Archive for the ‘ Email Marketing ’ Category

Is it a headache or is my hat just too tight?

Man, realizing how hard it is to keep this thing current!  I made the masochistic decision to run for – and ultimately win – a board position for my 8 year-old’s Little League (suffice to say it’s a full-time job with the meetings, emails, planning, etc.).  In an effort to remain current, allow me to cover off on events since my last post.  Enjoy the musings:

  • Steve Jobs postscript:  Of all my previous posts, the last one stirred the pot most.  Had a few who misunderstood my point of questioning the herd mentality of his ‘disciples’ and thought I was bashing the man.  I certainly wasn’t – but do feel a bit vindicated by his biography that paints him as a world-class A-hole (at least early in his career).  I have become a ‘ends don’t justify the means’ sort of guy.  I realize the guy created a better mousetrap but the way you treat people is bigger in my book – regardless of the level of ‘success’ the world determines you have achieved.  But I have to admit that those Toy Story movies are pretty great – long live Pixar!
  • Hank Williams Jr. fired from MNF:  Torn on this one… on one hand I really hated that G*d damn song from the first minute I heard it and couldn’t be happier that it’s now forbidden to be on my TV screen.  On the other hand, he was wrongly fired.  Hear me out (and I did consult a prominent DC attorney who happens to be of the Jewish faith to make sure my position wasn’t unreasonably insensitive)  For those living under a rock, ESPN took umbrage (and a barrage of negative publicity) when Williams mentioned in an interview that ‘Obama and Boehner hanging out was akin to Hitler doing the same with Netanyahu’.   Hanky-boy was summarily pummeled and branded an anti-Semite for bringing up Hitler in his analogy.  I for one don’t see the issue:  It’s not as if he was comparing one of our leaders to “Hitler” but rather that to point out the diametrically opposed ideologies that the two men share.  He easily could have used ‘Jesus and Pontius Pilate’ or ‘Bin Laden and Bush’…would he have gotten the ax if so???  I think not.  I know the Holocaust is an extremely sensitive subject, but still don’t see the issue with the analogy… but psyched I don’t have to hear that stupid a*s song anymore; maybe the folks at ESPN agree with me and just needed a reason to fire that dummy!
  • Herman Cain emerges as a viable Republican nominee:  OK, originally a big fan of the 9-9-9 plan due to its simplicity and seemingly fairness upon first glance.  Is the beauty in its simplicity or impossible that something which makes sense to the masses can actually work???  I missed the debates since Cain has emerged but he must be a realistic candidate because the accusations of sexual harassment are now coming out of the woodwork… which means he’s likely going to be our next President!  Welcome to the spotlight Herm!  (sorry, wrong Herm, but couldn’t resist an image of the original hero of the Miracle in the Meadowlands!).
  • American Horror Story: Generally not a fan of the horror genre – I mean who LIKES being scared???  But this show is fast-moving up the ranks of must-see-TV for yours truly!  The macabre is amazing.  And the fact that the ancient, decrepid maid appears as a hot piece to the main character summons a similar experience in my life:  I’m the only fan who liked the Ray Rhodes era in Eagles football history.
  • Eagles beat the sh*t out of the Cowboys on national TV:  I mean is there anything greater to a true sports fan?  This will be my rallying cry when I run for President — we can all come together in hatred of the putrid Cowboys.  A collective welcome of Tony Romo to the ‘never lived up to the hype’ list.  Move over Reggie Bush, Mike Mamula, JaMarcus Russel, Ryan Leaf, and Mike Williams (first one… don’t know where the second one came from… I’m talking about the dope from USC who had to sit out his senior year before being allowed into the draft… played for the Lions, Cowboys, and maybe Seattle or something now???  I think he’s eyeing a spot with Franklin & Marshall next season).
  • More Hank Williams…:  While on the topic of Hank Williams and his lousy song, can we PLEASE do something about the even MORE annoying Faith Hill rendition of Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You”, lyrically altered to squeeze in Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth???  I don’t get it… Isn’t Miss Hill a multi-Grammy award winning recording artist?  Can’t she write a song herself to be retro-fitted with “Al and Chris in the booth’???  And what about Jett? She wasn’t available to sing her own damn song?  Too many gigs lined up at Wolf Trap to spend the 2 hours re-recording the one song?
  • Peyton Manning out for the year:  Amazing I’m going to write this, but has there ever been a more obvious choice for MVP?  Wouldn’t that be something if Manning won the award without playing a game?  I have never seen a team be more dependant upon one player than the Colts.
  • Scandal in Happy Valley:  Wow, longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky accused of sexually assaulting 10-year-old boys… and JoPa knew about it???  What a horrific end to a pristine program… while I type this, there are certainly more facts to come… none of which are going to be good…
  • NBA Lockout continues….: … and just about nobody cares.  I was supportive of the players in the NFL lockout considering the short shelf-life of the typical NFL player (3.5 years) and the physical damage they endure.  AND the fact that the median salary of $770,000 for those numbers of years means there’s a lot of guys putting their bodies at extreme risk for a relatively small amount of money. Seems like a lot, but see how long $1.3MM lasts when you don’t have much of anything else to fall back on.  (For you math majors, $1.3MM equals $770k x 3.5 x 50% thanks to Uncle Sam!).  The NBA Players are a joke by comparison – the fact they were getting 57% of league revenues is absurd when Spencer Hawes makes over $2MM PER YEAR for an un-Michael-Jordan-like avg. of 8 points per game.  What a joke…

