Wall of Questions

Before DMA07, we solicited questions from our members and subscribers, promising to post them in our booth at the show and recruit email experts in attendance to answer those questions. We got some great questions and tons of great answers:

1. How important is it for email creative to match the same look and feel as the order page/landing page?

Marc Pitre, Wampower.com: It’s critical to keep the branding consistent between emails and landing pages. Both the creative and the message itself must be consistent to be impactful to the end viewer. It’s too easy to dilute your message, so keep it consistent.

Andrew Osterday, Premiere Global Services: Landing pages are often ignored or an afterthought, but can have a strong impact on conversion. The flow from email to landing page should be seamless in both messaging and look and feel. Consider custom landing pages rather than linking to the site.

Stephanie Miller, Return Path: Very. Especially in promotional messages and prospecting. Be sure that the offer in the email is front and center—don’t make me scroll. Using a custom landing page can improve conversion rates up to 50%. Definitely worth the investment in optimizing landing pages—they are the fulfillment of the promise created in your email message and it should be a seamless experience.

Michael Fishers, Alterian: It is very important—lack of matching in look and feel produces confusion, feels uncoordinated and impacts response accordingly.

Joel Book, ExactTarget: Providing creative continuity between the email and the associated landing page is vital for driving response and conversion. According to Forrester Research, “92% of business decision-makers go online to research products and services before buying offline.” By using email to deliver relevant offers to customers, marketers are accelerating the buying process. The key is to make it easy for the customer to buy—having consistent look and feel for email and landing page achieves this objective.

2. Do the same elements found in traditional printed letters (salutation, closing, signature, p.s.) work for emails?

Melinda Krueger, Krueger Direct: Yes, to the extent that they reflect a personal, one-to-one approach to communication. Corporate “billboards” are easy to ignore; personal correspondence is not. Consider the “voice” and use the personal pronoun!

Elie Ashery, Gold Lasso: Yes, depending on personalized and relevant the message is. Personalization doesn’t necessarily mean name, but rather actual content.

3. What do you consider best practice when it comes to accessing and changing email preferences? On one hand, it has to be easy for subscribers to go and edit their subscriptions. On the other hand, no one else than the subscriber should have access to change the subscriber’s information. Do you recommend a login, a verification email with required action before changes take effect, a notification email notifying the subscriber that changes have been made, etc…?

Loren McDonald, J.L. Halsey: The simplest means is to include a link in the subscriber’s email so that only they can click through to the preference center/update profile page. For sites that link registration (e.g., an ecommerce site), you can link the two processes. A notification email that confirms the changes is always a good idea.

Jeanniey Mullen, Email Experience Council and OgilvyOne: The preference center is a critical element of a successful email program. It can increase the life and engagement of your consumer. Keeping access to preference centers secure is critical but so is keeping access simple. Most companies offer encoded links to preference centers that allow you to bypass the logon elements. If you are using a secure center, password retrieval features are key.

Joel Book, ExactTarget: The key to using a preference center to gather customer needs and interests is to ask for only that data which is needed to deliver relevant and timely information through email. It is critical that you explain why you are asking for this information, how it will be used, and how the customer can update his/her profile. Remember, you are building trust.

Melinda Krueger, Krueger Direct: Consider a 1-2 punch. First capture the impulse to subscribe, then, as an optional second step, ask for more information. Consider offering an incentive (tied closely to your email value proposition) and explain that you are asking to avoid sending irrelevant emails.

4. Is there a proven happy medium between images and text in an email? Do too many or not enough images reduce response?

Elie Ashery, Gold Lasso: Email marketers today need to design their emails with the assumption that their recipients’ have their email clients set with the images turned off. This means that the recipients should be understand the gist of the message without its images. Images should be used to enhance text, not replace it.

Chad White, Email Experience Council: The “happy medium” is per industry and depends on both your content and the reader in which the person will be viewing the email. For example, a B2B email that’s likely to be read on a Blackberry should be all or mostly text. But retail emails where product images are so vital should be mostly HTML.

5. How can you tell if an email is being read in a preview pane only then deleted?

David Daniels, JupiterResearch: If someone clicks in a preview pane, can you hear them? It is all about behavior. If there are no clicks, there’s no engagement, so attempt tactics for reactivation (survey, sweepstakes, etc.). The only real way to determine if an email has been read is by clicks.

Stephanie Miller, Return Path: Great question! Technically, there is probably not a way to get 100% pure data unless you put a “pixel” that is triggered by the scroll. However, you could track performance by proxy in one of two ways: (1) by putting a “morse type” link at the top (visible even when images are suppressed) that promotes the offer and “opens” the email, or (2) by analyzing clicks on text links below the fold which are not visible when images are suppressed. Frankly, I’m not sure why this measure is valuable if your preview pane is optimized, it will drive engagement, not a deletion.

Loren McDonald, J.L. Halsey: Open rates are tacked via a tracking 1-pixel image. So if images are enabled and a reader “views” the email (whether it is opened or not) it will count as an open. If images are blocked and the email is viewed in the preview pane (or fully opened), it will not count as an open. As a result, click-through rates are a much better gauge of email activity.

