eMarketing

Yes, Virginia, spam does affect the environment.

Well, now we finally know for certain, spam does have a carbon footprint and it’s incredibly large. Size 33B (B for billion kilowatt hours) to be precise. To view it differently:

  • That’s enough energy to power 2.4 million homes.
  • Each spam has a footprint of .3 grams of CO2.
  • The 62 trillion spams sent annually roughly equal driving around the planet 1.6 million times.

What’s more, spam filtering can reduce that figure by 75% which is the equivalent of eliminating 2.3 million cars.

The Carbon Footprint of Email Spam Report was commissioned by McAffee and you can download the paper here.

What does this mean for emarketers?

One more reason not to spam.

While seemingly easy, eliminating outgoing spam can actually be a challenge to implement. How do you know if your company is guilty of spamming? What is the definition of spam? And if you follow the letter of the law (US CAN-SPAM Act), why isn’t that enough? And even if you’re doing everything right, you’ve still got folks on your back wondering why you don’t just buy email lists from anyone on the Internet.

Let’s take these one at a time:

  • How do you know if your company is spamming? There are several clues you can look for:
    1. Do your email reports show large numbers of spam reporting?
    2. Are your email campaigns getting increasingly blocked by more and more servers?
    3. Did you buy an email list of people your company doesn’t know or have a relationship with?
    4. Do you just have a bad feeling in your gut?
  • What is the correct definition of spam? This is easy and yet somehow complex too:
    1. Spam is defined by the recipient, NOT the sender or the sender’s government. If the recipient thinks your email is spam, guess what? It is.
    2. Even so, many governments are attempting to define spam as well. And each government has their own variation on laws governing ‘unsolicited email’. The US law is one of the most lenient, allowing anyone to send email to anyone else so long as certain rules are followed. Those rules include showing a postal address and allowing a valid opt out option, among others. Read the US CAN-SPAM Act for more details, but realize that if your email list includes folks in, say, Australia, your rules are going to be much more strict.
    3. The third party to define spam are the corporations that make spam blocking software for ISPs. These folks have a tough job, creating spam-blocking parameters for use in any country. That’s one reason why they tend to be the most strict when it comes to determining what emails are spam. Their software looks for key features of emails that serve as triggers and get that email blocked at the ISP level. AND they’re always updating their parameters. For instance, it’s common knowledge now that including a lot of all caps or the word ‘FREE’ in your subject line will likely get you blocked. There are also more persnickety triggers like copious amounts of specific colors or images that are ‘too’ large. And of course, a plethora of coding triggers that we won’t go into here.
  • Why isn’t it enough to just follow the US CAN-SPAM Act?
    1. Easy, the United States government doesn’t make the spam blocking software that is used by ISPs around the world and the government is not reading your email to determine if it is spam. SO, the government really doesn’t have a roll to play in whether or not your email gets through and gets read. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow the laws of the country where your email recipients reside, US or not. Definitely follow the laws or you could be sued. Just realize that following the laws does not guarantee that your email will be successful.
    2. AND remember, the US CAN-SPAM Act is not transferable to other countries. Many countries now have their own laws and if you’re emailing to other countries, it’s your company’s responsibility to abide by these laws.
  • What to do about those folks breathing down your neck to get you to buy the biggest email list you can, hoping for that traditional 1% direct marketing return? This is tougher because these folks may be your boss, or your boss’s boss. They may not give a hoot about getting email permission from people on your list or following the laws of the country in which your recipients reside. This is your opportunity to shine by educating them before they force the company to make a big mistake. Get your ducks in a row and discuss the following:
    1. Review everything we’ve discussed above, and in as much depth as the bosses can handle. Most bosses just want the bottom line, so be prepared to state what that is and support it with facts when they protest.
    2. Remind them that despite what THEY think, if the recipient thinks their email is spam, it not only IS spam but that perception directly affects the value of their brand, which is likely reflected on the books.
    3. Remind them that building brand trust and loyalty are hard and being perceived as a spammer will undermine these activities.
    4. And one more thing, let’s go back to what started this discussion: the environment. If your company has a green plan, spamming negatively affects any efforts you make to lessen the carbon footprint and communicate any green initiatives in place. Creating a corporate Anti-Spam Policy can and should also be a segment of your Green Policy. This is also good for your brand.

The obvious lesson here is simple: be a good company and treat your customers with respect. Don’t abuse them, give them what they want, and IF they want you to email coupons to them monthly, do it. If they want you to update them on product upgrades via email, do it. If they don’t, respect their wishes.

Of course, if you’re the authentic manufacturer of a certain little blue pill, I wish you luck. You may never be able to use email marketing due to the spammers that came first.

