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Taking Social Media To The Next Level

This past weekend I planted my summer garden. As I waited for the bumper crop of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and beans to pop out of the soil (it will be about a three month wait), I gazed around my garden and noticed that something was missing. My yard needed a picnic table. I went inside, hopped online, and found the perfect table. I placed my order online with a company call, received a confirmation email, and called it a night.

This morning when I checked my email inbox I had a Facebook friend request from something I did not recognize. It was from Cedar Store. This was the online retailer that I purchased the table from the day earlier.

I did not immediately put the two together, but once I did I thought how nice it was that this retailer took the time to look up my email on facebook and ask me to be its friend. I have not seen retailers do this before. I am not sure if this site has some sort of magical script that queries order email addresses and sends them facebook friend requests, or if some furniture aficionado took the time to look me up and send the request. Either way this is a great touch.

The takeaway from this is:
If I do not become a fan of this company there is no harm or foul. I receive erroneous facebook friend requests all the time which I ignore. But if I do become a friend of this company on facebook (or any other social media site) then they might have a customer for life in me. Whenever I think about purchasing furniture, I will remember this experience.'s facebook page is clean, clear, and has over 700 friends. I have not yet decided if I will click the friend button. Would you?

Fix For Gmail and Hotmail Firefox Spacing Issue

To many email coders and testers this is not a new news item.  But if you are not aware of this rendering issue and fix - then this could be a lifesaver.

The issue is that extra spacing can be included around images in email HTML, when viewed in Gmail through Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome (But not Internet Explorer). Hotmail has a similar issue.  This fix works for both Hotmail and Gmail.
The best way to work around this issue is to add the style declaration to every image, i.e.:  

It's also worth remembering that this also affects triggers, templates and anything else you may have that is mailed but isn’t part of the day to day html builds. Don't forget your triggered and transactional messages

Has this affected you and your email campaigns? Post your comments!

Most Popular Subject-Line Keywords

Here is a USA Today Snapshot that deals with internet and more specifically email marketing.  This lists the top 10 most popular subject-line keywords.  This comes to us from Experian Marketing Services
  • Are there any keywords that surprise you?
  • Are there any that you think should be on the list that are not there?
  • What about ones that you don't think are as popular?
Share your thoughts with us!

Grow Your Email List With Your Offline Catalog

One very important goal of any email marketer should be to consistently grow his or her email lists with quality names. One great way to do this is to invite your offline customers to join your email list. Harry and David did a great job of this in their recent Mother's Day catalog. They are using their offline catalog to promote their email marketing programs. They not only have an offer but also promote why someone should sign up for their email list. Nice!

Twelve Email Marketing Must Haves

Email marketing is an ever evolving art. It morphs and changes from one hot topic — or "must have" — to the next. Below are twelve current hot topics in email marketing listed in no particular order. Any serious or casual email marketer should know what these are and should use as many as them as he or she can in their email marketing endeavors.

1) Welcome or Welcome Series
Everyone likes to feel welcome when they join a group. This is especially true when someone opts in to your email marketing program. Be sure you make these new subscribers feel welcome. Send an appropriate and timely welcome (and maybe an offer) to newbie’s to your list. Better yet, design a Welcome Series. A Welcome Series is a string of welcome emails that not only says hello to the new subscriber but also can provide them more information about your brand and what you offer.

2) Segmentation Strategy
Careful, well though out, and flawlessly executed email segmentation is crucial to the modern day email marketer. The days of loading and blasting your list are over. Take a look at this post by clicking here to learn more about email segmentation strategy.

3) Testing Plan
Testing is one of the most important actions an email marketer can take. Be sure to test frequently and use the results of your tests. Re-testing is another good habit to get into. Some examples of common email tests are subject lines, personalization vs. no personalization, dynamic content, creative versions, time of day, day of week, various offers, gender, offer code in the subject line, and location just to name a few. The options are endless.

4) Survey Campaigns
Email is not a one way medium. Be sure you “talk” to your subscribers and email recipients. Ask them what they like and dislike about your emails and your organization. Pick their brains on new ideas and solutions to problems. Your subscribers can be your best advocates and your worst critics. Be sure to leverage their opinions and thoughts with an email survey.

