Jason Falls Discusses Explore Minneapolis

Last week I had the honor of Skying with Jason Falls – my good friend, colleague, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing (pictured right).

In this 10 1/2 minute conversation, we talk about his upcoming Explore event - Thursday and Friday, Aug. 16-17 in Minneapolis, MN.

BONUS: We also touch on a few other topics – editing Word documents, Roy Firestone, PTI, bourbon, the Pittsburg Pirates, and Jason’s Twitter strategy (hint: it involves a curse word).

Check it out.

YouTube Preview Image

Having trouble seeing the video? Try watching directly on YouTube. And in case you were wondering, I applied the “Raster” filter to this video (via iMovie). I thought it looked kinda neat.

More About Explore Minneapolis

As always, Jason has locked up a killer lineup of speakers, including Jay Baer of Convince and Convert and co-author of The Now Revolution, Tom Webster of Brand Savant/Edison Research/The Social Habit (and one of my favorite speakers of all time), Nick Westergaard of Brand Driven Social, and .. well … frankly a ton of other super-sharp speakers. I’ll actually be there too speaking about how to be an email marketing rebel.

Like all of Jason’s Explore events, Minneapolis promises to be an intensive day of learning and networking. As the Explore site states, the “events are geared to ‘push the thinking’ and help you drive your digital and social media marketing forward.”

Early bird registration has closed already, but Jason has been kind enough to offer a $200 discount if you know me (or are reading this now). Just enter in the promotion code “IKNOWDJ” on the registration page for a discounted price of only $250! The cost gets you two days of learning, breakfast, lunch, a cocktail reception and an invitation to an exclusive Explore community for ongoing learning and connections!

Ready to purchase tickets? Don’t forget to enter the promo code “IKNOWDJ” for $200 off!

See you in Minneapolis!

Cheers
DJ Waldow

——

In case you missed it in the conversation I had with Jason above, we wrote a book together! In the book, we talk about ways to grow your email list AND break some rules along the way. Be sure to grab your copy of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, to learn about all sorts of email marketing “best practices” individuals and companies are breaking each and every day … and still finding success.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

3 Ways to Find and Engage New Email Subscribers with SMS [Webinar Materials]

Last week, my friend and colleague Justin Mastrangelo and I hosted a webinar, 3 Ways to Find and Engage New Email Subscribers with SMS.

In this less-then-30-minute webinar, we shared:

  1. Ways to use traditional media, events, and foot traffic to grow your email list through text messaging
  2. Tips on using a welcome email series to quickly engage new subscribers
  3. Strategies for using email and SMS together to maximize your campaign’s effectiveness

Webinar Materials – Yours … FREE!

We’ve posted the slides – all 56 of them – to Slideshare. See below.



If you’d like to watch the presentation AND hear what Justin and I had to say, you can view the webinar on YouTube. Due to length restrictions, we had to split them up into 3 parts:

Justin and I had a ton of fun doing this webinar. We hope you took away at least one thing that you plan implementing. If you did … and end up testing it, please share the results with us in the comments below. Also, if you would like either Justin or I to cover a specific email marketing and/or SMS related topic in a future webinar, please also share that in the comments below.

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

——

At the end of the webinar, there is a soft plug for the new book that I co-authored with Jason Falls. In the book, we talk about ways to grow your email list AND break some rules along the way. We even talk a bit about mobile marketing – some of the topics we covered in the webinar In The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, we share with you all sorts of email marketing “best practices” individuals and companies are breaking each and every day … and still finding success.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

DO NOT REPLY

Imagine the following imaginary scenario:

You walk into your local Sprint store to pay your monthly invoice. You walk up to the counter and hand the Sprint employee a check that covers the full amount due. The Sprint employee takes your check and says, “Please do not reply to me. Replies to me are routed to an unmonitored device.”

Huh?

Silly, right? It’s a scenario that is almost unfathomable. In fact, it’s quite laughable. Who would ever say that to a customer, especially after that customer just paid their bill?

However, this type of DO NOT REPLY response is one that some email marketers default to in their automated, transactional replies.

“Please do not reply to this email. Replies to this message are routed to an unmonitored mailbox.”

Those were the first seventeen words I read when I opened a payment confirmation email from Sprint.