—Julia

New MailVox Report: See which email clients your readers are using.

We already knew our MailVox email campaign software was better than the competing software but we didn’t stop there. I’m thrilled to announce that this week, we’ve incorporated a new report that shows exactly which email clients your readers are using to view your email campaigns. And not only that, our team has been tracking this information for campaigns sent over the last 6 months, just waiting for this day when we can offer you this additional report.

That ‘other’ big competitor (whom shall remain nameless) cannot offer this. They also don’t have the ability to test your emails in various email applications and show you screen shots of each. Of course, we do both.

mailvox-email-report

(click this image to view a sample report)

This latest report mitigates one of the primary frustrations of designing email campaigns: consistency across email applications. You’ll be able to see exactly which email clients to test for your campaigns. You’ll know if Lotus Notes really matters to the folks on your subscriber list and whether or not you need to have us spend more time finessing your emails for those audiences. You’ll know exactly how many people used their iPhone to read your email. And not only that, the report splits the results by version too. So you can see whether or not you really need to worry about Outlook 2007 or 2003.

Until now, this was all guesswork. Many folks assumed that B2C subscribers used Hotmail/Gmail/Yahoo while B2B used Outlook/Notes. You don’t have to assume anymore. Just reviewing your online report allows your emails to be designed and programmed to your specific audience. No extra time spent on email applications that aren’t actually used.

Yes, this can save design and development time for your email projects. Feel free to contact me for a free demo or if you’re a client, just log on and view your new reports.

Have a great weekend!

Julia

Integrating Social Media.

Social media reminds us of soccer in America about 25-years ago. Youth leagues across the county were playing the game. It was inexpensive, fun, good exercise and even the youngest players could handle the fundamental skills of running and kicking a ball. Soccer was a grassroots, community-based movement that flew under the radar for a time while attracting millions of participants.

Social Media is a grassroots movement with many of the same characteristics. Its draw is the ability to share personal human stories on a grand scale. Participants relate their own experiences to others of like interests. These conversations can and do encompass product/service experiences and recommendations allowing for powerful viral marketing and sales referrals.

For instance, while YouTube is a seemingly infinite source of goofy ephemera, users also find a plethora of product demonstrations posted by actual product users. These how-to videos often use name brand products. Podcasts also provide opinions, interviews and commentary on many topics including products, services, technologies and trends. Social media tools offer a way to participate in dialog outside your own back yard. Let’s start by looking specifically at one tool that’s been around the longest: blogs. We’ll discuss other important tools, like social networks, in subsequent issues of MondoBeat.

Blogs in General.

Blog is short for weblog, or websites that use a dated log format with the most recent entry listed at the top. Most provide alternative views on a variety of subjects, and the top bloggers challenge traditional offline media counterparts for both readership and advertising.

As recently as 1999 only 23 blogs existed. Today’s worldwide blogosphere is more than 75 million, though some authorities believe the number of active blogs is more in the 2-4 million range. Forester Research says that approximately 25% of adult Americans read a blog every month. If you consider that these are early adopters who provide referrals and commentary for the next wave called the early majority, then blog participants represent a key target demographic.

The proliferation of free weblog-creation software helped blogs gain their immense popularity. Originally link driven, the new blog software made longer text entries possible. While many blogs remain primarily textual, there are also blogs devoted to:

  • Videos (vlog)
  • Photos (photolog)
  • Portfolios of sketches (sketchlog)
  • Links (linklog)
  • Brief posts and mixed media (tumblelog)

Corporate Blogs.

These can be used internally to enhance the communications and culture within an organization or externally to help achieve branding, marketing or public relations
objectives. Many organizations keep a blog on their website. These blogs usually contain content appealing to the demographic that the organization seeks.

The content may primarily relate to the activities of the organization, or it may have very little to do with the organization itself. Frequently, a blog will focus on the kinds of content likely to attract the desired web surfers, even if that content is not related to the product or service that the company provides.

More often, though, the content is at least a mix of subjects with business-related posts carrying the heavy load. For example, Mike Critelli, executive chairman of mailing solutions provider Pitney Bowes, covers a wide range of topics in his “Open Mike” blog.

Most topics do relate to his business with commentary on subjects like “Environmental Impact of Mail,” but a few are more personal in nature and reveal a bit of the chairman to his audience. In Critelli’s words, “In spite of my obvious passion for the mailstream and the industry I have been a part of, I will comment on a broad range of subjects, including some of those I have called out in my biography.” How you structure your blog, as well as who does the writing, really depends on your objective.