5) Anniversary, Birthday and Other Special Campaigns
Everyone likes to be rewarded and recognized. Send your subscribers a special email just for them. This could be an anniversary email thanking them for being on your list for a certain amount of time, a purchase history/thank you email, a happy new year email, or some form of a birthday email or other thank you. Get creative with your special emails for your subscribers.

6) Triggered Campaigns
Every time someone initiates a transaction with your website, be sure to capture this action and respond via a triggered, automatic email when appropriate. This could be sending an email when a subscriber updates his or her preferences, places and order, has an order shipped, asks a question, posts a review, etc. These touch points build brand recognition and loyalty. You can also use these one-off emails to entice more people to join your email list.

7) ReMarketing (Abandoned Cart Campaigns)
One especially important and potentially lucrative triggered campaign is the abandoned cart (a.k.a. ReMarketing) campaign. This is an email sent to someone reminding them to purchase items/processes which have been abandoned — or left — in their online shopping cart. ReMarketing is a great way to nudge potential purchasers into converting.

8) Social Media Integration
Everyone seems to be tweeting, Facebooking and doing other awkward sounding social media actions. Be sure you include these important social media outlets in your emails. Allow subscribers to rave about how great you are on various social media sites or browse your corporate social media pages. Email marketing must adapt as the marketplace and subscriber preferences change.

9) Personalization and Dynamic Content
Use personalized or specialized imagery, product placement, or text when you can and when appropriate. Instead of saying “Dear Customer” in your message, it is much nicer to use your recipient’s first name — ‘Dear Balthazar” as an example. Also, utilize the data that you have on your subscribers. Some common dynamic content strategies are using different messaging based on the customer type, location, nearest store, browse or purchase behavior, recency, or email interaction.

10) Opt-down
One great way to save a potential unsubscribe is to offer an opt-down option. An-opt down is when your give your subscribers the option of receiving less email instead of them opting-out completely. This is a win-win. You keep the subscriber in your list, and the subscriber only receives the number of emails they request.

Here is an example of the opt-down from Eddie Bauer. This retailer offers one email per week and one email per month opt-down options.

11) Email Change of Address (ECOA)
ECOA is a list maintenance and hygiene process that keeps your email lists up-to-date by identifying incorrect addresses and updating them with accurate ones. Companies like Experian can take your bounced or inactive email lists, run them through their database, and return you updated email addresses for certain subscribers who match in their database. This helps identify past subscribers who have since switched email addresses but have not notified you of the change.

12)Email Append (eAppend)
Email append is a list growth and acquisition process that takes an offline customer's contact data and appends a valid email address to them. Companies like Experian can take a list of your offline customers, run them through their database, and identify customers with known email addresses to add email to their contact information. This helps grow your email list and reach your known customers through email.  Be sure to use a reputable source for the append.  You do not want to contaminate your list with bad email addresses.

That’s all twelve of them!

What do you think is the most important must have item for email marketers today? Which is the least important? What else is out there that should be included in this list? Share your thoughts below if you think there's something else worth mentioning.

Unsubscribe Confirmations Can Be Legal, Effective

I recently unsubscribed from Omaha Steaks email because I was subscribed with more than one email address and no longer wanted to receive duplicate messages. After unsubscribing via email, I was sent a real-time “We removed your email address” confirmation message. I had never received an email like this before (I am told other businesses also practice this), but it soon got me thinking — is it CAN-SPAM compliant? How will affect the user experience?  What about complaint rates?

I checked with a CAN-SPAM compliance team to see if this type of email sent after an unsubscribe was CAN-SPAM compliant. I learned that unsubscribe confirmation messages like these are, in fact, compliant because “the CAN-SPAM Act explicitly exempts this type of email in their definition of ‘transactional or relationship messaging.’ The law provides an exemption for ‘notifications of a change in the recipient’s standing or status with respect to a subscription.’”

Since the unsubscribe email was deployed right after I clicked the unsubscribe button, I did not feel like my request was being taken advantage of. It also helped that the the email from Omaha Steaks used very clear, heartfelt and thoughtful language in their message. They did a great job with this post opt-out email all around, from the subject line ("We removed your email address...") to the signed note from the owner.