Check out the entire email below (personal information redacted):

DO NOT REPLY. 

(Coincidentally, as I was writing the sentence above, an email from United Airlines landed in my inbox. It that started off with this: “*** This is an automated response confirming the receipt of your email. Please do not reply ***).

It’s one of those things that just irks me. It’s not a new pet peeve of mine – far from it. I actually blogged about this very topic many moons ago (November 2008). Yet it still happens. From small to large companies, lesser to well-known brands, many marketers are still including DO NOT REPLY language in their email communications.

Sometimes it’s in the form of a From Address (noreply@), while other times it’s the actual text within the email. In the case of the Sprint email above, it’s both!

But does it really matter? Does the average consumer really care about a noreply@ from name or the “cold” nature of  an email that directly tells subscribers to not bother replying?

Also, what if someone replies to one of these emails asking to be unsubscribed? Are there any legal (CAN-SPAM) implications?

Finally, what potential opportunities are marketers missing by not allowing customers to reply to their emails?

Who Cares?

My hunch (no real data to support) tells me that most people get this type of email and either delete or archive it without much thought. Maybe my colleagues and I who eat, breath, sleep and sometimes dream email marketing make a bigger deal out of this then the average consumer does. I proposed that very question to my friends at Only Influencers. Here is what - John Caldwell, of Red Pill Email said:

I don’t think that anybody really cares about “noreply@” sender addresses for the most part. Of course having a real and monitored address is more “friendly” and may give the impression that the sender actually [cares] about the recipient – there may even be some immeasurable incremental revenue by extending the recipient lifetime value, but who is going to change insurance companies because of “donotreply” in an email?

I have to agree with John that most folks don’t care about the “noreply@” from name. I’d take it a step further and suggest that most people don’t even notice the from address. Instead, they are more focused on the From Name and Subject Line.

However, would you care if the messaging in an email very clearly told you to not reply? Would that bother you or are my colleagues and I just overly sensitive to this stuff because it’s the industry we work in? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please indicate in the comments what your role is at your organization (I want to see if you are an industry type of “other.” Ha).

What About CAN-SPAM?

One potential downside to sending an email that has an “unmonitored mailbox” is that some subscribers hit reply in order to opt-out. What happens if someone replies to your DO NOT REPLY email asking to be unsubscribed? According to John Caldwell of Red Pill Email:

CAN-SPAM says that promotional messages must have a working opt-out mechanism that’s active for 30 days from the time the message is sent. While it identifies a reply message as an option, it doesn’t state that the recipient gets to pick the option or that the sender support all options (emphasis mine). If the instructions state that in order to opt-out the recipient must click a link and the recipient decides they’d rather do something else the expectation should be that if the recipient didn’t follow the opt-out instructions that there is no reasonable expectation that they have opted out.

While I’m not an attorney, it sounds like what John says is quite reasonable. I’d still check with legal counsel first, if it were me.

So if most consumers don’t really care about DO NOT REPLY – either in the From Address or in the body of the email – and it’s not an issue as far as CAN-SPAM is concerned, why are we even having this conversation?

Simple. By not providing an easy, simple, clear way for your email subscribers to contact you – via an email reply – you are missing out on possible opportunities to engage with a customer.

Missed Opportunities

I strongly believe that every single communication you have with an email subscriber, prospect, customer, fan, and so on is valuable. Email replies are no exception. If someone is replying to your email with a complaint, it’s a great opportunity to apologize and possibly turn the situation around. Scott Stratten gives this great example from an exchange he had with Delta recently. While this example is from Twitter, the same idea holds true.

Chris Marriott, an Outside Consultant at Vivastream agrees:

Every customer interaction should provide an opportunity for further engagement, which this type of automated email fails to do. To me it is little different than getting a pre-recorded phone call which directs you to call a different number to respond. Those really irk me too! The easier you are to do business with, the more business people will do with you. Pointing to another email address or a phone number is not as easy as replying to the original email.

Joshua Baer, CEO at OtherInbox, a division of Return Path, thinks that the do-not-reply is “the dumbest thing in the world.” Baer continues,

How could you pass up on a chance to hear from your customers? A very common reply is to unsubscribe, and if you don’t catch it, it’s likely to become a spam complaint instead (emphasis mine). Do-not-reply is a legacy of the days before we had good spam filters or mail rules or help desk software. We should put the nail in its coffin.

