The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Social Media Vs. Email: The Debate Continues

To build on my colleagues' positions in previous postings, social media is eroding email's social use in spite of its reliance on the medium and desperate claims that these two mediums can exist symbiotically in their current forms. Just as email displaced the U.S. Postal's role as the primary choice for delivering love letters, summer camp news and vacation postcards, social media is rapidly overtaking email for these same correspondences for the 35 and younger crowd. If you're a B2B marketer you can skip reading the rest of this -- because I have yet to see LinkedIn and the like encroach on email's power in the business world. However, consumer marketers better pay attention, because your ability to achieve the same ROI year over year with email is going to be turned on its side.

 

Email was not built for socializing. The basics of email are still the same as they were when the medium was first put to use with DARPA net. Very little has changed over the past 40 years, with the exception of HTML rendering and a few other nuances. As a result of email's efficiency and cost, it had an easy win for displacing the U.S. Postal Service for social correspondences. However, as an incumbent against social media networks, email will sorely lose ground in the coming years because of its inability to evolve as a medium and the corruption of the medium by spam. Social media networks build on the email experience, enhancing its basic features with true interactive tools and providing a far superior experience.

Who cares If social media relies on email? In defense of email in this debate, many ESPs and email marketers argue that email is the backbone of social media, providing the timely alerts that prompt users to respond to one another. Based on this fact, they argue that social media and email exist symbiotically, feeding off one another's strengths and coexisting in a harmonious marketing world. I strongly disagree with this sentiment. Social media dilutes email's luster, as it diverts activity away from the medium to a closed network. This is not a symbiotic coexistence. This is one medium displacing another while reducing it to a cheap pager.

Stop thinking you can integrate email with social media. A lot of email marketers have come up with the thought process of, "if we can't send email to social networks, we should try to integrate the two." I have my sincere doubts that it's possible to integrate email with social media for every industry. Despite social media's infancy, people are already annoyed that their so called "friends" are constantly trying to pitch cosmetics, insurance, mortgages and other products and services, intruding on their "social" experience. Now email marketers are giddy about the prospects of someone receiving an email and posting it to Facebook or MySpace. Please! I don't doubt that this happens -- but thinking it will occur on such a scale that it will increase ROI using the same crappy content is ridiculous. If you want to create buzz, give them something real and unique to talk about. Just using a social media link doesn't cut it. It didn't with "forward to a friend" and it won't for social media. either.

Your inbox will soon look like your metal mailbox. When was the last time you received a personal letter in that useless hunk of metal crap sitting on your front lawn? In fact, when have you found anything of value in there lately? Your inbox will soon be reminiscent of your mailbox, as social correspondence shifts from email to social media. Once you remove "social" email from your inbox, what's left? Junk, commercial email (some people will categorize commercial email as the former) and bill reminders. How social are those? Real fun! Something I really want to share with my friends and family. Face it. The inbox is changing and will be marginalized for social use.

The last holdout of hope for email to retain its crown -- From what I can see, there is one last hope for email to remain a superior marketing channel for the long run. If social media networks become the next inbox providers by opening their intra email systems, only then can email's luster be restored. I have been predicting this for the past couple of years and have been wrong... so far. My argument is that social media networks will need to continue to find ways to keep people glued to their screens for longer periods of time so that they can sell more ads or command higher prices from their existing advertisers. Since email is a major consumer of time, it's a natural fit for social media networks. While this scenario has not yet come to pass, I'm still standing strong by my prediction.

Email will not die -- just be marginalized. Just as direct mail isn't completely dead, email isn't going anywhere, either. It's still the most cost-effective marketing medium and delivers the biggest bang for the buck. However, email's effectiveness over time will become marginalized for consumer marketers as social interaction over the Internet shifts from email to social networks.

Since I'm the CEO of an email service provider, some critics might think I'm crazy for spreading the idea that email will soon become marginalized. To them my answer is, it was crazier for railroad barons to think they were in the railroad business when they saw their first airplane in the sky.

 

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Email Trends to Follow Into 2009

As we all know, email marketing is an ever-changing marketing form. It is easily adaptable to market fluctuations, economic hardships, and sudden changes in marketing strategies.

There are so many trends that can impact email marketing, but I’d like to cover four that I feel most affect our clients. It’s important to keep these in mind while devising your email marketing strategy for 2009.

1) Control is in the subscriber’s hands now more than ever.