How you structure your blog, as well as who does the writing, really depends on your objective. For instance:

  • A manufacturer of women’s upscale fashion might create a blog that addresses subjects ranging from the latest trends to how to better serve high-end shoppers at the retail level. The blog might include a video link to a fashion show, an interview with a leading designer and discussions about the economic outlook in fashion retailing. In a down market, a blog like this could be sensitive to consumers needs by offering timely ideas for stretching their clothing budget with a few good pieces or dressing for job interviews.
  • A charity organization’s blog might include a commentary on recent success stories, an inspirational video interview with someone helped by the organization and discussions about upcoming fundraisers.

Blog-site Advertising.

If you don’t want to start your own blog but would like to reach the targeted audiences of other blogs, you can use MondoVox to handle ad placement. We try to match marketers with independent blog owners and their highly valued audiences. But keep in mind that a desire to advertise doesn’t automatically mean you will be accepted. Many of the best niche-community blogs are not owned by corporations and are more likely to pick and choose whom they will associate with their blog.

Relevance is critical, and blog owners often engage with marketers to share thoughts about what might work best for their readers and communities. That’s because authors generally require approval of every campaign in advance, which also helps deliver a valuable endorsement about your product or service from the blog’s leadership.

How to Get Started.

A good way to begin is by subscribing to other blogs in your market category. Technorati and Google Blog Search are among the leaders in blog search. Technorati can list search results either by authority or by date. Authority is important to consider in evaluating a blog, because the higher the authority—translate “popularity”—the more impact the posts and comments will have. Once you identify the blogs you want to track, “really simple syndication” (RSS) makes subscribing easy.

What if Your Social Media Skills Aren’t so Terrific?

MondoVox can help you develop and implement a social media strategy. We can identify high potential opportunities, set up blogs, create videos, craft offers, develop landing pages and provide metrics. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

— by Larry Bauer

Social Media Pros & Cons.

Social media is a vast experiential toolbox containing communication, collaboration and multimedia tools for sharing user-generated content. Here are some of the pluses and minuses of social media tools in general.

Pros

  • Opportunity to show your human side—that you’re more than a business.
  • Demonstrates a willingness to be open with customers.
  • Potentially fertile new marketing ground with still limited competition.
  • Participants tend to be early adopters—more likely to interact with vendors and offer feedback to improve your products and services.
  • Presence builds loyalty among early adopters—often rewarded with referrals and leads—high potential of viral marketing.
  • Ultimate relationship-building opportunity.
  • Can help your executive team gain a better customer perspective—particularly those normally without direct customer contact.
  • Can help you monitor complaints that don’t make it to or through the service desk.
  • Good vehicles for increasing brand awareness and driving website traffic.
  • Presents opportunities to learn about problems early and correct them.
  • Can improve your reputation as an authority—opportunity to promote and spread ideas.
  • Effective for building relationships with targeted audiences.
  • Versatile—can be used to build both internal and external communities.
  • Search engines love social media such as blogs, because the engines have a passion for frequently updated text and links.
  • Offers a variety of tools that can be used to provide interactive training for your products and services.
  • No specialized technical skills required.
  • Relatively low capital costsi.e., you can set up a blog virtually for free.

Cons

  • Can be time intensive—demands frequent content updates and at least daily monitoring of comments.
  • ROI is not immediate and direct—you’re building relationships, so get used to measuring traffic, page views, links and comments as well as intangibles like community “buzz” and conversations.
  • Relevance is everything—better have something interesting to say.
  • Risk of your organization sounding like it has multiple tones and positions.
  • Risk of non-communications people doing the communicating.
  • Discomfort of not completely controlling the brand message.
  • Plenty of excellent content still gets overlooked.
  • Potential for developing the “wrong crowd” of friends.
  • Can work against you as well as for you.
  • Still difficult to reach mass audiences—these are more 1to1 technologies.
  • Lots of unknowns.

And the Winner Is…

YOU. Technology tools are expanding each day, and that’s good news for your company. There’s no reason to hop on all of the social media bandwagons, but it’s worth your time to consider the benefits of each alternative in helping you achieve your organization’s marketing goals. Likewise, it’s important to understand how your customers are using social media.

One thing we know for sure is that the marketing landscape is changing rapidly. Smart printing companies don’t get caught on their heels while the market sprints ahead. Sometimes you never really catch up. So our recommendation is to get off the blocks when it comes to social media. Remember, websites were once an unproven tool.

Social Media Tip: If you worry about how much time incorporating social media tools might take from other activities, investigate software tools such as Firefox extension RescueTime, which tracks the time you spend at different sites. Use the data to determine how much time you will spend at each community based on interest and benefits received.

