Batch and Blast Revisited

Friday, March 29, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Joe Devine

Recently I was quoted in an article regarding the health of “batch and blast” email.  Subsequently, that article has been referenced by some folks in the industry.  It seems that some in the industry take a pretty pessimistic view on the idea of speaking to your entire audience at the same time, with the same message.
I think a bit of clarity regarding my point of view on the subject would allow any reader a more informed decision regarding batch and blast.
I think the first attempt will be a definition of “batch and blast” or as I have heard it called in the past: “Email Bomb,” “Hitting them with the fire hose,” “Email Saturation,” even “Spray and Pray.”
I have heard the phrase “batch and blast” uttered so many times that any past negative connotation has long been diluted for me.  When I think of batch and blast, the first thing I think of is a process, a task.  After all, the phrase is made up of two verbs.  I think of a filter, a segment, a message, and an audience’s  response, or a combination of a few of those things.  Batch and blast means to me that a message is manual.  It is timed based on a marketers decision, it is not automated, it is not based on the behavior or intent of a customer.  Batch = “Pick your audience” and Blast = “Hit the send button.”  Is all batch and blast filtered or segmented?   No.   Should it be?  No.
Batch and Blast can also be an adjective in my mind, a description of a type of message content.  It means to me, “a message that is intended for all audiences” or “a message that resonates with everyone.”  Batch and blast can be something you send that is meant to inform, motivate, prompt, or tug on the heart strings of all of your engaged recipients.
With that in mind, with an understanding of my definition of batch and blast, there shouldn't be an eCommerce marketer anywhere in the world that doesn't see the value of this type of campaign.  Purely from a business perspective, thinking about revenue, talking to everyone about the same thing makes sense sometimes.  Sometimes you want to get the word out and what you want to say makes sense for everyone.  “We moved our store.”  “We have a new product that everyone will love.”  “We wish all of you the happiest of holidays.” “Please don’t forget that our site wide sale ends today.”  Those messages are important.  They drive revenue.  I continue to see “Site wide sale today” email campaigns generate 50X the ROI compared to “We think you will be interested in these specific products.”  Do they both add value?  Yes.  They are both important parts of a complete email strategy.
I just received an email from a retailer that announced their guidebook for 2013.  Who, as a subscriber to their list isn't interested in that?  Who wouldn't want to take a peek at the new styles for 2013?  Was it filtered at all?  How much time did it take to build that message?  How long did it take to send it?  Please keep in mind, I also received an email from the same brand a few weeks ago announcing an exclusive first look at the spring products for valued customers.  That email campaign was segmented to “valued customers.”  I still consider that a batch and blast campaign.  It was probably manually designed, manually filtered, and manually sent.
Sometimes segmentation for segmentation sake is just a procedural overhead that kills your email ROI.  Sometimes the difference in response rate and revenue lift provided by trying to execute a complex differentiated Valentine’s day offer just doesn't make up for the time required to build out all of that complexity.  Sometimes a site wide 10% off offer is simply that.  I have never been told by a marketer that a site wide sale to their subscribed audience doesn't work.  When we don’t have 8 new products to talk about within 8 different categories, neatly mapped to our customer’s interests, we sometimes tell everyone about that single new product we just launched.  It works.  It isn't gone.
Now, if you want to automatically build email content based on preferences, on site behavior, and intent, let’s talk.  If you want to automate targeted campaigns in a timely way that include that same relevant content, I have some solutions for you.   If you want to automatically inject unique coupon codes that reflect dynamic offers based on RFM, let’s do it.  I will show you how.  But if you come to me and say these are the only email campaigns you want to send, I will tell you, strategically, you are leaving 60% of your email revenue potential on the table.
There are a few important things to keep in mind now that you have read my attempt to clarify:
1)      You can’t be successful in email if you don’t take a best practices approach to list hygiene.  I will show you how to automate that.
2)      We can’t be effective in the email channel if we can’t hit the inbox.  Deliverability reigns supreme.
3)      I only assume that you and your ESP monitor your engagement levels.
4)      It is my expectation that your subscriber list and your entire audience has shown some sort of organic engagement with your brand.
5)      It is my expectation that you are actively making an effort to re-engage inactive subscribers and cull audience members from your rolls as they completely dis-engage.
6)      If you want to grow revenue, increase engagement, and improve deliverability, in addition to some of the batch and blast campaigns you send, you NEED to deploy automated, behavioral, targeted, and dynamic campaigns.