Lastly, a tip of the hat to the Gansevoort Miami.  The wife surprised me with a long weekend in South Beach last week and we had an amazing time, in spite of gale force winds and a bit of tropical storm the last day.  The only issue was an incredibly poor wireless internet connection.  And for someone whose job never stops, this is akin to rusty nail stuck in the bottom of your foot while trying to run a marathon.  The Gansevoort has a very efficient survey process for guests upon check out… a brief survey awaits via email, waiting in your inbox when you return to the ‘real world’.  Being in the marketing industry, I tend to answer these things perhaps more than most.  But this time, I had legitimate reason to inform them of the internet issue — something that would definitely deter my future business.

What happened next was flat-out text-book with respect to CRM communications.  3 or 4 hours following my submission, I received a personal communication from the GM informing me of the steps they are taking to improve their internet service and as a goodwill gesture of thanks for not only my business but for helping them improve, have extended a free upgrade when I book my next visit.  It blows me away why more businesses don’t operate like this; it’s FAR easier to satisfy the customers you have than trying to acquire new, so why not do all in your power (within reason) to keep ’em coming back?!  Kudos to you Gansevoort… I will return, gladly taking that free upgrade, and will continue my perma-grin that appears every time I step foot at the Saturday pool party at Plunge!

And then the next day I’ll be left wondering, “do I have a headache, or is my hat just too tight?”

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Much Clutch?

I have a love/hate relationship with Ryan Howard.  (I’ll go easy on the links today… on Amtrak and don’t have the greatest internet connection… God I love the quiet car!).  Allow me to make an omission:  I’m not a numbers guy – scored much better on the verbal than the math back when the SAT was a real test (#makekidsfeelgoodlikenotkeepingscoreinlittleleague)!  And due to aforementioned internet connection issues, I can’t research and cite with certainly that the numbers I’m about to mention are 100% accurate; but I can say that they’re close.  I am, and have always been, what you would call a ‘feel player’.  Numbers are annoying to me… especially the one tied to my alimony.  So you stat geeks out there feel free to rip away, but my mea-culpa has already been issued!

One of my regular readers is most certainly about to fall off his chair when he reads this.  In an effort to ‘protect the innocent’, his name rhymes with Rat Mappe and he’s a diehard Mets fan (btw, can we agree the Mets have the DUMBEST mascot in all of sports?  I mean they’re in the advertising capital of the world, and all they come up with is Mr. Met????  Horrific.).  In this joyless season for such masochists, this is sure to put a smile on my friend’s face:   I’m waiting for Ryan Howard’s next clutch home-run as it seems to occur roughly once every Wilson Valdez bobblehead night (which is to say not very often).  I know, he’s an RBI machine and has turned into a serviceable defensive first baseman, but my God, how may whiffs in clutch moments do we have to endure???  Listen, I love me some Phillies, especially the core of Rollins, Utley, Hamels, Victorino and Howard… all of whom grew up together (I begrudgingly throw Hamels into this mix and I’m adopting Victorino even though he didn’t come up through the Phillie’s farm system – I believe it was the Dodgers – he’s pretty much been here all along for this glorious ride).

I believe the Big Dawg (or is it ‘Lafayette’ from True Blood?) has 31 home runs.  For those of you dying for a distraction at work, get on MLB.com and tell me how close I am to the following statistics:

  • Less than 10 have come when the Phillies were either 1 run up, tied, or 1 run down
  • 15-20 have come when the Phillies have more than a 4 run lead

I just can’t get strike 3 from last year’s NLCS out of my head when the Bearded Wonder (how’s that ‘repeat’ coming along from your MLB network commercial, chief?) struck out our boy looking to advance to the World Series.  It’s why we Philly fans have such a love for Chooch Ruiz – that guy is the epitome of clutch!  So I love Howard for his stats… and the RBI’s are timely… but I need my big bopper hitting bombs when they matter, not when I’ve already switched over to the Real Housewives!  (Did I just say that?!).