6. Can a newsletter sell or is it better for branding?

Jordan Ayan, SubscriberMail: Email marketing is about building relationships. If you approach it as a sales medium, you are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Can you sell with email? Absolutely, but for long-term success, you have to focus on delivering relevant content that highlights your brand and keeps recipients wanting more. Then they will give you permission to sell them electronically.

Kara Trivunovic, Premiere Global Services: A newsletter can sell if it is done right. The newsletter should be editorial in nature, with a majority of the content being relevant, value-add information. If sales copy is going to be included, it should be done as a soft sell, wrapped in editorial when possible.

Stephanie Miller, Return Path: Yes! Optimize to do both: (1) Educate customers about the full benefits of the products. (2) Engage subscribers to interact with your company, website, sales team, blog etc. (3) Lead prospects down the sales cycle by educating and asking questions.

7. Is it practical/realistic to budget for file growth from viral marketing? Can we count this as a tactic, or is it just “either.”

Michael Salin, M.J. Salin & Associates: Yes! Emerging marketing genre are heavily based in viral practices…word of mouth, social networking. You should test and quantify viral programs – consumer talking to a consumer is the highest/strongest marketing communiqué. Quantify the send and free creative is a way to promote the idea.

Chad White, Email Experience Council: You can definitely budget for viral growth. In general, you can expect pass-along rates of 1%-2%, but it depends on the prominence of your send-to-a-friend links and how often you encourage readers to forward your emails. For instance, some retailers have “friends and family” event emails where part of the messaging encourages recipients to forward the discount offer to others. Doing emails like that will boost your pass-along rate.

8. If no legitimate ESP will allow the use of purchased lists in their system, how do data brokers and email appenders who focus on this market stay in business?

Craig Swerdloff, Postmaster Direct: Our experience has been that top-tier ESPs will send for lists that offer list rental, assuming certain requirements are met. They include explicit permission from recipients, proper list hygiene, good reputation scores, and compliant/unknown user rates within allowable thresholds.

Stephanie Miller, Return Path: The owner of the data sends the message on your behalf—so the initial mailing is from the data source inviting the subscriber to opt-in for email from you. Many marketers who send mail in-house, use internal append very successfully. There are best practices to ensuring your sender reputation is protected.

Loren McDonald, J.L. Halsey: List brokers manage the email databases for companies whose list members have agreed to receive third-party offers. The emails are sent “from” the list owner to the list member. Once the subscriber opts in to specific a marketer’s program, they have given permission to the marketer. At that point, ESPs will allow the company to send to the subscriber.

9. What is the single most popular offer that drives people to register and share their information? We are desperately trying to collect emails from our customers and it’s been very challenging.

Stephanie Miller, Return Path: As is true in all direct marketing, offer something perceived value for free. But the question should really be around how you can construct a powerful email experience that will entice and engage your prospects. While many will sign up for something that is free, your response and ROI will only come when the email program itself has consistent value.

10. What is the right frequency for retail email programs? It seems like many retailers are at 2x+ per week. Does not mailing at that frequency hurt my chances?

Austin Bliss, FreshAddress: Unfortunately, there is no “right” frequency. You should send on a schedule that provides value to your recipients—e.g. if you have daily sales, you can send daily. But if you have nothing to say 2 times a week, you shouldn’t mail at that rate because you will have incurred complaints/unsubscribes.

Chad White, Email Experience Council: There are lots of factors to consider here, including the frequency at which your products tend to be purchased, the content of your email (both promotional and service-oriented content), the length of your email, etc. For example, Blue Nile emails once a month, recognizing that jewelry is not a frequent purchase. Home Depot, on the other hand, sends once a week, targeting subscribers’ weekend projects. And then there’s Neiman Marcus, which emails 7+ times a week, engaging its fashion hungry subscribers with info on new products, store events, discounts and video and article content.

11. If you send five or more emails to the same recipient and they aren’t opened, does your domain/IP get reclassified as spam by the ISP? This obviously isn’t standard across all ISP’s. If this is in practice by some, which ones are they?

Stephanie Miller, Return Path: List quality is definitely a factor in sender reputation. Having a large number of non-responders on your file could reduce your “score” among ISPs/receivers. ISPs generally don’t publish the “rules” that they use, as publishing them would expose them to abuse by spammers.

HAVE SOME INSIGHT TO ADD? Please comment below, just be sure to include the number of the question that you’re answering.

2 thoughts on “Wall of Questions

  1. Follow up to question 1:

    It’s a great question, and one that often comes up at our firm. The answer’s there are spot on. No effective e-mail campaign can work to it’s fullest potential unless the landing page works. The way a landing page works is split among a few levels.
    1: Branding – The customer has got to be able to identify the company as soon as they hit the landing page otherwise they’re another bounce statistic.

    2: Mirror content – whatever your e-mail is selling that product, service or information must be visible

    In short spending a little bit of hard earned cash with a reputable web designer on streamlining that landing page can make a big difference.

  2. Follow up to question 3:

    The Preference Center is "all about the customer". It should be used not only to provide relevant and timely information to the customer according to their preferences, but more importantly, it should be accessed in order to "protect" the customer from being inundated with information from you, that is "not" relevant to them. In order to build customer loyalty and trust, the emails you send must be relevant to each and every "individual", which means you must forego "blasting" and strive to "communicate with relevance".

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