Archive for October, 2011

data cleansingIn our previous post, we looked at attrition rates and we mentioned how the average attrition rate is about 15% per year. In other studies we have read, they say that B2B data decays faster than consumer data, at 30% a year compared with 7% with B2C. Any way you look at it, it is a lot.

Attrition will erode your database, if you let your database degrade that much you are wasting time and effort marketing to irrelevant, out of date contacts. Cleansing your data before you deploy a campaign also ensures you get lower bounceback rates, and higher open rates. So this is why we place such a high value on data cleansing at Jericho – and needless to say everyone else we know does as well.

Data cleansing, if you are not already familiar with it, is defined as:
“The process of correcting records, and if need be, eliminating inaccurate records from your data”

It is also described as:
“The purpose of data cleansing is to detect the incorrect, irrelevant or incomplete parts of the data and either modify or delete it to ensure that a given set of data is accurate and consistent with other sets in the system.”

Which basically means going through your data to ensure it is as accurate and up to date as possible.
Data cleansing can be done either manually (Where possible in simple cases, such as manually cleansing your lists before you send them to Jericho to deploy your email campaigns) or automatically (In complex operations).

When undertaking manual data cleansing, you want to review all the data thoroughly. Here is a list of key things you need to look for:

  • Accuracy – check all typos, spelling errors and things like ‘.com.co’ and missing or incorrect names.
  • Integrity – check the data is correct and up to date
  • Relevancy – make sure if you are sending an email out about gardening, that you don’t email your car club database or get them mixed up.
  • Format – make sure data such as number sequences is the correct format, for example, customer numbers or phone numbers, as sometimes they lose digits if not in the right format in excel.

If you are not already convinced of its importance, data cleansing is very important to your attrition rates, your bounceback rates, and your open rates. Why? Well we covered off attrition in our last post (Link to post) and if your data isn’t up to date or incorrect you may get a lot of bouncebacks, and if the contacts in your data aren’t relevant to your campaign, you may get low open rates if the email doesn’t interest your recipients.

no dirty dataA well-maintained and clean database will ensure reduced attrition rates, eliminate old, incorrect or irrelevant data, and will allow you to focus on emailingpeople that actually want to receive your email to their inbox.

Cleansing your database should be something that you get into a routine of doing regularly. A good time to do it is before each campaign to make sure you are emailing out to a clean database, and after each campaign, by using your email reports to clean out bouncebacks.

Fortunately those who work with us are starting to recognise the benefits of data cleansing and are working closely with us to get their database up to scratch, but there are still far too many companies sending out fantastic email campaigns that are losing opportunities or are lowering the effectiveness of their campaigns because of something as simple as bad data.

Have you cleaned your data lately?

 

attritionEmail attrition is where a proportion of a list is no longer usable due to the subscriber addresses being invalid. Addresses can become invalid for a number of reasons, such as the subscriber changes jobs, or when a webmail address has been inactive for a long time.

The attrition rates we see vary from list to list. We would expect the attrition on average to be about 15% per annum, but can be higher. For example we’d expect to see a higher bounce rate for first time deployment to a list that had no confirm or double opt in email.

The reasons why emails are junked is a huge subject and is always changing. There are three main categories in understanding deliverability. We briefly look at these three categories, and the key points of each:

  1. Infrastructure
    o The set-up of your sender domain and IP address has an impact on delivery. Any issues are usually easily resolved and is part of our normal service.
    o Infrastructure includes (but not limited to) SPF records and domain keys, IP isolation and whitelisting.
  2. Content filtering
    o Content may be filtered at several points along the path of an email – by a firewall or spam appliance, by the mail server or at the local inbox.
    o Content filtering varies between ISP’s, corporate mail servers and even individuals.
    o Testing eliminates most content filtering issues and should never be overlooked.
  3. Reputation
    o Includes block lists which you can find yourself on if your list contains spam traps or if you exceed a threshold of complaints.
    o ISP’s evaluate subscribers behaviour towards a sender including the ratio of emails that are marked as spam, deleted without being read and whether recipients are even opening your email.

So, our advice? Send relevant, timely emails to subscribers who’ve asked to receive it.

On the weekend I went shopping at Strandbags and I signed up to be a VIP, the shop assistant registered me, and I got a VIP card. It came with instructions to activate the card online, and I thought ‘I’ll have to do that when I have some time to go online and activate it manually’ and put the card in my handbag and forgot about it.

So I was then pleasantly surprised when not an hour later, I received a triggered email on my iPhone (Because I was out and about) saying ‘Thank you for joining’ with a link to confirm. You can see this email below in the screenshot.
 
So I clicked the link and it took me to an online preference center, which was already loaded with all my information that the shop assistant had inputted into the system, and all I had to do was click ‘Activate membership’ at the bottom, and I was done!

I was then directed to a confirmation page which told me my activation was successful, and I thought great, that was easy, all done! You can see the excerpt of this message below.

