Tag Archives: Email Marketing

An Argument for Spamming


I recently read an article written by Todd Natenberg, who owns a company called TBN Sales Solutions.  It was in the local Kansas City newspaper in the business section but what caught my eye was the article’s title “In Defense of E-mail Spam.”  Having written a post recently about your online email reputation and how spam can all but destroy it, I naturally was very interested in what Todd had to say.

He believes that the concept of “opting-in” to receive future email solicitations is a flawed system as there are people that will opt-in who are not good candidates and there are those who do not opt-in that may very likely purchase your product in the future.  Situations change and therefore the statement of not “opting-in” now may not be valid later.  He says, “No business wants to merely send out an email. The goal is to have that email lead to action in the form of purchasing of services (or products).”  He raises a valid point that small businesses, who are the foundation of our economy, cannot afford the massive advertising expense to get the word out that they exist, and if you have “no call” lists and anti-spam laws, that you have severely hindered small businesses’ capability to market themselves.  They must have the ability to do economical email marketing.

Todd raises good points but here is where I believe his theory isn’t relevant anymore.  The traditional forms of blasting out a message to the masses, regardless of whether it is radio, TV, magazines, or …email, is rapidly losing its effectiveness.  Saying your message over and over, or louder and louder, hoping to find someone who might be interested only irritates and doesn’t promote the building of a relationship.  Seth Godin talks of this in his blog entitled “Bullhorns are Overrated,” where he says it’s probably better to find many people who choose to listen. Asking someone whether they would like to hear from you via email and how often they would like information is one of the best ways of building goodwill and lasting loyalty.  This is why the social media pilgrimage has built to such a crescendo.

One other thing I believe Todd omitted.  I don’t think we can fully comprehend the physical load on email server hardware if we were to “open the faucet” to unabated email solicitations.  The shear volume of “spam” could task these resources to their limit, forcing providers, companies, etc to make investments in additional hardware, the costs of which would ultimately be passed on to you and me as consumers.

What do you think?

How’s Your Email Reputation?


You remember that kid in High School who had the questionable reputation.  It didn’t matter what they said, how they dressed or the way they acted, once the bad reputation was there, it stuck.  It may have been a fair assessment of their behavior and it very well may have been completely false, but the fact that the reputation label was placed on them, right or wrong, it was theirs.

It’s really not all that different when we talk about email marketing.

I frequently talk to business owners who think their email marketing efforts are a failure.  They talk about low open rates and people unsubscribing.  They’ve purchased email lists specifically to market to and as expensive as those are, they have produced virtually nothing in sales.  “Email marketing just doesn’t work,” they say.

This despite the fact that an Epsilon Q1 2009 U.S. Email Trends and Benchmarks study shows that there was an increase in open rates for the 3rd quarter in a row, including a click rate increase of 4%.  According to Epsilon, “Email marketing continues to be an effective marketing vehicle.”

Fair or not, I believe these business owners are suffering from a bad reputation. According to Tim Roman of Fathom SEO, there are big changes coming that will shake up the email marketing industry.  And you need to understand that how you conduct yourself online can have a lasting impact on your reputation.

It’s really not accurate to pin a lack of sales from an email campaign specifically to a bad online reputation.  It requires a good deal more analysis to understand why email campaigns are not working, including the actual landing page experience, but for purposes of this post, I wanted to look at those actions that affect your reputation, and this is what the ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) will be evaluating when they decide whether they should even deliver your email or not.  Those same ISP’s are just as unforgiving as the High School students I mentioned earlier – once you’re labeled as bad, that’s pretty much it.

Many major ISP’s have adopted authentication schemes such as SPF to evaluate the deliverability of email.  IP address reputation is a major factor here.  Once these standards are universally used by all ISP’s, an email sender’s reputation will be known by all.

So what affects your reputation?

Dave Chaffey interviewed Tim Watson, Operations Director of SmartFOCUS Digital, an email marketing firm, about issues of reputation and deliverability.  Tim said that besides the sender’s reputation, technical setup issues, content and HTML could also contribute to deliverability problems, however reputation is the most important.  In Tim’s words, “Reputation issues are inevitably the result of poor targeting, lack of relevance and emailing too frequently.”

How do you address targeting and relevance?

  • Make sure you’re not using an old list, or one you have purchased from a third party where you don’t know whether the people on the list have opted in to receive your emails
  • Clean your list by doing a second request for opt-in.  This will reduce your list size but will insure that the recipients will likely not hit the “this is spam” button.
  • Ask your recipients how often they want to hear from you.
  • Segment your list and provide dynamic content that is appropriate to each group.  This requires really studying your list, their buying trends, and determining to which products or services your message should pertain.
  • Use feedback loops for spam complaints and even though they didn’t specifically opt out, remove any complainers from your list.  Windows Live (Hotmail) and Yahoo have launched these tools.

