The Best Holiday Email of 2011

Holiday Emails InboxI get a ton of email.

Most of the emails I subscribe to because I’m truly interested in what the individual or company has to share. Others I opt-in to so that I can analyze the process, the from name, the subject line, the message, the use of social media, etc. Still others, I get so that I can do my free email reviews. I use Gmail labels to organize all of these emails into categories for future use/review.

As you can see from the image at the top right, I have a label for holiday emails. Like you, I’ve received hundreds of holiday-related emails over the past few months. A theme that I noticed this year was that more marketers incorporated video into their emails this holiday season. One in particular that jumped out at me was this email from Ibex, Seasons Greetings From Ibex, which will from this point forward be referred to as The Best Holiday Email of 2011:

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Click the image above to view the landing page (and video). If it does not work for some reason, I’ve also embedded the video below.

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Still having trouble seeing? Try viewing directly on YouTube.

What Makes This the Best Holiday Email of 2011?

Besides the fact that this email is wickedly creative, I also love it for a few other reasons.

  1. Simple and straightforward: The team at Ibex did not try to use this holiday card email as an opportunity to sell. There was no “70% Off” or “FREE SHIPPING” offer. It was simply a holiday card delivered via email.
  2. Animals: There is something about using animals – specifically cats and dogs – in marketing creative. I mean, it’s hard not to smile when you see this picture, right? I dare you to look at the holiday card again and not smile. See? Also, anyone who has a dog – or has ever walked a dog (or dogs) – can related to this picture, especially professional dog walkers.
  3. Video, with a twist: As mentioned above, this was not the only holiday email that took advantage of video; however it was the only one I received that took a creative spin on the video. Instead of the video being their holiday card, Ibex used the video to show the making of their holiday card. Brilliant. Creative. Fun.
  4. Human element: I have a confession to make. See the woman in the red coat on the left of the holiday card? That’s my friend Jess Moschetti (aka @ibexgirl). She’s also the same woman who intros the video. Ibex uses their own employees in much of their creative. In fact, if you look at the Ibex hats page, you’ll notice Jess again! The guy on the right is Evan (aka @ibexdude). Tip: Scroll over the images of each hat to see a new picture. Super fun, right? Southwest Airlines is also known for using their own people in their marketing campaigns. There is something that makes it more authentic (human!) when companies have their own employees participate. Agree?

What do you think of the holiday card email from Ibex? Do you have other examples of emails you received this holiday season that you loved? Hated? Please share in the comments below.

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

How to Handle Negative Feedback

You SuckI don’t care what business you are in, or how good your product or service is, you are bound to receive negative feedback at some point. It’s impossible to make everyone happy. Impossible.

Add social media to the equation and you are really opening yourself up to feedback – both positive and negative. Remember: Many people use social media to either say something amazing about you (your product, your service, your company) or they use it to complain. I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts, Tweets, and blog posts I’ve seen directed specifically at a company, often venting about something the person did not like, how they were wronged, etc.

If you decide to make the jump and participate in social media, you have to expect that you’ll receive negative feedback at some point. You know it’s inevitable. But are you prepared? How do you handle it? How do you respond? What channel(s) do you use to communicate?

The Story: Zappos Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

On Sunday, I was joined by 44,000 other runners on the strip for the Zappos Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1/2 Marathon. It was an incredible event. Imagine: 44 thousand people running down the streets of Las Vegas – at night – with local bands playing every mile or so. One of the guys from Pearl Jam did the national anthem … as a guitar solo. It was wild.

When I got home Monday night, I was still on a bit of a runner’s high. Sore, but feeling good mentally. I decided to pop over to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1/2 Marathon Facebook page. This is what I saw (Note: If you want to see all comments, you may have to “like” their page first):
Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1_2 Marathon Facebook Post
As you can see, the folks running this page took the lead by posting a congratulations to all runners. They acknowledged that there were some issues and then asked for feedback. They asked. People replied. In fact, as I write this, this post was liked 365 times, shared 18, and there were nearly 400 comments. The first comment, “I’m in next year” was one of the few positive ones. The far majority read something like the second one, from Charlene:

APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE!!!!! What a callus and inappropriate comment to those who paid you money to ensure our safety. I hope your next year’s FAILS. Go ahead, delete my comment, too.