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Spamhaus Best Practices

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

James Koons
Online marketing expert Ken Magill recently asked Steve Linford of The Spamhaus Project to answer some questions posed by readers of his newsletter.  The response was amazing.  Ken received over 50 questions from readers which he then passed along to Steve.
One question caught my eye as it was the topic of a recent discussion that I had.  The question was:
“How is Spamhaus working with legitimate marketers to improve list hygiene? Do they have a list of ‘best practices’ that they’d ideally like brands to follow that are business friendly (getting that customer email address) as well as good for business (legitimate email address)?”
I really enjoyed reading Steve’s answer - pointing to Spamhaus’ marketing FAQ, but adding in some additional tips:
“Our Marketing FAQs cover the fundamentals of bulk emailing. While it is a rather old FAQ, we’ve updated it several times and it still provides a solid basis for proper address acquisition and list hygiene.
Some additional ideas we like:
1) Include a “this is not me” link in receipts and other transactional email so that victims of spam sent to a ‘typoed’ email address can tell the company that the email address was ‘typoed’ and to stop sending email to it.
2) Send transactional emails and marketing emails from different IPs.
3) Confirm any email address before sending marketing emails to it, or before continuing to send ongoing transactional mail. The receipt can carry the request for a unique opt-in confirmation of, “Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?”
4) Mail a list frequently enough to retain good customer engagement. Measure that engagement and remove non-engaged customers as appropriate.
5) Be sure to remove and/or suppress addresses which hard-bounce, and correctly manage unsubscribes as well.
6) Once addresses are retired from a list, whether due to unsubscribe, bounce or non-engagement, don’t try to squeeze some unknown value from those addresses by mailing them again.”

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To Ask to Opt In or Opt Out - That is the Question

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Donna Fulmer
A member of an online email marketing forum I participate in asked the question if opt in or opt out is the better subscription strategy for marketers to follow. I immediately turned to James Koons, our chief privacy officer and a highly regarded industry expert, and as usual, he gave me a very comprehensive answer that I thought it would be useful to share: 
“The opt-in vs. opt-out debate has been raging for a long time – it can become a hot topic in both deliverability & privacy/compliance circles.  Generally, it seems that marketing folks have traditionally favored the latter “opt-out” strategy - an unchecked ‘opt-out’ box (by default) indicating that the users does not object to  receiving promotional communications.  The fact that someone has had the opportunity to object, which they decided not to take, really only means that they have not objected.  It does not mean that they have actually consented.  In our case (the case of our customers), the terms subscribe and unsubscribe are commonly used to indicate agreement or objection.
By itself, failing to register an objection will be unlikely to constitute valid consent.  However, in context, failing to indicate objection may be part of the mechanism whereby a person indicates consent.  For example, if you provide a clear and prominent message (see below), the fact that a suitably prominent opt-out box has not been checked may help establish that consent has been given.
Example:  “By submitting your email address, you indicate your consent to receive email marketing messages from us unless you have indicated an objection to receiving such messages by checking the above (opt-out) box.”
The precise mechanisms by which valid informed consent is obtained can vary.  The crucial consideration is that individuals must fully understand that they are in fact consenting and must also fully understand what they are consenting to.
Also – pre-checked boxes are bad!”

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Massachusetts PII Ruling - Retailers Beware

Monday, March 18, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

James Koons
In connection with a class action lawsuit filed against Michaels Stores Inc. (Tyler vs. Michaels Stores, Inc. - SJC-11145), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts certified to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts three questions: (1) whether a ZIP code constitutes personal identification information; (2) whether, under the Massachusetts statute prohibiting collection of personal identification information during a credit card transaction, a plaintiff may pursue a claim without any evidence of identity theft; and (3) whether, under the statute a “credit card transaction form” includes an electronic transaction form.  Earlier this week, the Supreme Court answered “yes” to all three of these questions - (1) a zip code constitutes personal identification information for purposes of the statute; (2) a plaintiff may bring an action for violation of the statute absent identity fraud; and (3) the term “credit card transaction form” in the statute refers equally to electronic and paper transaction forms.
A copy of the Court’s opinion and associated briefs can be found here.
The Supreme Court’s decision will most likely open the door to even more lawsuits against retailers in the state of Massachusetts.  Plaintiffs may now file actions against retailers who collect ZIP code information during a credit card transaction and, consistent with the Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of personal identification information (PII), plaintiffs may try to expand the definition of PII even further to include other types of information.
In addition, the Court’s decision has lowered the bar for plaintiffs who struggle to prove that they have been injured in these cases.  Under the ruling, a plaintiff no longer needs to demonstrate that they have suffered identity theft in order to maintain a cause of action.  Significantly, the Court stated that receipt of unwanted marketing materials or the sale of a consumer’s PII to a third-party can constitute an injury sufficient to maintain an action.  As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, retailers in Massachusetts should review, evaluate and revise their data collection practices as needed.

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LUSH - A Business to Admire for Consistent, Stellar Branding

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Megan Ouellet

Last week HubSpot posted a great article featuring 15 businesses that really get it right with their branding and messaging.