While we’re on the topic of misunderstood statistics, can we put to rest the ‘high cost’ of direct mail and replacing with email?  Keep in mind that I’m a fan of both; providing services for each helps pay my mortgage… but this logic makes me want to tear out my eyeballs.  For the non-direct marketers out there, I’m going to make this very simple:  Judging what you pay to execute a campaign is like t*ts on a bull – useless!  You must consider the cost of a given action that you want your audience to take… or even more simply, the cost to have your message consumed (read, heard, eaten, whatever!).

The overall cost to deploy an email campaign… using a GOOD response list (and not some compiled garbage) is, let’s say $100 per 1,000 emails delivered, or about $ .10 per email (there are some soft costs that we’ll ignore such as the cost to develop the HTML creative, but we’ll assume that’s being performed by salaried individuals who would be paid regardless if they performed this work or not).  Direct mail is, on the surface, WAY more expensive.. .for our purposes, we’ll use $ .85 per piece which includes printing the mail piece, postage, and the list rental cost being similar to email.  But I’m telling you these numbers tell us squatola regarding the true cost!  Who cares how much it costs to send out a campaign… I want to know what it costs to get somebody to actually read what we’re sending.  If you’re not concerned about that, call me, you’ll become my favorite client!

So if we look at the cost per read, we have to look at some historical statistics of who looks at each marketing message.  In my career of providing prospect email lists to marketers,  I would say that a 15% open rate is a pretty fair 10 year average across thousands of campaigns.  In other words, for every 100,000 emails sent, 15,000 will be read… or $ .67 per read email.  Pretty cheap!

Looking at direct postal mail in the same light, studies show that 85% of advertising postal mail is actually read.  So to reach that same quantity of 15,000 readers, we only need to send 17,650 mailers.  Assuming a cost of roughly $ .85 per piece, the cost of $15,000 to reach 15,000 ‘readers’ of our message is north of the $ .67 achieved by email, but there’s one other missing link… how are we defining a ‘read’?

When you account for the fact that “opens” for email (which we’re assuming is a ‘read’ email) are registered when images are served from where they are hosted, and considering that a huge percentage of email recipients utilize the ‘preview pane’, it stands to reason that we’re counting a decent number of ‘opens’ being ‘read’ that are simply showing up in the preview pane and actually deleted without being read!  I don’t have a way to quantify this absolutely but I think a reasonable assumption would say that when it all comes out of the the wash, the cost to actually get your email read is pretty comparable to that of a postal direct mail campaign.

So email is a lot of things… it’s super timely (we can deploy much quicker than we can direct mail), it ties seamlessly into other online branding (easily made to look/feel like landing pages, websites, etc) and errors can be quickly fixed (ever catch a typo after printing 10,000 postcards?).  But what it’s NOT is demonstratively less expensive than direct postal mail.

Sort of like saying that Chooch is demonstratively less clutch that Ryan Howard… not the case mi amigos!

Curb your Jets!

I like Larry David… a lot!  You may even say that LD has stolen a lot his material from my life… or my father’s!  Who, btw, bears a striking resemblance to Larry and definitely finds himself in equally precarious predicaments.  The difference being that my old man may be sweetest man on the planet and would just as soon diffuse bombastic situations as Mr. David seems to thrive upon.  For the 3 of you who have never seen ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm‘, our lovable protagonist  just can’t help himself to thrust his personal commentary – much of which we all share but hold internally – into others’ lives.  This of course produces a cornucopia of voyeuristic pleasure…

Alas, so as not to come off as shill for ‘Curb’ (a label only accurate for my Philly sports fandom – typing quickly now while the Phils give a little taste of what’s to come to the Braves who I have a sneaky suspicion we’ll see in the playoffs before moving on to those moron-led Red Sox in the World Series), I want to relay a true Larry David moment I encountered grocery shopping for my Labor Day festivities:  What started as an innocent jaunt to the local Harris Teeter to grab some vino, cheese and crackers (sprinkled with the 5-10 impulse purchases that plague my family budget every visit) turned into a “where are the cameras” sort of moment for yours truly.  So I’m carrying a basket with a small number of items – 10-15 at most – when I approach the checkout lanes.  Now you would think this was the day before a 3ft. snowfall was to fall on the greater Wash DC area – the checkout lanes were off the charts!  So I mosey over to the express lane (see #5 here for a sneak preview of what’s to come) that was sparse – 2 people in front of me – an elicited a sigh of relief.

