Interesting Apps Around Email

Did you know that applications around email got $25 Million funding in 2011 alone?

A year ago I mentioned some interesting apps like Yesware, attachments.me, Spanning, Perkville, AwayFind, ShortMail, FanBridge, ActivePath, Rapportive, CloudMagic and LiveIntent.

There were quite a few interesting apps that made news in 2012 too. Here is a quick look at them: (Published on iMediaconnection.com ) Read the rest of this entry »


Likes, #Fails and Emails

Changing Times – The Rise of the Marketing Technologist

Your brand speaks through all channels at once. What was once a simple Awareness to Action funnel is now a complex mix.

forrester(Click to enlarge)

Credit Forrester.com

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Will you send emails 5 years from now? 10 tips to tackle change

I read this tweet on my timeline this week,

“Neil Armstrong may well be the only human being of our time to be remembered 50,000 years from now”

and wondered about the change the Apollo and Curiosity generation has seen. We marketers have been especially affected by this change.

In 1984, ‘Neuromancer’ – a book by William Gibson made the word ‘Cyberspace’ popular. In 1996 Hotmail was born. Google came into existence in 1998. 2004 & 2005 saw Facebook and YouTube. In 2007 a small app called Twitter debuted at a conference. Today Pinterest which started out in 2010, is the new hot thing.

What will change in the future? Will your customers use email in the next 5 years?

If the change-makers of technology – the inventors and entrepreneurs are the cogs in a futuristic ship, we marketers are the lucky ones to watch this change with one sweep from our decks.

We watch the brands ride this change, see the consumers interact with them, and while this process evolves, we help catalyze it. It’s fascinating to be a Digital Marketer today but it’s changing our role in many ways.

 

Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist

Read the rest of this entry »


5 Key Questions and Focus Areas in Email Marketing for Small Businesses

Social, local and mobile marketing are changing the way content is delivered to consumers. With animated images, countdown timers, live social media content and rendering for different screens, email marketing has become fancy too.

While small businesses usually find it easier to adapt to the changing digital marketing landscape,  they also need to balance speed with limited budgets and do not always have the insights from bigger agency partners.

With the limited budget and resources, might it be sensible for small business to re-evaluate where to focus on some of the key email marketing areas?

Here’s looking at the 5 key areas in email marketing – D.E.L.T.A.:

1 Design
2 Email Content
3 List
4 Testing
5 Analytics

1. Design
More and more emails are being viewed on mobiles and smartphones. Coding your emails for mobiles and tablets is already becoming a norm.

There are various posts and articles on how-to code the emails for mobiles, one of my favorite one is here.

Key Questions: What percentage of your email views are from mobiles? How has that changed in the last 6 months?
Focus Areas: Can your brand communication make do with skinny email templates? Could a good mobile ready email template, that has room for small images serve your purpose?

Here is how the twitter emails look:

But you might say, that’s twitter, it’s inherently a 140-characters content, isn’t it? Which brings us to the next point.

2. Email Content
Content is  the heart of your emails and often the most time consuming activity that gets completed only near the deadline.

Key Questions: What is the reason your emails exist? What type of email communication can suffice your need?
Focus Areas: Emails are scanned not read. At best you have 2 to 5 seconds for you to grab the reader’s attention. Can your brand communication make do with a twitter-like email that has highlighted words, bold headings, links that readers can quickly click-through if interested and large call-to-action buttons?

For example, CopyBlogger sends very short emails for their Internet Marketing for Smart People series. The email itself is pure text; it’s four to eight sentences long, with one link that takes you to a post, that’s all.

3. List
Every email marketer will tell you that you should segment the lists and send personalized content.

An event marketing company, for example,  may carve out a slice of data and create a list of past delegates who have opened the email last 3 times so that a special discount email can be sent to them.

While this is a great practice, unless this data is fed back into the central repository, it might remain as a hanging piece of knowledge in the email marketing vendor’s system.

Key Questions: How will your campaign data feed into your central CRM repository? What percentage of your email readers also are on your social media?
Focus Areas: Personalize emails with data from social media, past email and website behavior. More importantly, get readers to reply, irrespective of the list, or segmentation.

In most cases replying to an email gets you in the safe senders or contacts list and improves email delivery. If one of the metrics to measure readers’ engagement with your brand is email click rate, then replying is an even bigger sign of it.