Does sending an email to recent opt-outs work for all email marketing programs?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

Click here to Take the CAN-SPAM quiz.  How did you do?

Top 20 U.S. Direct Mail Marketers

Over the past few years there has been a significant decline in the amount of direct mail (a.k.a. snail mail) sent in the United States. But why does my mailbox still overflow with junk mail?  It seems that as direct mail marketing budgets have been slashed and some companies pull back from sending mail, others see that as an opportunity to send more. decided to research which profit and non-profit organizations are currently sending the most snail mail.

Here are the results:

Top 10 For-Profit Mailers
Top 10 Non-Profit Mailers
56% of all the top 50 mailers in the U.S. are for-profit organizations. 44% of all the top 50 mailers in the U.S. are non-profit organizations that are either soliciting for donations or attempting to collect on pledges via mailers.

Is your mailbox overflowing more than you email in box?  What are some solutions to this paper overload?  Do you recycle your junk mail? Have you ever successfully opted out of a snail mail catalog?  
Share your thoughts!

Nice Animated Gif | Is It Fall Already??

Neiman Marcus recently sent an email with:
(1) a super early mention of Fall 2010 - we are only just into Spring... Be Prepared For Christmas Emails in August this year.
(2) a very nicely done animated.gif

The subject line for this email was: TREND REPORT: The Preview of Fall

Here is the animated.gif:

* The animation only runs once in most browsers. Please refresh the page to see it more than once or open the image in a new browser window*

An Easy Way To Build Your Subscriber List

I recently made an online purchase from The Home Depot. In the shipping notification email I received, they included an email sign up call to action. This is a great way to ask an already engaged customer to join your email list. Placing this above the fold helps to ensure great visibility and hopefully a whole bunch of new subscribers.
Orbitz uses a nearly identical opt-in link in their confirmation email, except in their case they choose to use a text-based rather than graphic call-out box:
Going back to tried-and-true direct marketing principles, it's no secret that your most recent customers are your most important customers. When sending order confirmations, marketers should look to strike while the iron is hot by including an opt-in link, preferably at the top of the email.

Email Can Make Any Boring Day Interesting & Profitable

Are you stuck in an email rut?  Do you send your campaigns on the same schedule week in and week out? Tuesday, Thursday, Tuesday, Thursday, Tuesday UGHH!

How about a mid week refresh?  Liven up your campaigns. Try something new and different. Take a chance. 

I saw this fun creative (with a stellar offer) from Banana Republic
The subject line was cute and interesting:  TGIW. 40% off two items--today only.

Let us know what you do to shake up your campaigns or if you see any other good examples.

E-Mail Creative: Is Text Replacing HTML?

There was a movement a few years ago (circa 2001 to 2005) to get rid of HTML emails and move to an all Text format for most all email marketing programs.

A few of the arguments in favor of all text email were:
  1. HTML may have deliverability issues.
  2. HTML is time consuming to create.
  3. Recipients may have images blocked.
  4. HTML does not always render the same across email platforms and browsers.
Take a look at this ClickZ article for more on this argument in 2004.

Needless to say all text emails never caught on and replaced HTML.  HTML heavy emails are the norm in most email marketing endeavors and the four arguments above have not been email format killers.  Alternative text helps solve the blocked image issue and displaying a rich text version helps for devices that do not render HTML.  But recently I have seen more and more almost all text emails.

Here is a recent example from Old Navy. Old Navy generally sends HTML heavy email. In this case everything in the email is text except for the small logo at the top.

Will sending text heavy emails be a  new trend?  
Why is this occurring?  What is the benefit?
Will the HTML vs. Text email argument rear its head again? 
Let us know what you think!

Offer At Unsubscribe: Desperate or Brilliant?

Personal has an offer on their unsubscribe page. The goal is to entice potential unsubscribers to stay on the list by giving them an offer.  This looks like a clever way to stop an unsubscribe - but it also looks like a act of desperation.   

Does it work?  Is it a good idea?  Share your thoughts with us!