<Column intermission (thanks for the idea, Coach Slouch):  I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but why do grocery stores but the SLOWEST checkout associate (don’t you dare say ‘cashier’) in the express lane???  I know, I know, conventional wisdom says that there’s less for them to check out, but d*mn, if i weren’t in a hurry, I would stand behind the 23 people one lane over!  Come on people – can you think about your constituents for a change???  It’s like our fearless President O-Hope&Change… thinking that turning the screws on business owners is going to make them say, “you’re right Barr-wrong, now that you’re taking more of the money that I’m generating, from my ideas, risks, personnel decisions, etc., I think I’ll take the less money that you allow me to keep to hire more people…  what was I thinking???” >

15 minutes later, after my <insert ethnic slur here> checkout associate has finally processed the 8 items before me, finally, my turn… I’m this much closer to starting my Labor Day weekend – YES!  So I gander behind me to see how many suckers are in for the wait from h*ll that I endured and don’t you know, my lane is about 10 people deep now… suckers!  Just then my overly (not) friendly checkout illegal uttered something unintelligible and pointed to an obscure sign … which I would say was about a font size of ‘2’ under the “EXPRESS CHECKOUT” which was about a font size of 200!  It read ‘8 Item Limit’.  Time for quick thinking – I had 4 bottles of wine, 3 different cheeses, 2 sleeves of crackers, 1 bag of chips and some ‘healthy’ nonsense that my wife made me grab so we would feel better about ourselves.  Don’t do that math; it’s more than 8 items.  I was screwed.  Time to think quick… got it!  All like items count as ONE ITEM!  I’m now down to about 7 items – YES!  But the crowd was growing restless…

I started hearing catcalls from the schleps behind me in line.  “What do you think you’re doing?”  “You have more than 8 items, put something back or get out of our lane!”  Cue the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme song… it’s on like Donkey Kong!  I conjure my inner Larry David, and in my best Jewish accent offer up the following gem:  “If you people had a clue,  you’d realize that like items count as ONE item… it’s in the Express Lane handbook!”.  Then something amazing happened… as I girded for a battle, they all laughed!  Having exhausted my full arsenal with one bellowing statement, I learned a valuable lesson – channeling your inner Larry David to solve a conflict is more likely to result in a laugh than an intellectual victory… so use only when the strategy calls for it!

The marketing lesson here boys and girls is that banking on things to occur just as they did in other settings is foolish.  Business – and more specifically, marketing – though often copied, never fully replicates successful execution.  The true winners are those who dare to be bold.  Those who copy or follow are relegated to smaller market share and lower earnings.  True, boldness can lead to monumental losses (such as utilizing data that you have been warned NOT to use over and over and over again), but taking calculated risks at incremental levels is the path to success.

Case in point, for marketers that utilize email for customer acquisition, the rule of thumb since the medium took shape in the mid/late 90’s was to avoid Mondays and Fridays like the plague.  And this rule was rooted in good logic; most people are getting back to work on Mondays, setting up their week, scheduling tasks to complete, etc.; marketing messages would be largely ignored.  Similar concept for Fridays; people are winding down their weeks and are racing to finish deadlines, etc.  and are largely ignoring promotional email.  And forget about weekends, right?  Who’s tied to their email over the weekend???

Now I don’t want to claim any sort of otherworldly prescience or clairvoyance, but I began speaking to my email marketing clients several years ago, imploring them to shift deployments to Mondays/Fridays (Fridays at a minimum) and consider testing the weekend.  The reason… rooted in logic from traditional direct mail, the damn inbox is too full the other days!  That’s it – rocket science, right?  Almost as genius as arguing that 4 bottles of wine only counts as one in the express checkout lane…  Think about it, don’t you think your message has a better chance of being read/considered if not mingled with the hundreds of thousands of promo email sent at the same time as yours???  Don’t think long, the answer is ‘yes’.  And don’t you also think that people who are miserable with their jobs (beyond me, that would be mostly everybody) would rather look at anything than the drivel they’re working on? (another ‘YES”).  Especially on a Friday afternoon where people would love to look busy… or a Monday morning where anything disguised as work would be a welcome ‘easing into’ the work week?  Well we finally have some empirical fact to support these suggestions.  It does work.  And not only deploying on these days but also the wee hours in the morning so that when peeps report to work, or have their morning coffee, they are a tremendously captive audience… so hit them when they’re reading, not when they’re racing to a meeting or finishing a spreadsheet that was dumped on them 15 minutes earlier for said meeting, etc.  A little common sense will go a long way.

Sort of like arguing that a sharp Vermont Cheddar and Swiss Gruyère really count as 1 item in the express checkout lane.