4. Testing
Do you know which words in the subject line were “hot” last quarter? Is A/B testing a regular part of your email sending process?

Most standard email marketing systems have subject line and content testing features at no extra cost. This is one feature that should be your BFF.

Many marketers want to reach the inbox at a certain time, expecting that their marketing messages will be read at that time or near about the time the email lands in the inbox. However, readers’ habits are changing.

Since the time I have started recording TV programs I have hardly watched anything “live”. I record the ones I want and watch them at leisure. More and more people want to read emails at a time convenient to them and not necessarily when the email arrives in the inbox.  Some “star” it in the priority inbox, others “flag” it  while many, like me, file it in folders for later reading.

Key Questions: What time are your readers reading the emails? What words in the subject line are “hot” for your business?
Focus Areas: Is the frequency of email more important for your business than the time it was read? How often should your messages reach your audience so that it serves your brand better?

5. Analytics
Time spent on site, and number of pages seen by the visitors are not the typical benchmarks one sees in Email marketing.

My experience, in a B2B environment has been that readers who take the trouble to open the email in an increasingly cluttered inbox, click the links and visit the website, are highly engaged. I have seen them spend more time on the website than social media visitors. But this could be different for your business.

Key Questions: What are my key email marketing metrics? What email marketing benchmarks can I measure my campaign against?
Focus Areas: What percentage of your email list has never opened your emails? What does this mean for your business and how can you get these people interested?

As a digital marketer I understand the need of rendering the email in 10 different mobile email clients, but as a consumer I  very happily read the eight sentence text emails of CopyBlogger as well as the simple email feed of the long blog posts of Avinash Kaushik.

Sometimes the mere fact that so many options are available can overwhelm digital marketers. It’s important to step back and re-evaluate how best you can use the new opportunities and at what point they are needed for your business.

(This article was published on iMediaConnection.)


Digital Marketing – Some Thoughts

There a comes a point in the time, for every blogger, when his/her frequency of blog posts start to dwindle. This is not that time for me! I’ve just been busy! 🙂

Actually, I have been thinking of expanding this blog’s topics to digital marketing in general. I have a lot to share on topics besides email marketing (topics like short fiction and poetry – but that’s for another blog!).

Recently the nice people at  Customer Research Frontiers got in touch with me for my thoughts on digital marketing.

Here is the gist of my  mantra for marketers:

1] Own the CRM

I keep saying this at forums, presentations and seminars. What is the heart of digital marketing? It is not your SEO, SEM teams, its not your Brand communication strategy not even the user interface or content.

The heart of marketing these days is your CRM. Till the time the marketing department does not have a handle on this typically IT owned and operated asset, you cannot bring the best of integrated marketing to your brand. I would say that this is the start of all the best practices.

Who is your customer? What is his email address? When was he online last on your website? Which channels did he come from? Has he ever responded via phone? What is his demographic data? How many times has he read the newsletter? Did he ever use the promo code in the store? Has he re-tweeted anything? Is he an FB fan?

In my personal experience, I have received a an email about a store opening in my locality, read an ad in the local daily, and also received a direct mail. I have gone and shopped with my loyalty card in that store. The only way any of these activities can be measured if they are all fed back to some CRM database that connects my email with my loyalty card and POS data to the overall spends on the PR and direct mail.

The data about the customers is so huge and evolving so fast that marketers, IT departments and CRM systems, all need to keep pace with the market. It’s not a small feat. Its easy to get lost in the data, but slicing and dicing the data, segmenting the customer is where the insights will come from. Owning the CRM is a start towards getting more insights.

2] Eat analytics

Another best practice is to eat and breath analytics. Even simple website analytics can give excellent insights.

Take a simple example. I did an analysis on who are the most engaged audience on Juvlon’s  website  (I work with them). I looked at the amount of pages a person viewed on the website and the time spent on the website. I compared this amount for visitors coming from various channels, from social media sites, from blogs, from email newsletters and from display ads.

The people who came from our newsletter spent the most amount on the website in fact they spent about 30% more. For a person to share his email address, open the email, read it and click and visit the website – is no small task. More marketers need to respect the amount of time a visitor gives to you via an email channel.

3] Put a content team in place.

If you don’t have one already, it’s time you had a website editor/chief editor/content editor role in your organization. If yours is a clothes or fashion selling website get someone who can write and edit and understands fashion. If you sell plumbing equipment online, get someone who understands that. If you sell Cruise vacations online, get someone to write about the experience of a cruise.

