Author Archives: Jolyon Hunter

Jolyon Hunter

About Jolyon Hunter

As a marketing consultant at ExactTarget, Joe works with clients to optimise their deliverability, creatve and marketing programmes, deliver best practive advice and provide training on how to manage their social media presence using ExactTarget tools, Since 2003, Joe has worked in a number of different roles in the industry. Past employers include Acxiom, OgilvyOne London, before joining ExactTarget in 2010.

Opt-In & Opt-Out – Definitions of Consent according to the draft EU Data Protection Regulations

As a consumer, I am always in favour of legislation which seeks to protect individual freedoms, and reduce ambiguity in what organisations can and cannot do with my personal information. As a marketer too, it is important that the availability and use of a consumer’s personal information be governed by clear guidelines, and ends in a mutually beneficial result – at the bare bones of it; providing a customer with timely, relevant communications based on the data they have provided, at the same time as (hopefully) making a profit for the organisation I am working for.

The real worry is that the current draft of the European Union Data Protection Regulation, does the opposite by introducing more complexity and ambiguity than already exists, and potentially creates further issues which would not have surfaced if the status quo were maintained.

The verbatim definition of consent within the Regulation is as follows:

“…’the data subject’s consent’ means any freely given specific, informed and explicit indication of his or her wishes by which the data subject, either by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to personal data relating to them being processed…”
[http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2012:0011:FIN:EN:PDF Article 4 (8)]

Furthermore, the “Conditions for Consent” are laid out as follows:
1. “The controller shall bear the burden of proof for the data subject’s consent to the processing of their personal data for specified purposes.

2. If the data subject’s consent is to be given in the context of a written declaration which also concerns another matter, the requirement to give consent must be presented distinguishable in its appearance from this other matter.

3. The data subject shall have the right to withdraw his or her consent at any time. The withdrawal of consent shall not affect the lawfulness of processing based on consent before its withdrawal.

4. Consent shall not provide a legal basis for the processing, where there is a significant imbalance between the position of the data subject and the controller.”

[http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2012:0011:FIN:EN:PDF Article 7]

In the above, I have highlighted the key elements here – the Regulation is essentially saying that organisations need to obtain a clear and explicit statement/action by which a data subject provides consent. From an email permission-marketing best practice perspective, this is fine – however the Regulation does not address whether or not this would need to be retrospective for existing databases, and whether or not organisations would be able to contact customers with whom they have had previous interactions (as is currently permissible under the existing Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive – and, the majority of the time, expected by consumers).

This is completely disregarding whether or not those consumers actually want to be contacted, and if the “burden of proof” detailed above is an enforceable requirement (in a worse-case scenario) – then the Regulation is effectively saying organisations must delete said data if they cannot prove consent has been given explicitly! Then there’s the possibility of dispute over the meaning of “informed & explicit”… well, you can see where this is heading to – more ambiguity and less clarity.

Furthermore, there is an argument out there that this Regulation does not take into consideration the low risk use of Business-To-Business (B2B) data for marketing purposes – where, more often than not, a organisation would hold and process information on another organisation or group of members of staff, with perhaps multiple key decision makers – not an individual.

In summary, the intention is good but the detail is lacking – I strongly urge the legislators in Brussels to revise and alter the Regulation so that it can sit with the existing Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive They also need to focus on what the effect of the changes in the draft Regulation will be for both consumers and organisations.
To find out more about the consequences of this legislation passing unaltered, and the potential impact on your own business, take a look at http://dma.org.uk/eu-data-protection This site also provides information on how to take immediate action, by lobbying your regional MEPs.

Valuable Insights in the latest National Email Benchmarking Report

The National Email Benchmarking Report for the second half of 2011 has recently been released by the DMA and it once again provides marketers with valuable insights into trends and challenges within the email industry.

Join our good friend Mark Brownlow of email-marketing-reports.com as he delves into the issues facing email marketers and how they have changed over the years that this report has been produced.

The data for this report is sourced from a host of Email Service Providers representing the majority of ESP-sent volume within the UK, and features both quantitative and qualititative responses. Also, for the first time, we are able to present sector-level data for the Retail, Finance, Travel, B2B and Publishing industries!

As I’ve previously written about, these statistics are good as a starting point or yardstick for your programme, but ultimately marketers need to ensure they are tracking interactions as far as they can, and also fully understanding the metrics they are seeing. A great resource to use in combination with this year’s report is the whitepaper on Email Metrics & Measurement, authored by the experts which make up the DMA Email Marketing Council’s Legal, Data and Best Practice Hub – that way you can see what the trends are in the industry, identify how your own challenges compare, and begin to benchmark & prioritise your own programmes to maximum effect.

