’ experience — no more “display images” confirmations and, of course, faster load times. This GIF, pulled from the article link above, says it all: Image courtesy of Google But their UX improvement might come at the expense of your email marketing strategy. Note that I said “strategy,” not “performance.” Your 2.5% open rate is on you and your content, homey, not Google. So here are three important things to keep in mind: Gmail caching images won’t affect your open rate, unless you calculate it by total opens (unique plus

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What can You Learn from this B2B Email Campaign?

Let me first say, I love Bluehost. I really do. I’ve used and recommended them for years, they’re an excellent hosting company; however their email marketing is a different story. That said, I’d like to quickly analyze one of their most recent email campaigns and see what we can learn from it. Here it is:   Subject Line It’s mildly descriptive, not too exciting or compelling but gets the job done. I’d give it a C+. I’d like to see something that pulls in the offer, 50% off is a very strong promotion, so why not feature it in the subject? If this offer is only for faithful existing customers, point out how it’s exclusive; this offer wasn’t, so saying “for Bluehost Customers” is a little redundant. I’d test subject lines like these: 50% off everything. 3 days only. Evan, thanks for being a great customer. Wow, here’s one more thing to be thankful for. From Name Bluehost.com ­ – This is fine, descriptive I know who this email is from, a company like Bluehost doesn’t have a whole lot of leeway in the from name.  Though I’d certainly test some minor variations such as: Bluehost or BlueHost (sans the .com). Smaller companies can try using a particular person’s name, lot’s of folks respond better to “Frederick Cumberpatch” than “Faceless Company.” Reply To Email This is bad on multiple accounts, D-. First is the noreply email address. Bluehost is known for their stellar support and customer service, why ruin that

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Who deserves a major email marketing award?

Nominations for the eec’s email marketing awards are officially open and new for this year there are now TWO different awards! Nominating your clients, peers or co-workers (or even yourself) couldn’t be easier; it’s free and you quickly nominate one or multiple people online. Here’s more information about each award: EMAIL MARKETER OF THE YEAR AWARD Exclusively for brand-side marketers, this award recognizes an individual who had a significant impact on his/her company’s email marketing in 2013 and demonstrates the excellence and creativity exemplified by Stefan Pollard, a longtime eec member and email industry luminary. THOUGHT LEADER OF THE YEAR AWARD Exclusively for individuals or employees of agencies, consulting firms, technology vendors, etc. this award is intended to recognize individuals that have made a substantial impact on the email marketing community as a whole and/or on email marketing’s contribution for individual client(s). WHY NOMINATE? These awards are among the highest honors in email marketing worthy of any email rock star, but that’s not all. Winners receive not only recognition and esteem from the industry and their peers, but also a distinguished trophy which will be bestowed upon winners at a special luncheon at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami — January 22-24, 2014. Winners will also receive complimentary registration to attend the 2014 Email Evolution Conference. Winners will be asked to help celebrate email marketing as a profession, and to participate in an EEC-Sponsored Webinar, contribute to the eec newsletter, blog and other industry publications as part of the ongoing

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How Customizing Your ESP Will Make It More Powerful

Your email service provider works hard for you, enabling your email sends and reporting, and making it possible for you to manage a large amount of data and maybe even do some deep email analysis. Yet it is possible to get even more out of that ESP by customizing it. What can you gain by customizing your ESP? More of what you’re already striving for: more data, more relevance, more results, more ROI. What you gain by customizing your ESP Whether you think your ESP is a good fit or a great fit, you can make it an even better email service provider for your business. Without customization, you’re working with a generic platform that—although it gets the job done—fails to enable the kind of targeted and relevant marketing you’d prefer to be doing. When you customize your ESP according to your business needs and objectives, you can collect—and implement—the kind of data that will enable you to do email analysis to discover your various audience segments, then deliver automated and customized (and therefore relevant) messaging to those various audiences. A customized email service provider platform can enable you to: Integrate your ESP with other systems being used within your organization for better business intelligence. Accurately segment your audiences based on significant data points. Efficiently customize the content delivered to those segments. Keep your data up-to-date. Keep your content up-to-date (and therefore relevant). Use automated and triggered email to send emails at the right time. Access detailed reports for the

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