This may not seem like a very “Integrated Marketing” related best practice, but what’s important is that you need to have the right content for the right channel. Where are you most likely to find your audience? Is Email a better channel for you or Twitter? Are the book readers more likely to be on FB or on LinkedIn? Which channel reaches out to what type of audience and what the readers look for differs. A tweet needs a different voice a newsletter more content, while a blog is far more time consuming – hence the content team.


So you thought Email was dead? About $25 Million funding for apps around email in 2011. Yes Email.

I have been writing about Email Marketing on  this blog for a while, but this post is not about Email Marketing. I read a post about how a VC fund is investing in applications around Email, particularly Google Marketplace. That got me thinking of all the applications I have been following that are around Email.

Email is far from being dead. The simple and humble email is the most ubiquitous web application on the Internet. Here are some applications around Email that are interesting to watch:

Yesware is an Email for sales people. The application is available for Gmail and smart phones and provides email analytics, customizable templates and CRM integration. They secured $1M in funding in September 2011.

Attachments.me overcomes Gmail’s shortcomings in attachment search. Attachments.me allows you to search by file type, email address, or tag. In March 2011 they received a seed funding of $500K.

Spanning is not strictly an email related app, but it’s a business-class, cloud-to-cloud backup for Google Apps. In April 2011 they reported securing Series A funding of $2M.

Perkville is a loyalty card solution without any plastic card or any phone app. Your email address is your loyalty card. Neat, eh? The company’s profile on CrunchBase mentions a seed funding of $500K in Jan 2011.

Instead of constantly checking your inbox for important messages, AwayFind lets you configure when and how to alert you of urgent emails, SMS, phone calls or smartphone apps running on the iPhone or Android devices. Awayfind reported getting $800K funding in October 2011.

ShortMail – It’s like Twitter for email. It forces you to cut down your email to 500 characters. They secured $750K Series A funding in July 2011.

FanBridge is a Fan relationship management service. They had secured about $2M in funding in Jan 2011. FanBridge, helps bands, artists, sports teams, and even small businesses and brands manage their fan base through opt-in emails and sophisticated analytics. It manages more than 120 million fans via email alone.

ActivePath has developed a “patent pending” technology that allows Banks to send out emails such that readers can instantly take action on the email – transact immediately via email itself. ActivePath secured Series B funding of $10M in September 2011.

Rapportive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your Gmail inbox and includes information from sources like LinkedIn, Skype etc. I find this quite a useful add-on to Gmail. Last year they received $1M in seed funding. Gmail has introduced its own People widget in May 2011.

CloudMagic has built a browser extension that results in an extra search box in your Gmail interface that allows you to rapidly search for anything in your inbox, with results updating as you type and the ability to preview messages from a thread in a tab or open entire conversations with a single click.

LiveIntent helps sell and buy email ad inventory. They secured $8M in series B funding in September 2011.

There are a lot more interesting apps around email marketing, Email and CRM integrations, and browser extensions and so on.

Email, has still got its mojo.

Source: TechCrunch

Published on pluggd.in


How To Ensure Email Delivery of Your Email Marketing Campaign

Email Delivery is an often neglected aspect of email marketing.  You will find many free and paid tools that will help you send an email. You can easily upload a CSV file with email addresses, create an html email and send it using a SMTP server or even your regular outlook program.  There are many email service providers as well. However it’s one thing to send an email and quite another thing to get it delivered in the inbox.  So to continue with the series of articles (published on Pluggd.in) on email marketing, in this article I want to focus on email delivery.

Email delivery rate is the percentage of emails that get delivered in the recipient’s inbox.  It is possible that you have all clean email addresses, but only 95% of them reach your readers. The rest 5% are either dropped by the ISP or can land in the spam folders.

Factors that affect your email delivery:

ISP level IP address tracking

Along with the email, the IP address of the server is sent in the “header” of the email. If your IP is seen sending too many emails that bounce or if your IP sends out sudden spurts of emails, then your IP may be perceived as possible spam originator. Recipients can mark your email as spam. This also affects your IP negatively. Check your spam score regularly.