Perhaps you’ve laid awake at night thinking…

  • Are people sending more or less email?
  • Is there greater focus on segmentation, or has batch-and-blast made a comeback?
  • Is Deliverability still an issue?
  • How do response rates compare in different industry verticals?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in the National Email Benchmarking Report 2011 (2012 Edition)!!

Become a “permission purist” for maximum deliverability

The delivery rate you see in your email service provider’s UI only tells half the story. You may be sending with a 99% delivered rate but what that means is that your email messages were handed off to a receiver without a bounce response – what that receiver, usually an Internet service provider (ISP) actually does with the email when they receive it is perhaps the most important aspect which most marketers tend to take for granted.

When I talk about the topic of deliverability, I am always keen to stress that true deliverability is about making sure you as a marketer follow best practices as a sender in order to maximise the chance of your email marketing campaign reaching a subscriber’s inbox. If you’re not doing this, you are very unlikely to be achieving the end goals of whatever you set out to do – be it boosting your click rate, conversion rate or even just a simple brand awareness campaign whIch doesn’t even have a call to action. Bottom line is, if you aren’t getting to the inbox, your results are not going to be optimal – your beautifully crafted email creative could be languishing in the junk folder or, worse still, could have been deleted silently by the ISP.

Personally I am a purist for permission, in the Seth Godin sense of the word. If you want to send truly effective email marketing campaigns (not just deliverability, but overall ROI), and maximise your chances of reaching the inbox, then make sure you have permission to do so from the person you are sending to. Not only is this sensible commercially, but also legally – by ensuring your recipients have actually consented, or opted-in to receive communications from your company or brand, you are highly likely to be in compliance with most Anti-SPAM legislation that exists around the globe.

The consideration from a deliverability perspective is that permission best practices usually go hand in hand with data management best practice- making sure your list is clean of bad data which may hard bounce, making sure the data you have has an associated date stamp (be it acquisition source date, or last click/open), and making sure all those people who have unsubscribed, or opted out, of receiving your communications have been removed before send.

This in turn means that the metrics which receivers will judge you on should be relatively good, or at the very least, better than the worst offenders (spammers) – I.e. they won’t see you having loads of bounces, generating lots of complaints or unsubscribes and people will actually open and click within your emails.

If you are not sure what happens to the email once it has reached an ISP, then there are some key things to look at which may give you some insight. They will also help better protect yourself as a sender:

  • Monitor key metrics such as open & click rates – particularly by domain. If you are seeing noticeably lower rates at a particular domain that can be a good indicator that you are having some issues reaching inboxes at that ISP.
  • Also look at complaint rates and unsubscribe rates – make sure you are signed up to feedback loops and are able to process those complaints (your ESP should be able to handle this for you). If complaints are high this is potentially because subscribers are seeing your message as junk, or perhaps not expecting to receive it. If unsubscribe rates are particularly high then something is potentially very wrong as your subscribers have asked to receive these emails.
  • Track and Monitor your Sender Score – this will give you good insight into how receivers (ISPs) are viewing you as a sender. They will look at similar metrics – this can be done for free at www.senderscore.org
  • Regularly check your Inbox Placement – this will give you an indication of how ISPs are classifying the messages you are sending, either sending them direct to Inbox, placing them into the JUNK folder, or perhaps deleting them without a second look – this can be done by seeding your list with your own accounts at key ISPs, or by using a third-party such as Return Path’s Mailbox Monitor or IBM Unica’s Email Optimization tool
  • Sign up for SNDS – this is operated by Hotmail, but if you have a good proportion of Hotmail addresses on your list then this will provide useful insight into whether you are hitting any spam traps

Note that many of these depend on you being able to send from your own dedicated IP address – by doing this you typically need to maintain a good level of volume in order for receivers to have a consistent view of you as a sender, but even if you don’t have masses of volume at least you are in complete control of what is sent from your IP address. This way you are not held accountable to senders who may be using the same shared IP range as you, but who may have completely different business models or data management practices, which may not be as good as yours…

By constantly monitoring these aspects of your campaigns, you can tweak and adapt your email marketing programmes when issues arise, and are much better placed to maximise your chances of those emails reaching the inbox, in turn helping you to achieve your marketing goals.