It used to be that subscribers had little or no control over a sender’s email program. Times have surely changed. With eLoop (as is true with most email tools today), subscribers are able to decide many things for themselves:

• Whether to opt-in to your communications
• When, where and how they will read your messages
• If and when they want to change their preferences for content, format and frequency
• Whether to report your email as spam
• When to end the relationship

2) Emerging channels are creating shifts

Email has begun the shift to allow for the multi-channel approach. There are so many communication channels available to get your message delivered – you’ve got text messaging, email, and voice among the most prominent. These days, it’s easy to combine these mediums and provide a “combo” to your recipients. Preference selection comes into play here – allowing the recipient to decide how they’d like to receive certain messages.

For example, travelers might prefer promotions via email, flight delay notifications via voice, and weather updates via text messages.

3) You find your email list shrinking – your number of inactive records is way up!

This may come as a shock, but you should expect to lose about one third of your list each year due to bounces, opt-outs and spam complaints. To add to the shock, you can pretty much bank on 25-50% of your email list being stagnant, meaning they have not opened or clicked on your messages in 12 or more months.

Now that I’ve got your attention, rest assured…you can reduce these scary numbers! In order to do so, you’ve got to make some improvements to your email program.

• Give more control to your recipients (as discussed above).
• Manage subscriber’s expectations from the start
• Create welcome programs
• Use trigger-based messaging and a relevant target approach

4) Design Emails to Render Across Multiple Environments

There are so many environments out there in which you can read your email. Desktop email reading has taken a backseat to mobile email. The downside of this is that many mobile phones turn your fabulous-looking HTML messages into a mess of URLs and code.

The majority of recipients view emails several times and on different devices. The message may initially come to their Blackberry or iPhone, but later that day, they may view it in Outlook, Gmail or Yahoo.

The importance of designing your email to render properly across the board can’t be stressed enough. In eLoop, we offer enhanced rendering testing which shows you how the message will render on mobile devices and in various email clients. If you are interested in learning more about enhanced testing, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

So there you have it…four trends that are not going anywhere anytime soon. Luckily, email tends to adapt very well to change in trends. If you have any questions regarding the information provided, do not hesitate to contact me directly at 301-990-9857 x213 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Recession, Bad for Marketing - Great for Email Marketing

Waking up Tuesday morning to CNBC’s Becky Quick telling me the Dow Jones Futures were down almost 600 points after a surprise three quarter of a point Fed rate cut really put a damper on my day.  As I watched the real-time chart tick lower, my stomach started to knot, leaving me in a dizzying stupor.

It’s times like these that bring me back to my days as a small cap equities analyst where I would question CFOs about where they planned to cut and by how much.  The first answer out of their mouths was almost always “non-revenue generating jobs” such as customer and administrative support.  The second most common answer is “advertising and marketing.”  The second answer always baffled me especially from companies that aren’t leveraged.

In a time of a recession, companies with access to capital have an unusual opportunity to take market share as they are able to sustain or increase their marketing budgets.  Whenever a CFO with a decent to strong cash position told me that he or she were going to slash their marketing budget going into an economic downturn, I eventually sold the company’s stock and bought the competitor’s with the intention to keep its marketing budget intact.  This strategy worked well – especially in the services sectors.

Although most people do suffer from a recession, the winners do emerge and I’m confident that email marketing could get a gold medal.  During the 2001-2002 recession, email marketing was just on the cusp of becoming widely adopted but had yet to make the necessary penetration to become a formidable part of the promotional mix.  Most notably, the cost per email hovered around $0.05, way below the cost of a direct mail piece yet still prohibitive for most companies to implement two or three times a week on a large scale.  Fast forward to 2008, email marketing is now one of the least expensive marketing channels, and according to the DMA, a very high performer.  Today, most email marketers are paying under a penny per email however email marketing only claims a small part of the average marketing budget.  Even though email marketing has become widespread, email marketers, on a larger scale, are still not leveraging the medium’s true potential such as advanced personalization, delivery monitoring and management and integration with third party systems. 

This gap, coupled with a potential economic downturn, presents a unique opportunity for email marketers to lobby their CEOs/CFOs for a larger slice of their marketing budget.  Email marketers have already proven that email marketing works well now is their opportunity to reclaim it as the most relevant push channel available and the biggest bang for the buck.