Congratulations to our client LUSH, number 8 on the list!
image
“The international handmade cosmetics company, Lush, believes in “making effective products from fresh organic fruits and vegetables,” and in “happy people making happy soap.” Lush stores, products, packaging, and employees (top right) all tell that story.
Their commitment to natural, organic ingredients is totally aligned with how they display their products (bottom left); Lush’s soaps, powders, and shampoos sit in their raw form in-store until the cashier wraps the product up once it’s purchased. Foregoing packaging oozes a natural vibe. Products that require packaging, like their face masks (top left), don’t hide the ingredients listing and encourage customers to recycle after use. All packaging also has a sticker on it with the face and name of the employee who packed it. Every piece of marketing collateral at Lush has a personal, no-frills approach.”

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Spamhaus: Keep That List Clean!

Monday, March 11, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

James Koons
During a recent ESPC call, I had the chance to speak with Alan Murphy, an investigator with The Spamhaus Project.  Among other topics, Alan discussed the importance of list hygiene, especially when sending transactional messages.  He pointed out that recently many bloggers wrote about The Spamhaus Project’s “new” spamtraps, which were targeting transactional messages.  Alan assured coalition members that The Spamhaus Project did not suddenly begin to “target” transactional mail.  In fact, he explained that they use several types of spam traps, including typo domains (typographical errors made by users when inputting their email address) as a data source, something they have been doing for over 10 years.  Alan indicated an increase in email address collection errors with address often being incorrectly entered.
In addition, he told us that change is constant at Spamhaus, and in fact several things had changed in late December of last year.  Some of these changes included more cross-referencing among their many spamtraps, improved communication among their maintainers, and a more in-depth machine analysis of spam headers.  Alan referenced the following case study, once again emphasizing the importance of list hygiene:
In this example, a domain expired in early to mid-2010, was re-registered by Spamhaus, and was placed in timeout for more than two years.  (Most new spamtrap domains are placed in timeout for at least six months, and many for year or more, before being put into production as a spamtrap.  While email is properly rejected during that aging process, data can still be collected before the SMTP rejection, hence the Subject history during that period.)  This spamtrap was configured to reject all email from this particular source, but the sender, after two years, still did not realize that the original recipient was not receiving their messages.
2011/01/15 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/01/15 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/01/17 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/02/11 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/02/15 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/02/26 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/03/10 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/03/28 Your receipt #{deleted}
2011/03/28 Your receipt #{deleted}
….
2012/10/12 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2012/10/30 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2012/11/07 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2012/11/14 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2012/12/14 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2012/12/16 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2012/12/24 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2013/01/11 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2013/01/14 Your receipt No.{deleted}
2013/01/18 Your receipt No.{deleted}
In this example it is painfully obvious that this sender is not looking at their bounce logs.  They are also not performing any sort of list hygiene, as the messages were rejected in the SMTP conversation.  This case illustrates the problems caused when senders of transactional and bulk email ignore SMTP rejections.  The ongoing flow of presumably unintended bulk email from unattended mail systems operated by well-intentioned but careless senders is considered spam.
Alan concluded the call by reminding ESPC members that the mission of The Spamhaus Project is to keep unsolicited bulk email out of their users’ inbox.  Spamhaus is continually making adjustments in the data available for SBL listings and in how they handle the data.  Sometimes, as in the case above, those adjustments identify other spam problems. List owners should be aware of hygiene issues, pay attention to bounce messages and proactively remove potentially incorrect addresses to keep themselves off of blacklists.

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The Time for Responsive Email Design is Now!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments

Travis Buck

Well actually…it was yesterday. In other words, you should already be doing it! Projections indicate that more email will be opened on mobile devices than desktops by the end of the year. Check out this article from Econsultancy for more detail:

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Repositioning Elements of the Layout on a Mobile Device. Good Stuff.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013 Listrak 0 Comments



Travis Buck
When creating a responsive design it’s important to consider the limited amount of space you have to work with. Take this email from Browns for example.  When viewed on a mobile device the navigation is shifted to the bottom and becomes stacked.
You may be thinking why on earth would you do that? Well consider this, the average pixel size of the human finger is 40x40 pixels. If you allowed the navigation so scale down horizontally in this email the links would become too small and too crowded. That’s a recipe for poor user interaction in the email. By stacking the navigation links you ensure that they’re easy to read and easy to interact with.
Ok, that makes sense, but why shift it to the bottom then? Shifting it to the bottom is a good move because of the limited “above the fold” space you have. The objective is to communicate your message so you want it to be as close to the top as possible. If you stack the navigation and leave it at the top you have to scroll through it to get to the good stuff. Don’t make people scroll farther than they have to to get to the good stuff!




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