Mia Papanicolaou, Head of Operations at Striata, told me they have customers that monitor replies and those that don’t.

The manned process gets many unsubscribe requests, but it also gets so many compliments for the campaigns, as well as legitimate questions/complaints that are dealt with immediately. Customer satisfaction increases the same way it would on a social medium where customers air their views / complain and get satisfactory responses. To shut down this fantastic avenue for customers to communicate with a company is madness in my view.

John Ken, Email Marketing Manager at Edmunds Inc. told me that they don’t use a “do-not-reply” email address. In fact, they see “a good amount of transactional email replies that are meaningful.” John’s team puts them into a CRM bucket where his CSR’s respond, if necessary. “For us specifically,” said John, “we are consumer advocates, and absolutely care about this stuff.” BINGO!

Those In Favor of Do Not Reply

While personally I think anything resembling DO NOT REPLY is essentially ignoring your customers (as Tim Watson, Founder at Zettasphere, wrote about in this blog post), there is always two sides to a story, right?

Someone who asked to remain anonymous shared this justification with me:

Some of our clients use the “Do Not Reply” not because they don’t have the staff to reply, but instead due to security risks (especially financial services companies). We’ve heard of clients receiving reply emails that look to be legit, but carry dangerous viruses because that mailbox was compromised/hacked (not just in an attachment but sometimes in the content itself) and they don’t want to risk their data or corporate networks because a customer service person unknowingly downloads the virus. Most clients that allow for replies use an inbound filtering system that strips out attachments and known virus-related content.

I had never thought about it from a security-risk standpoint. Seems reasonable, right?

Andy Goldman, Principal, Digital and Brand Strategy at B+M+T Consulting, suggested it had more to do with the specific brand’s dependency on email for sales or other key customer engagements. “Your Sprint service provider is one such brand,” Goldman told me.

While they may have significant opportunities to deepen their relationship with your household via email, all in all Sprint (and other telecomms) rarely use them. By contrast, some larger service providers, like ComCast and Time Warner, offer a number of services and products that can be sold, previewed, rated, sampled, and otherwise showcased via digital relationship marketing. A True Blood t-shirt here, a Justified season-one DvD offer there, free high-speed tests (what’s YOUR download?) and the like. These offers and options are perfect for transactional dialogue.

That being said, Goldman also believes that, “any brand that ‘impersonalizes’ and ignores customer engagement opportunities today is failing.”

I could not agree more.

What do you think? Feel free to reply with your thoughts in the comments below. (See what I did there? Ha!)

Cheers
DJ Waldow

——

Did you know? Jason Falls and I just wrote a new book about breaking the rules of email marketing! In the book, we talk about ways to grow your email list AND break some rules along the way. We discuss from names and subject lines too! In The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, we share with you all sorts of email marketing “best practices” individuals and companies are breaking each and every day … and still finding success.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

3 Ways to Find and Engage New Email Subscribers with SMS [WEBINAR]

If you are like most Americans, you likely engage in at least one of these 3 activities (if not all 3) every single day: Email, Facebook, Texting.

If you are a teenager, you may be sending thousands of text messages every month (see: my cousin).

If you are my 2 year-old daughter, you already know how to navigate an iPhone. (True story: Since she was about 20 months old, Eva has been able to unlock my iPhone, find the photos, and navigate (swipe) to the ones she wants to see. Yesterday I showed her how to take pictures with the iPhone. She picked it up in a matter of minutes. Yup.)

If you’ve followed Waldow Social (and/or me) for some time now, you know that I’m an email marketing guy. However, I’m becoming more of an SMS guy as well. With open rates on text messages close to 100%, it’s hard to ignore this powerful channel.

That’s why I’m joining forces with my friend, colleague, and mobile marketing ninja, Justin Mastrangelo on July 19th at 11AM PT (2PM ET) for a webinar titled, 3 Ways to Find and Engage New Email Subscribers with SMS.

Justin and I will uncover how to use SMS (text messaging or “texting”) to … well … find and engage new email subscribers.