“Dear (Name)

Card Activation Successful!
Thank you and welcome, you have now successfully joined Strandbags Loyalty Program.
To ensure you receive all the rewards and benefits you are entitled to, make sure you keep your contact details up to date and provide your Strandbags Loyalty Card or email address instore with every transaction.
You can update your contact details and check up on the rewards and benefits offered by Strandbags Loyalty Program at any time at the Loyalty Program Section of Strandbags website.
We hope you enjoy Strandbags Loyalty Program and don’t forget to check your inbox regularly for information, rewards and special offers. There may even be something there for you today!

Kind Regards
The Strandbags Team”

So I thought that was fantastic and was pleased I was signed up and activated so easily, and I carried on with my day. Within 5 minutes, I received another triggered email, saying “Thank you for activating your VIP membership, here is a 30% off voucher”! You can see this email below in the screenshot.

This triggered email series really impressed me – with both the timing and professional look of their emails, to the ease of signing up and activating the membership. And at the end of it, I was rewarded with a 30% off voucher which just further encourages me to go back and shop at the store.

Well, guess where I’ll be going shopping next! Thanks Strandbags!

Email Marketing ABC's

A is for Auto responders
An auto response trigger is the criteria that is used to send an automated email. One example could be sending an email on a recipient’s birthday, or sending an email when a survey has been completed. You can also use these as follow up messages to send reminders, or post event surveys, and more!

B is for Bouncebacks
A Bounceback is an email that has not been able to make it to your recipient’s inbox due to an error. There are two types of bouncebacks. A hard bounce occurs when there is a permanent failure, and a soft bounce occurs when there is a temporary failure. This is where data cleansing becomes very important.

C is for Call to Action
Make sure you have a call to action. You need to make it clear to people what the email is for, and what you want them to do. Also consider all the people readying the emails on their smartphone and how to make the call to action stand out for them– make it big, bold and easy to click. It’s harder to click something with your thumb than a cursor.

D is for Design
This is a very important part of your message, but often overlooked. When designing your emails, choose your images carefully, layout your message in an easy-to-read way, keep your design consistent, and make good use of white space throughout all your messages.

E is for Engagement
If subscribers stay engaged and respond to your messages, they’ll remain on your list longer. To keep subscribers interested in your company, try some of these ideas.

F is for Frequency
Make people aware of how often they should expect to receive your email campaigns – either specify it on your website or subscription form. People are more comfortable receiving your emails when they know what to expect and how often they will arrive.  You may want to allow your subscribers to choose the frequency at which they receive your emails – for example, a daily digest, a weekly bulletin or a monthly summary, to give them control of what they receive and when.

G is for Growth
In order to grow your database, you need to bring in new subscribers and retain the ones you already have. Incorporating a subscription form into your email campaigns, that clearly explains the benefits of joining your mailing list, will encourage new people to subscribe. For existing subscribers, using the SmartMail Pro preference center allows current subscribers to update their information to ensure their details are current and accurate.

H is for Help
Help your subscribers out – they need to know how to interact with your messages. You should clearly explain how to subscribe, unsubscribe and contact you. For example, help your subscribers understand what they’ve subscribed to by explaining it the preheader text. And help your subscribers to unsubscribe – you don’t want them marking your emails as spam!

I is for Images
Images can make or break a campaign, and a good balance between images and text is ideal. Spammers have a tendency to hide all their spammy text by using images only. An interesting and well balanced campaign includes good images and good copy. Don’t forget to include the ‘alt text’ on your images to entice subscribers to download the images, giving them the full experience of your email.

J is for Junk
The junk folder is the last place you want your emails to end up. There are a number of reasons that determine if your email ends up here – the sender’s reputation, spam filters, or recipients marking emails as junk. Look out for more information about this in future posts.

K is for Key Words
It’s pays to avoid using words that are often associated with spam. We’ve got a great document that gives you a series of key words to stay away from right here.

L is for Life Cycle
Email attrition (Otherwise known as email life cycle) is where a proportion of a list is no longer usable due to the subscriber addresses being invalid. Addresses can become invalid for a number of reasons such as the subscriber changes jobs, or when a webmail address has been inactive for a long time. The attrition rates we see vary from list to list. We would expect the attrition on average to be about 15% per annum, but can be higher. For example we’d expect to see a higher bounce rate for first time deployment to a list that had no confirm or double opt in email.

M is for Manage
A well-managed list that is clean and up to date will have better deliverability rates. If you are sending relevant engaging emails to subscribers that want to receive it, your open rates will be higher as well. Remember to keep track of your reports after each send to optimize your campaigns.

N is for Never
There are a few things you need to avoid. For instance, never send unsolicited emails, never purchase lists or use a no-reply address. And never send your email without testing it!

O is for Optimize
With the increase in smartphone uptake in both business and consumer markets, now is the perfect time to optimize your emails for smartphone users. We wrote a post about Smartphone penetration recently – read it here. To optimize your campaign for mobile, you can make some simple changes like using bigger calls to action, single column designed emails, and make links isolated and clearly marked so that when people are scrolling they don’t accidently click on links.