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Top Issues for Email Marketers in 2008

1.  The Death of the ISP White List
For those lucky email marketers who previously relied on ISP white lists for superior deliverability will get a shocking wake up call this year.  As ISPs rely more on reputation-based systems for discerning good senders from bad ones white lists are rapidly becoming obsolete as the mistake of false positives are less of an issue.  This new technology and methodology of reputation-based systems levels the deliverability playing field for all email marketers eliminating the backdoor approach to deliverability.  This also means that email marketers must continue to rely on best practices and monitor their reputation as a slip up can cost them dearly.

2.  Email Rendering on Mobile Devices
As the mobile phone continues to become the main communications device, email rendering on mobile devices will become a serious issue in 2008.  Since many mobile devices only display text emails, email marketers will have a challenging time separating their mobile users from their traditional computer receivers.  This segmentation will be necessary to ensure proper rendering of their messages to non-HTML friendly email clients.  It will also be difficult for email marketers to determine the true open rate of their campaigns because of this growing user base.

3.  Authentication Technology Will Become Mandatory
DomainKeys, OpenSPF and Sender ID - if you don't know what these things are find out fast! Mail server authentication both from a marketing and corporate admin standpoint will become a necessary defense in the spam war.  It is estimated that only 30% of mail servers use these authentication technologies however this number will grow quickly as email marketers rush to take advantages of technology that will help distinguish their email from spam. In addition, it wouldn't surprise me if the FTC made this a mandatory practice as part of compliance with the CAN SPAM Act.

4.  More Legislation Might Be Around The Corner
According to the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) there will be 15 to 25 new Do Not Mail bills introduced on the state level that will attempt to replicate the Federal Do Not Call legislation.  Although the federal government does have a legitimate business interest (US Postal Service) in not proposing federal legislation, Congress might be forced into taking action if a patchwork of state laws pass.  What does this mean for email marketers?  Legislation in one marketing medium usually finds its way to other ones as technology makes compliance and enforcement is less of an issue.  Although I don't think 2008 will bring any significant legislation to email marketing, the Do Not Mail bills could be a pre-curser to amending CAN SPAM from opt-out to opt-in.

5.  Social Networking Sites Will Become The New Inbox Providers
When people think of social networking sites like MySpace, FaceBook, Linked-In, etc. they usually don't think of email however this will soon change.  I find it ironic when social networking pundits declare that the social networking will bring the death of email when the medium is totally reliant on email for viral marketing and alerts.  Based on the wide adoption of social networking sites over the past few years, coupled with the fact that the average user is increasing the amount of time spent on these sites, it is only natural for social networking sites to include inter-network email as part of their service offerings.  Get ready for MySpace, FaceBook and Linked-In to compete with Google, Yahoo and MSN for the inbox.

Overall 2008 should be a great year for email marketing.  More businesses large and small will rely more on the medium as it claims a larger footprint in their Internet marketing mix.  Happy New Year!
 

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New Study Results: Email Marketing Lists, Design, Tests & Deliverability for 2007 - Marketing Sherpa

Marketing Sherpa, a business research company that just happens to focus on the marketing profession, presented the results of its recent study, Email Marketing Lists, Design, Tests & Deliverability for 2007. The report highlights information from four areas: (1) survey of 3,687 e-mail marketers; (2) lab tests and partner research; (3) “best of” research from expert sources; and (4) approximately 600 interviews.

Highlights of the study for your reference are included below:

  • 42% of business-to-business (B-to-B) respondent said the impact of email is increasing slowly.
  • 40% of business-to-consumer (B-to-C) respondents said the impact of email is increasing significantly.
  • B-to-B respondents saw a 22% annual growth rate in their email list.
  • B-to-C respondents saw a 37% annual growth rate in their email list.
  • “Landing Page Copy” had the highest return on investment (ROI) at 43.2%.  Text only messages as the lowest ROI
  • In 2006, 80% of B-to-B respondents indicated that they had commercial filtering applications or appliances. Only 9% reported no filtering applications. Companies typically use filtering applications to decrease the amount of SPAM sent to their employees’ inboxes.
  • “From Line Accuracy” had the highest CAN SPAM failure rate at approximately 57.4%. This means that inaccurate or false information in the from line caused the highest number of SPAM blocks.
  • 83% of respondents indicated that consumers, “at least occasionally activate” images (or click through on images) when they appear in statements and order updates. 35% occasionally activate from unrecognized senders when contents are of interest.
  • Nearly 52% said that they don’t see mobile marketing applying to them in the near future. An example of mobile marketing is asking consumers to send a text message in response to a message.  

The full report is available from Marketing Sherpa by visiting www.marketingsherpa.com.  

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The Email Monetization Playbook
Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!

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Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!