Category Archives: Email Marketing

Can You Say, “I’m Sorry” Too Much?

I know I’m going to show my age here, but in 1970, Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw starred in the movie “Love Story” and there was the line where Ali’s character said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  At the time, this line took on a life of its own being adopted, reused, rehashed and thrown around as if it were something sacred.  But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to consider it one of the most ridiculous lines I’ve ever heard.  The simple reason that we are human and therefore by nature certain to make mistakes, means it’s absolutely critical that we own up to our mistakes by admitting we were wrong and apologizing, especially to the ones that we love.

If we consider our customers to be important to us, and I would think that since they pay us money for what we do, they are, then shouldn’t we wish to please them by admitting that we made a mistake?

This is why it certainly caused me to think twice after reading an article by Neil Berman, writing for Email Insider who wrote about “Our Love Affair with Apology Emails.” In his post, Neil talks about receiving “heaps” of apology emails over seemingly trivial offenses, and that perhaps the companies sending them were either afraid of being “outed” by their customers on the social networks, or it was some false sense of self-importance almost egotism, to assume that the mistake was significant and made a difference.

I believe there is a real danger in what Neil is proposing.  Yes, I believe that if you say you are sorry constantly it becomes disingenuous or hallow, kind of like the boy who cried wolf too much.

Where I believe Neil is straying into a tricky area is by implying that we marketers know so much about our target audience as to be able to determine what is or isn’t important to them.  He cites the example of receiving a birthday coupon when it was not the correct day and receiving an apology, oh “how offensive,” but Neil, that is your opinion.  Does something have to be offensive or as grave as releasing financial or sensitive information to warrant an apology?  Where do you draw the line as to whether something was offensive?  Aren’t you taking a very real risk of the dreaded “unsubscribe” when we marketers are always striving to build our lists of suitable email candidates?

Now, Neil might say that if this person is so sensitive that they unsubscribe at the slightest provocation they are probably someone we want to glean from our list, and in many respects he would be correct.  But again I say that to make the assumption whether a mistake was or was not important to an individual is fraught with problems.  Why take the chance, when a well worded apology could make all the difference in the world to that individual.

I don’t mean to bash on Neil’s article too much.  He has 5 very good guidelines to follow for every apology email.

I’m sure there are multitudes of opinions on this, so I imagine the debate will go on.

If you struggle with the right kinds of messages in your emails and need help, drop us a line, we’d love to help.


Your outsourced Chief Marketing Officer

How Much Do You Trust Advertising?

Wise Old Man

The trusted advice of an age old sage has been the stuff of many a story, from those seeking the meaning of life, to the love lorn wondering whether cupid’s arrow has struck true.  There’s something comforting in the gray-haired wise man whose experience and insight make us feel good that what he tells us is the truth and can be trusted.

The stigma that age carries in our society is a very complex issue and even varies from region to region and country to country, however I think everyone can agree that as we get older, we view things in our surroundings in a different light.  Our experiences color our perception of what our senses tell us and we in turn draw conclusions that may differ substantially from what we once thought when we were younger.  This is especially true when in comes to the kinds of marketing messages and advertisements that capture our attention, and according to the results of an Ad Week/Harris Poll study, it is our age that is a large factor in whether we believe and trust those ads.

This caused me to think again of the importance of segmenting your target market, particularly by age.   This would include your email and direct mail lists, allowing you to take full advantage of the differences in perceptions to adjust your marketing communications accordingly.   Since Ad Week’s research indicated that one in five adults age 55 or older never believe that advertising is honest, versus one in ten adults age 18-34, it is imperative that you find a meaningful way to build that trust relationship so your message will be believed.  Otherwise, you stand the distinct chance of wasting your precious marketing dollars.

I attended a webinar recently about how you can improve your marketing Return On Investment by combining the data you gather through your email marketing efforts and the information you have in your Customer Relationship Management system (or CRM).  For those of you unfamiliar with the benefits of CRM, some would refer to it as a sales automation tool, which is certainly true, but is really only a tip of the iceberg.  Your CRM can be an absolute gold mine of information about your customers activity which can in turn help you in predicting the behavior of those who are currently not a customer but could be.

Your CRM system can be instrumental in helping you segment your lists as well as your target market.  What caused your current customers to trust you enough to believe your message and buy from you?  What incites can be harvested from the notes taken by your customer service representatives helping with call-in inquiries?  What feedback can the sales team provide on leads that have been sent to them to be worked?  How can you use this information to tailor your marketing message so not only is the timing correct, but the message is believed?  How can this data be useful for real-time testing to drive better results?

This is just a brief look at CRM benefits which could be a post all by itself.  If you feel you lack the time or expertise to explore this critical business tool, drop us an email, we’d love to help.



Outsourced Chief Marketing Officer Services

You Can Buy My Loyalty, for a Price


You found it, the exact item you were looking for.  You did the Google search, found the website for the company that sells that item and you go to their website.  You place your order and provide your credit card information and then comes that little harmless question: What is your email address so we may send you a confirmation of the order?  They say they will never sell your address to anyone else so you give it to them.  Then what?

Many of us have experienced buying an item online from a retail store to then be bombarded with every kind of email and direct mail offering that the company can come up with.   This happens to me even if the product I purchased has no relation with the offers that land in my inbox daily.  Annoying, isn’t it?

This is probably not going to gain me any friends, but I whole heartedly support this method of marketing, which is called Loyalty Programs, because if done correctly, they can be very successful.  The problem is, that so few companies go the extra step to insure success.

Loyalty programs go back a long ways,  I can honestly say I remember S&H Green stamps, given out by the local grocery store based on how much was spent.  My Mom would paste them into books that were used to redeem them.

Times have changed and Loyalty programs have gotten a lot more sophisticated through special on-line incentives, free shipping, discounts for referrals, etc.  But, have they necessarily gotten more successful?  Do they provide the return on investment to the marketer?

According to research by InfoPrint Solutions Company, a joint venture between IBM and Ricoh, the answer is a dismal no.  I recommend you read the entire article at The CMO Council website but I’ll try to summarize here.

From the consumers’ viewpoint, the study indicated that a “surprising 79 percent of consumers surveyed say they are very, or pretty, satisfied with their loyalty and rewards program experiences. But 70 percent want to see more discounts and savings, and 52 percent more compelling personal deals and offers as reward for steering their business to loyalty program operators. In a definitive call for personalization, 58 percent say they want more compelling personal benefits and services, as well as more relevant offers or individualized deals.”

What’s interesting is that it appears that the wealth of information that is gathered by marketers about consumer behaviors, wants and desires is either being ignored or not being coalesced to provide more relevant offers.  Why in the world if I order a straw hat from Bass Pro would they assume that I would want to see offers for guns, bows and arrows and camouflage clothing?

Something else that was interesting, it seems the state of the economy has very little influence on loyalty club participation so even as we move down the road toward recovery, these programs will still have an impact on buyer behavior.

With the average household enrolled in 14.1 loyalty programs but only active in 6.2 of them, doesn’t it make sense to be making offers that stimulate action?

If you’re thinking about a loyalty or referral program, make sure you understand how often your customer wants to hear from you, in what form they want to hear from you and what it is that will drive them to buy.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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,