P is for Permission
Asking subscribers to confirm their subscription ensures they’re aware they joined your mailing list. It also reduces complaints and helps improve your overall deliverability. For more of the legalities surrounding email opt ins, click here to read the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007.

Q is for Questions
Email should be a two way street; give your subscribers the ability to provide feedback and ask questions by incorporating surveys, polls, questionnaires, forms in your email campaigns.

R is for Reporting
With the silly season almost upon us, now is a good chance to review the years email campaigns. Use your clickthrough rates to see what people were interested in, and your open rates to identify the best time to send your email campaigns. You can also use the comparison report feature in SmartMail Pro to compare a selection of your emails against one another.

S is for SmartShare
If you are looking for ways to increase the reach of your emails, the SmartShare tool in SmartMail Pro is a definitive must have for your email campaigns. Give your subscribers the ability to share your content with all of their friends across all their social networks.

T is for Test
Testing is the single most important step of email marketing!
It’s important to test across a variety of popular email platforms, particularly to Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo to make sure the email displays and functions correctly. Other things to keep an eye on are hyperlinks, merge fields, bookmarks, design, fonts… You can refer to our post on testing here or even download our email campaign testing checklist to help ensure you have everything covered off come deployment time.

U is for Unsubscribes
By not including an active unsubscribe function, not only will you get in trouble with the DIA, but you can also damage your brand. With so many people using social media these days, you don’t want to have to always be dealing with negative comments or unhappy subscribers – you want them to be happy with you and their experience with your communications; so make it easy for them to unsubscribe. Go here to make sure you comply with the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007.

V is for Valid
Ensure you always have a valid from and reply email address that is manned by someone. This helps to give your brand a human voice and gives your subscribers an opportunity to engage directly with you.

W is for Weight Loss
Put your emails on a diet, and keep them short and sweet! No-one wants to, or has time to read a novel of an email – people read them on the go – keep it relevant, simple and succinct. How long is too long? Find out here

X is for Xmas
Before the Christmas carols start playing in all the stores, have your Christmas campaign strategy planned out well in advance. Give your brand a creative edge to help it stand out in the inbox; a funky fresh design, a punchy subject line, and that extra something that keeps your subscribers wanting more – we will give you the low down in upcoming blog posts.

Y is for Yawn
How often do you receive emails with such unappealing subject lines that you don’t bother to read them? If you are anything like us, this is probably a lot. And we, as much as you do, don’t want your emails to be a yawn.
The aim is for your campaign to be exciting, grabbing, punchy and engaging. A good subject line that grabs people is a great entree, and to follow, a main course of good content is ideal. For some examples of things to aim for, or avoid, check out our hall of shame and fame!

Z is for Zoom
Zoom might be a non-technical word to describe the speed of our servers, but they go pretty fast! So before you deploy your email, make sure you check it and test it thoroughly. You may also want to consider scheduling your email campaign to send at a later time to help prevent those ‘Oh no’! moments where you see something wrong once the email has been sent.

Are You Following the ABCs?

Review your email campaigns and make sure you are following the ABC’s!

 

Comic SansWe all know it is the content that counts, but unfortunately, people form a first impression in less than 3 seconds, based entirely on superficial appearance and presentation. And just as the power of first impressions matters when meeting others, the same principle applies to email campaigns.

You may have the most interesting, relevant, or innovative content in the world but your audience isn’t going to read it if your typography and design overwhelms it (in a bad way).

Imagine reading an entire email in Old English. Hard work. And imagine reading an email from your CEO, written in Comic Sans. What does that say about that person or brand? Would you have the same respect for your CEO or brand?

Alex Madison and Wacarra Yeomans of Responsys discuss the importance of typography in email in their Email Insider column. They give a great run down on what web-safe fonts should be used, and how to use contrast, capitalization, size and space to convey your message.

Josh Levine, CEO of Alexander Interactive, offers more great tips on effectively using typography to ensure maximum impact with your email campaigns. He recommends sticking to a simple color scheme and limiting the number of typefaces, sizes, styles and font weights. It’s always tempting to cram a lot in, however you can’t beat good use of white space with simple design.

Chelsea Rio from MailerMailer gives very specific advice on typographic design for emails. She explains everything from the type of font to use, the optimal font size, how to size fonts, aligning text, and how typography can create order out of chaos in email campaigns.

Overall, ensuring your email design and typography is clean and easy to read will overcome any barriers to it being the best, most effective email marketing campaign that it can be.

A bit of consideration to formatting and typography will go a long way to getting your emails read, which leads to improved email deliverability, open rates, and click-through rates. In your email marketing campaigns, be sure to:

  • Simplify colors
  • Minimize the number of typefaces, sizes, styles and weights
  • Be consistent in your layout and design
  • Maximize the use of white space

Remember, people don’t curl up with their email; they try get through them as quickly as possible, whether they are busy at work or on the road and trying to clear their inbox. So an email campaign that has good content, and has clean and simple design that grabs people and draws them in will ensure you get more email opens, increased email click through numbers, and higher email deliverability rates.