In this July 19th webinar, Justin and I will discuss:

  1. Ways to use traditional media, events, and foot traffic to grow your email list through text messaging
  2. Tips on using a welcome email series to quickly engage new subscribers
  3. Strategies for using email and SMS together to maximize your campaign’s effectiveness
You can sign up by clicking the link above, or, if you are most of a button clicker, tap on the button below to register.

When it comes to mobile marketing, Justin is one of the sharpest minds in the industry. Be sure to check out his SMS Marketing software, JA.TXT, and follow him on Twitter to stay in the loop on everything SMS-related (and more)!

See you, virtually of course, on July 19th!

And please spread the word by clicking on the social sharing buttons at the top and bottom of this blog post.

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

——

Did you know? Jason Falls and I just wrote a new book about breaking the rules of email marketing! In the book, we talk about ways to grow your email list AND break some rules along the way. We even talk a bit about mobile marketing – some of the topics that will be covered. In The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, we share with you all sorts of email marketing “best practices” individuals and companies are breaking each and every day … and still finding success.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

Why Should I Update My Email Preferences?

Email preference centers – the part of an email marketing strategy that most people forget, ignore, or just don’t put enough (any?) thought into.

Yet, if you believe in sending your subscribers timely, targeted, relevant emails, manage preference pages are critical.

There are a few challenges with email preference centers.

First, if you ask for too much information during the opt-in process, you are making it more difficult for folks to subscribe. If you are looking to grow your list quickly, this may not be a great idea. However, if you don’t gather the “personalization” information upfront, how can you ask for it after someone has been added to your list?

One approach is what Norm Thompson did recently. Check out this email I received from them a few weeks ago (screenshot below).

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

Why The Norm Thompson Email Was Awesome

Here’s what I loved about it.

  1. The Subject Line: The Birthday Fairy has a question for you. Creative. Simple. Direct. And, most importantly, it got my interest piqued enough for me to open the email.
  2. The Copy & Imagery: The drawing of the birthday cake was consistent with the subject line and just popped off the page. Also, the copy was succinct, direct, and friendly. Notice how they didn’t demand that I update my preferences. Instead, they invited me to update them.
  3. The Call(s) To Action: Finally, the email included 4 – count ‘em – 4 different ways to click to update my preferences. (1) The preheader; (2); the preferences link in the header; (3) the image; and (4) the “update your profile” button. The email had a few secondary and tertiary calls to action, but for the most part it was a dedicated campaign with a goal of getting subscribers to update their preferences. Giving your subscribers multiple ways to get to the same landing page – links, images, buttons, and so on – gives you a better chance of them acting (clicking)!
  4. The Post-Click Landing Page: The best part of the email is what happened when I clicked on the call to action. Check out the screenshot below of the landing page.

Notice a few (awesome) things about this landing page:

  1. Norm Thompson logo at the top – great for consistency and branding.
  2. What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) – clear WIIFM … Stay tuned on new arrivals, latest offers, fashion trends, and more
  3. Content & frequency choices! – Everything, steals & deals, men’s only, 1 per week, 1 per month … and unsubscribe

I really only have one suggestion/tip on how to make this email and landing page a touch better. Since the main call to action was encouraging me to update my birthday month and date – so they could send me a gift – I think they could have called that out a bit more in the subscriber preferences page. Maybe highlight it somehow, block it out, put big arrows near it. Again, this is somewhat nit-picky, but hey, I had to say something, right? Ha!

What do you think about this Norm Thompson “update your preferences” email campaign? Did they get it right? What did they miss? Have you ever sent out an email similar to this? If so, what were the results (and if you are on the email marketing team from Norm Thompson, I’d love to hear how successful this was!).

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

FYI: Stephan Hovnanian wrote a great guest post here a few weeks ago, 7 Keys to Building a Successful Manage Preferences Page. Be sure to take a peek at that post too.

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

——

Did you know? Jason Falls and I just wrote a new book about breaking the rules of email marketing! In the book, we talk about ways to grow your email list AND break some rules along the way. We also dedicate a section to “the anatomy of an email” – discussing the various components of an email, a few of which are discussed in this blog post. In The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, we share with you all sorts of email marketing “best practices” individuals and companies are breaking each and every day … and still finding success.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!