Here is why sending an email on your own is not a simple task; I quote from MailChimp: “It’s important to have a process in place for warming up IPs. First, check your IP’s reputation with Sender Score and Sender Base. If everything’s OK with your IP reputation, you still can’t just send a bunch of email out from a fresh new IP. You need to warm up the IP and start building a reputation for the IP and domain. Send 100 the first day, 200 the next, and so on. Slowly work up the volume and spread it out over a 24-hour period.”

Serious Email Marketing Service providers that own a clutch of IPs watch over their IP reputation like a hawk, and check if they are blacklisted and insist that their clients use clean email lists. If your email service provider is fanatical about your email list and your bounce rates then it’s a good sign.

Enterprise level filters

Even if your IP reputation is good, your email may be badly designed or written and may trigger spam rules and land in the spam folder. MessageLabs, Barracuda are some of the enterprise level spam filters in use. If your email is mostly to your business-to-business you need to check against these to make sure your email is not getting trapped.

Email Program level filters

Yahoo uses SpamGuard, Gmail uses Postini along with community feedback while Hotmail uses BrightMail. A good email marketing service provider will give you easy way to test your email against popular email spam filters.

It’s a good practice to set up a seed list of email addresses that represents your audience email programs. Send every email to this seed list to check if the email is getting delivered. You need to also check if your email is displayed correctly. If your email is not getting rendered properly and readers are ignoring it over a period of time, soon the email will get sent to spam folder by the “intelligent” spam filters. Litmusapp.com and EmailonAcid.com are two good resources to test your emails against various email applications.

Here are a few quick do and don’ts for ensuring that your email gets delivered:

  1. Don’t use full image emails unless absolutely necessary
  2. One to one communication traditionally used text emails and hence using a text part in your HTML multipart email is a good practice. This means that your email code should contain two parts, one HTML and one text. Spam filters are pretty savvy and if the content in the html and text do not match, which is what lazy spammers may do, the email can be flagged as spam.
  3. Use consistent from name and reply-to names.
  4. If you are using a good email marketing service provider, your emails should have SPF record, or DKIM signatures.
  5. Check your spam score before you send your email. A good email service provider should give you the facility to test your email for spam words before sending.
  6. Check if your email is received by all relevant ISPs. Create and monitor a seed list of emails. Return Path offers testing and certification services which might be expensive, but go a long way in ensuring email delivery.
  7. SpamAssasin is a popular free ware spam trapping software. Read about their recommendations here.
  8. Read what Gmail has to say to senders of regular email newsletters here.
  9. Many ISPs provide feedback loops to track if users reported your email as spam. Enlist with such services.( e.g. Yahoo feedback services)
  10. Email marketing if not done right can take up too much of your valuable time but if most of these services are a click away with some of the reputed email marketing providers.

Social Media & Engagement Marketing

Recently Gmail announced its priority email feature. So did Hotmail and Yahoo. What this means is the emails from your social network and from the people you converse regularly with, gets priority in the inbox.  Essentially ISPs are now monitoring the level of “dialog” with your readers. The better the dialog or engagement the better will be the chances of your email delivery.  Email and social media work very well together. Make sure you include your Facebook link and twitter handle (not just linked “f” and “t” logos) in the text.

Sending emails to non responsive customers over and over is also a potential reason for bad IP reputation. Here is what ReturnPath has to say “some ISPs are increasingly paying attention to whether or not their users respond to commercial mail. If a marketer is mailing at a high frequency and receives a disproportionately low response or no response at all over a consistent period of time, their sender reputation could be negatively impacted. This could lead to having all of the company’s email end up in the spam folder or, worse, having it blocked outright.”

Many people who are not involved deeply in Email Marketing dismiss it as an important online communication tool, giving low open rates, spam, twitter / social media as challenges. However Email Marketing remains one of the best online channels. It is data driven, it allows targeted messaging, it can drive direct sales and it builds relationship, loyalty and trust with the brand. Best of all you can measure the effectiveness of your email campaign almost immediately,

  • how many opened,
  • who clicked,
  • how many visitors came to the website from email

and a whole lot more.

Getting Email Delivery right is a basic step in Email Marketing. So whether you are a start-up, or a small to medium size company or a bigger enterprise, I recommend working with a good email marketing partner to ensure email delivery. This will save you time which you can use gain a lot of actionable insight from email reports, which will the focus of next discussion.

What has been your experience with Email marketing?

(This post was also published on Pluggd.in. Read about other related articles on Email Marketing on PI here.)