— by Larry Bauer

Power Blogging Tips for Your Brand.

Sun Microsystems’ Jonathan Schwartz* is perhaps the most well-known and experienced C-level blogger. Truly self-written, his blog reaches out to employees, analysts, shareholders and prospective clients. Sun also hosts thousands of employee blogs on a wide range of topics, some so geeky your eyes would glaze. This has the added value of attracting top talent with unique and specialized interests and creates invaluable links between Sun employees and customers.

Blog Design and Writing.

  • Brand expression: Integrate your brand look and feel into your blog using a custom theme designed specifically for your brand. You’ll look professional and readers will more easily recognize you. Just remember, your blog doesn’t and shouldn’t look exactly like your website because its purpose is different. Consider your corporate blog your website’s outgoing sister who makes friends easily.
  • Use standard blog interface design principles: Increase usability among blog readers by sticking with what they know and use:
    • Incorporate the topical tags and categories for quick sorting.
    • Include relevant links to other related sites or blogs in the sidebar.
    • Customize your CSS to choose a highly readable font and size.
    • Include your authors’ names.
    • Above all, keep it clean and easy to read.
  • Be unique and useful: That’s the goal. Your brand is about more than product details or specs. Open a dialog with actual buyers of your brand and be prepared to learn, expand and be surprised.
    TIP: Also be prepared for any negative brand feedback. You can moderate reader comments so they don’t appear right away but avoiding negative posts will look bad. It’s also likely to result in brand bashing on other non-moderated forums that you don’t control. It’s best to address criticisms openly and up front in this brave new world.
  • Become a better writer: Communicating in writing is completely different than oral presentations or interviews with a trade journal. Keep your sentence length under control and use the active voice. Additionally, be aware of non-disclosure agreements and financial regulations that guide what you can write. And if you’re uncomfortable writing, you can always have a ghostwriter express your ideas.
  • Be real: Skip the company mission statement and other corporate-speak on your blog. This is about having real conversations with real people. Authentic conversations incorporate everyone’s personalities and engage at a level not possible if you write blog entries in the same voice as your annual report. Writing in the first person helps to naturally encourage authenticity.
  • Have a plan: Most blogs close down in three months. You can ensure the longevity of your blog and readership by enacting an annual editorial plan along with allowing the spur of the moment posts. Make sure the topics planned reflect your company’s product releases, are integrated with your PR releases and have specific people assigned to handle writing and posting.
  • Think like an analyst: Set up a Google Analytics account to monitor your blog and ensure your blog template is search-engine optimized.

*Update: Mr. Schwartz is no longer CEO of Sun Microsystems.

— by Julia Moran Martz

Getting Top of Mind.

Do you ever feel like your clients are having parties and you’re not invited? That’s exactly what happens to many companies when it comes to staying top of mind. They are simply not part of their customer’s “in” crowd.

Too often companies remain outside the circle of influence because of an inability to establish personal customer relationships. It’s easy to fade into the background after the sale, missing opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell and generally deepen the relationship.

Think you have nothing to say? Customers actually do care about issues like:

  • Marketplace trends that impact their lives or businesses
  • Pertinent new product developments
  • Products that enhance the performance of what they purchased from you
  • News of how other customers are using your products
  • Your company initiatives from sustainability to community involvement
  • Loyalty discounts and offers

So How Could a Newsletter Improve My Social Life?

The truth is a newsletter won’t help much if the entire focus is on you. If you want the cool rich kids (translation: leading customers) to notice you there has to be some credibility established.

A well-positioned newsletter can help make the case that your knowledge extends beyond the manufacturing of your product to an understanding of your customer’s desires and challenges. And if you are in a business-to-business environment, you can send the newsletter to C-level execs who set strategy and influence decisions but are not part of your everyday contact base. Consumer marketers can benefit from pass-along circulation and offers to sign up friends with similar interests.

How Do I Communicate the Product Message?

The best way to promote the value of your product is by providing content that lures customers while still weaving in the product message. For example, a feature article about asthma sufferers who successfully compete in endurance events might be appealing for a pharmaceutical company.

A secondary article by a member of the company’s physician team might talk about how asthma patients can participate more safely in athletic endeavors by following a certain preparation regimen. Then the copy introduces the effectiveness of the company’s asthma drug.

Who Will Write the Articles?

The obvious answer is to go outside if you don’t have the inside expertise. Check with your media contacts for good freelance writers. Or contact Larry Bauer and the Mondovox® Creative Group. We write and design award-winning newsletters as well as provide support services ranging from managing your marketing database to electronic distribution and real-time results tracking.