Take great care to preserve the integrity of your email reputation and it will serve you well.  By all means, make sure you do it before someone labels you as “bad.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

All my best to your success,


It’s Just Touch and Go

What, another landing page blog!?

Please indulge me for just one more post about how best to convert visitors on your website. I have had a number of my readers comment that they appreciated the subject so much that they wanted more. It isn’t really surprising. Thousands of dollars are wasted each day in email and Adword campaigns that drive lots of traffic but no conversions. Regardless of how you define a conversion, or what you want someone to do when they come to your website, it is the conversion that ultimately rings the cash register, right? Are you concerned that your visitors are doing the old “touch and go?”

I enjoyed attending a webinar the other day by Tim Ash of SiteTuners titled “The 7 Deadly Sins of Website Design and What to Do About Them.” He did such a great job of illuminating some very common design mistakes that I will do my best to sum up what his hour and a half webinar covered.

Sin #1
An Unclear Call-To-Action

Since the call-to-action is the actual conversion, it has to be extremely clear, even stupidly clear. The key here is “please don’t make me have to think too much.” If it takes too long for the visitor to figure out what to do, they will get frustrated or confused and hit the “back” button. Also, there are times where competing visual elements demand so much attention that the call-to-action is lost. Be sure that the call-to-action is obvious and it’s best if it’s above the fold.

Sin #2
Too Many Choices

Tim provided a great example of a Home page that had 146 clickable links! What exactly is the visitor supposed to do? For the sake of simplicity it is best to reduce the amount of detail so early in the process. The visitor doesn’t know you, therefore give them only what they need to know then provide sub-pages that they can go to for more detail if they choose. This grouping of choices into higher level categories will reduce confusion.

Sin #3
Asking for Too Much Information

This is especially true when someone is completing a form to be contacted or to receive a whitepaper, or sometimes even as the part of a shopping cart. If you ask for a lot of extraneous information (many times just for the purpose of gathering marketing information) it becomes too personal or it is not appropriate. If the process is too imposing or takes too much time, you’ll also lose them. Ask only for information that is absolutely necessary. If you don’t need a zip code, don’t ask for one. Reduce the number of fields in the form to the bare minimum which will also simplify. You can always get more details later, once you have established a level of trust.

Sin #4
Too Much Text

“Do I really have to read all of this?” How many times has that happened to you? We humans have very short attention spans especially online. In this case, less is definitely more. Unless you want your visitors to suffer some serious information overload, create very clear headlines and sub-headings in bulleted format. Use imagery if you can (only please, no overused stock photos). Most of all, put the important stuff, what you want them to know, first.

Sin #5
Not Keeping Your Promises

Every visitor to your website is there with a clear intent and in a particular frame of mind. They arrived because your email or pay-per-click ad gave them the expectation that they would find what they were looking for. The worst thing you can do is go back on that promise. Many times, because of a disconnect upstream, expectations are not met, and the “back” button is hit, only with vigor. Be sure you are representing what your ad talked about by repeating ad text or keywords. Provide clear access to information. Remember, your brand is a promise, keep it.

Sin #6
Too Many Visual Distractions

This used to be a huge problem back when Flash animation was all the rage. You would go to a website and be inundated with so much color and movement you’d thought you were having an epilepsy attack. Be clear about where on the page you want your visitor to look. Gratuitous graphics is like a visual assault, it interrupts the whole experience. I’ve seen websites where I can’t even separate content from navigation from branding. It’s just a hodge-podge. Studies have indicated that actually boring can convert better because there is no competition with the call-to-action. If your web designer is frustrated with boring, let them cut off their ear and be an artist!

Sin #7
Lack of Credibility and Trust

When a visitor comes to your website their first question is, “why should I trust you and buy from you?” Be prepared to answer that question and calm their concerns. You can do this with clearly displayed endorsements, trust symbols or social proof. In some cases, companies have featured the trust mark so prominently that is carries a heavier weight than the brand. Now that makes a statement: you are more concerned about your customer than you are about blowing your own horn. Whenever you can, use client logos and make sure you are providing generous money-back policies and guarantees.

My thanks again to Tim Ash and the folks at SiteTuners.

If you follow these guidelines and avoid these sins, your website visitors will not do the “touch and go” but will do the “touch and stay for a while and maybe even spend some money.”

As always, I welcome your comments.