Yikes, right?

How They Responded

Here is what was interesting. They chose not to respond on that thread. Unless I missed it, they never once directly (publicly) acknowledged any of the runner feedback – not the positive feedback, not the negative feedback. My guess is they were a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume. However, this is not an excuse. If you are going to ask for feedback, be prepared to reply. Did they have to acknowledge every single comment? Maybe not, but at least a few of them. Personally, I would have taken the time to reply to all.

Instead, they chose another route.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, they added the following 4 updates on their Facebook page:
Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1_2 Marathon Facebook Post (2)

Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1_2 Marathon Facebook Post (3)

A few things to note here:

  1. These posts generated a ton more likes, shares, and comments. Still, no replies from the Marathon folks.
  2. Runners continued to complain, though it seemed as though the balance of negative to positive comments was shifting to the positive – slightly.
  3. Runners used this as an opportunity to drop in links to other, non-Facebook, commentary about the race – like this one.

Their Response in Other Channels

While I cannot comment on all channels that they used to reply, I can tell you that I received a few follow-up emails from the folks at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1/2 Marathon. The first was this email (below):
Rock & Roll Marathon Email - Participant Feedback Wanted
The subject line read, “Participant Feedback Wanted” and included a short explanation of some of the issues they identified as well as a link to the survey. They also added a $10 incentive to complete the survey. To their credit, they were certainly trying. Again, asking for feedback – in many ways – shows that they care and want to improve.

The day after, I received this email:
Congrats Rock 'n' Rollers! Email
The subject line read “Congrats Rock ‘n’ Rollers!” and lead with an apology note from the CEO of Competitor Group. That same apology letter appears on their Facebook page as a tab. See below:
Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1_2 Marathon Apology on Facebook page

A Recap & Some Suggestions

If you’ve made it this far, my guess is that you have an opinion on how this was all handled. I do too. Overall, I think they did a nice job being proactive. They…

  1. Posted to Facebook soliciting feedback
  2. Sent an email that included a link to a survey
  3. Sent another email with an apology from the CEO
  4. Added a tab to their Facebook page with that same apology
  5. Posted a few more times to their Facebook page with explanations, apologies, acknowledgements

However, I still feel strongly that if they are going to open up the door for feedback on their Facebook page, they need to reply to the comments – both the positive and negative ones. As you can see from that page, they have over 25,000 likes. My bet is that over 90% of those who liked this page are those who ran in the race. If you are going to start a conversation on Facebook, continue it there. That’s not to say that you can’t communicate via other channels. I loved that they sent an email asking for feedback as not everyone would have seen the posts on Facebook. Just because they have 25k likes does not mean that everyone is reading their updates. Email, on the other hand, will at least land in everyone’s inbox. Sure, they can delete it, but they are more likely to at least see it.

One suggestion – that would take time, effort and money – but could have a huge impact: Pull a list of all runners who left comments on their Facebook wall. Match them to their email address and/or postal address and send them a personal note. Apologize. Ask for feedback. Acknowledge that they messed up. Suggest ways they will improve for next time. Create another forum (maybe even a closed Facebook Group) where the most vocal can continue the conversation. Actively participate in that discussion. Use this an an opportunity to turn the haters into fans. It’s possible, but it takes work.

I’m curious what you all think. What did you like about how this was handled? What would you have done differently? Has this ever happened at your company? If so, how did you respond?

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

Free Email Marketing Reviews

Free Email Marketing Reviews? Yes. It’s true!

If you’d like to participate in these Free Email Campaign Reviews, simply fill out this form:

I’ll use this information to communicate with you during and after the Email Review process. If you have other relevant information that does not fit nicely into that form, don’t hesitate to send me an email – djwaldow@waldowsocial.com.

Here’s What You Can Expect

A 5-minute (or so) screencast review of your email campaign. Free! I use a screencast software called Screencast-o-Matic to review email campaigns..

See the email review I did for Funny or Die. Note: It’s much easier to view in full-screen mode.

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FAQs

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