Regardless of your approach, the takeaway is that you need to build credibility by demonstrating knowledge of the issues impacting your customers. Then you have a chance of making your customer’s “A” list of companies with which they prefer to do business. Newsletters can provide the vehicle.

— by Larry Bauer

Print vs. Electronic Newsletters.

Try to forget for a moment whatever preconceived ideas you might have about print and electronic communications. If you were developing a newsletter, you would want to use the most effective means, right? So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each channel:

Print Newsletter

Pros

  • Ability to reach everyone in your database
  • Easier to rent print lists for expanded circulation
  • High resolution reproduction that delights the eye
  • Portability—easier to take to a coffee break, read on an airplane, etc.
  • People tire of reading computer screens all day
  • Less competition—fewer print newsletters being produced
  • Research shows that people enjoy receiving relevant print publications

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Slower production and distribution process
  • More difficult to present timely news
  • Limited tracking ability for generating marketing metrics

Electronic Newsletter

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Virtually instant distribution
  • Easier to present timely news
  • Trendy
  • More interactive capabilities—instantly link readers to deeper, related information or direct contact with you
  • Superior tracking ability for better marketing metrics

Cons

  • Permission based
  • Email address availability tends to be spotty even in customer databases
  • Limited list rental options for expanded circulation
  • Easily ignored, deleted or canceled
  • Lots of competition

And the Winner Is…

There is no winner. They are different channels with different sets of pluses and minuses. The answer is a milk toasty “it depends.”

What is clear is that different channels work best in combination with one another. Our most successful newsletter clients use a blend of print and electronic media to communicate their message.

They produce quarterly print versions, usually in 8-page formats, then provide short, one- or two-topic HTML editions on a bi-weekly schedule. This approach not only allows the companies to communicate important information on a timely basis, but also demonstrates that they are multichannel players who understand today’s media environment.

— by Larry Bauer

Who Cares About Newsletter Design?

You may be the best player in your region or niche, but it won’t matter to prospects and clients if you don’t appear and act credible and knowledgeable. Good newsletter content is only half of the equation. Without equally good design, your newsletter won’t instill a favorable impression, get read and ultimately help you get that foot in the door.

Design is not about using favorite colors and looking trendy. It’s actually a complex outcome of the same marketing information you use to create your key sales messages and expand your service offerings. Design deftly applies that same information to the components of your newsletter (and all your sales tools for that matter).

Keep the following in mind when planning and designing your newsletter:

  • Know your target audience and tailor your newsletter design to their needs. This includes aspects such as making sure type is legible for the age group of your list and selecting colors that are suitable for their demographic.
  • Design to support your market message without over-designing or losing yourself in a plethora of trendy design motifs. Make sure the newsletter’s design supports rather than upstages your message.
  • Look strategic by using images and copy that focus on solutions for your customers rather than your products, building or warehouse. This will position you as a company that thinks strategically and can contribute to their bigger picture and ultimately, yours.
  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors by purposefully designing to NOT look like them. Being different and distinctly recognizable allows prospects to spot you a mile away.
  • Don’t be a copycat by using the same stock images that all your competitors are using. These won’t reinforce your brand or your need to be seen in a different light than your competitors. Remember, when all things are perceived as being equal, price wins.
  • Be consistent by always using the same high-quality design for your newsletter. Consistency reinforces your prospects’ expectations of you.
  • Follow through on your design promise by acting the part. Once you have a well-designed, well-written newsletter based on a solid communications platform, you must have the ability to follow through. Make sure your sales staff is sending both verbal and written messages consistent to the quality and content of your newsletter.
  • Instill trust by consistently integrating your newsletter into your overall brand image. This will visually link the publication to your other customer touchpoints, creating cross-media recognition that reinforces your sales messages to everyone—prospects and existing clients.
  • Increase accessibility by using design to improve the reader’s experience. Articles should be easy to find and clearly differentiated from each other. Landing pages are helpful for extended articles but keep links under control. Five to seven jumps is a good number to shoot for.

Use Good Design for Every Touchpoint, Including Newsletters.

Good design gives you the power to change, reinforce and expand positive perceptions of your company. It also shows that you pay attention to detail and are able to understand the precise nuances of your customers’ needs. Customers want to know that important details won’t escape your discriminating eye when you’re part of their team. The design quality of all your sales and marketing literature creates as much of an impression as the suit you wear to that first meeting. And if done really well, good design will differentiate and position you more favorably than the next guy, giving you the edge.

What’s the bottom line?

It’s simple: Good newsletter design creates distinction between you and your competitors while consistent design keeps you visible during long sales cycles. Good design does matter.

— by Julia Moran Martz