Author Archives: Stef Elliott

Stef Elliott

About Stef Elliott

"I keep six honest serving men they taught me all I know - There names are what & why & when, and how & where & who".

Commercial Strategist / Pragmatic Practical Marketer with over 20 years experience in Europe / US and Asia. Currently training for the 2012 Olympic Beer drinking team after being banned for testing positive for lager in 2008

Is that Kevin Keegan drunk against that Lamp-Post ?

Football Manager, Kevin Keegan can (but doesn’t) claim to be a better manager than Bill Shankley based upon Management Win statistics.  (Shankly won 49.95% of his games as manager, while Keegan won 50.47% ).

In a Digital world the volume and range of numbers can be used by Marketers in a variety of ways. If you look at the Andrew Lang quote “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts…for support rather than illumination” there are some basic rules to follow to help you quoting email SUPPORT numbers rather than to drive tactics to achieve your business strategy  -

  1. Gather lots of data & present many metrics but only highlight the metrics that are positive. “Our  open rate was up 3.2% compared with last month …… but don’t ask about our unsubscribes”
  2. Show metrics that are easy to manage / manipulate over business importance – “Our deliverability rate is up 12% …… we only emailed recent subscribers”
  3. Use extremely precise numbers and reference 3rd parties to add credibility – “Our open rate is 5.43% more than DMA / IAB / Esp (*delete as appropriate) quoted industry average” …….. rather than compare like for like performance.
  4. Use comparisons, but out of context “We got a click through to open rate of 30% up 5% ……. but the actual volume of click throughs was lower than previously”.
  5. Show your metrics inconsistently ……. It will stop people comparing effectively if you are adding value.

Whatever you do don’t educate your audience on the small number of key drivers for your business e.g. the health of your email database because

  • If you do this will mean that you will have to define an email strategy
  • If you start showing simple consistent clear metrics against targets then it is easier it is for the audience to grasp and work out how to think about your email data.
  • They then may even ask for it more frequently and request the same data in the same format.
  • It will ruin any future ability to keep your metrics “feel good!”

However it may help highlight what is important e.g. maintaining & growing the engagement with your subscribers through better segmented communications.

Just in case they do ask try this:

  • Break your database into 3 segments – email addresses that have opened an email in the past month, those who last opened an email over a month ago but in the last 3 months & the rest.
  • Give the three segments different values  e.g. £10, £3, & 10p
  • Calculate how much your database is worth
  • In a month’s time do the same again and compare the difference.

This simple Specific, Measurable, Agreed,  Realistic, Time Bound approach may help you on the journey to SMART email metrics – Alternatively  just stumble over to the Lamp-post.

Link to Ready Steady email video

Experience is…..

The name we give to our mistakes according to Oscar Wilde. But how often do email marketers have or maybe more importantly take the chance to learn from their “less succesful” campaigns?

We all receive daily emails which, if we open them, and analyse them we can speculate what they have or haven’t done or what could be done better. I’ve taken three examples from my inbox which include

  • A regular email I never opted into 1st time,  but without an double opt in process means I get someones email (and they don’t)
  • An email that will look great (possibly) if it renders
  • An email that relies on me to have the time and inclination to sft what may be relevant to me

I’m sure we have all got a back catalogue of similar examples we wouldn’t show our peers but this “experience” is not something often shared in the war story success presentations.

This is one of the reasons the Ready steady email programme was set up – based upon a workshop structure it enables people to bounce ideas off each other and industry facilitators whilst working on a “safe” case study.

To get a feel for the event have a look at the video below:

Adobe Flash Player is required to view this content.

The good news is that the event is being run again twice before Christmas

  • Monday 1st Novemeber 2010 in London as part of the European email conference
  • 1st December 2010 in association with the Internet Advertising Board when it is being run as a FREE event.
    • You should always learn from your mistakes – but sometimes its cheaper, easier and quicker to learn from other peoples !

“3 strikes and you are …… still in ?”

I recently returned from the US  where I enjoyed the San Francisco Giants Baseball team versus the Florida Marlins.  Since booking the tickets over the internet I’ve received over twenty varieties of emails from the Giants, the Major League baseball franchise and from various other Major League baseball teams in cities I have never visited. Now as a Digital Database marketer I’m fairly anal about providing my permission but somehow my inbox does not reflect my vigilence?

I’m a believer in the majority of times “errors” are driven by cockup rather than conspiracy – either on my part “did I not understand the boxes I did not tick “ or on theirs – In our networked society how many of us work in truly networked organisations ?

At the same time back in the UK MP Dominic Rabb  fight against  Campaign Group 38 Degrees providing the facility for people to send automated templated emails to him ( illustrates the challenge consumers face. He argues that automated templates encourages people to “deluge” his in-box with “cloned messages” that swamp his finite time and resources. 38 Degrees argue this is what he signed up to by becoming an MP and publishing his email.

This highlighted further the ongoing disjoin that exists between sign up perception, sign up reality and on going opt-in. All our inboxes are testament to the irony that in the Digital world email permission and relevance appears to often be simplified to an ongoing opt out link i.e. send if they are not on the unsubscribe list.

However instead of using opt in as the hurdle to overcome maybe it is time to turn this round from a “Can I send it ?” to a “Should I send it ?” approach. To achieve this look regularly at the degrees of demonstrable & demonstrated consent i.e.

  • Can you demonstrate the opt in you actually have i.e. when captured, wording used etc – What you know
  • Can & do you segment based upon what email recipients have done – What you believe

Within each category there will be different sub groups and not only will it provide you with the ability to defend any Information Commissioner Office Audits or subject access request it can also form the basis for a segmentation strategy.

Each organisation is different so a global three emails and you are out rule is not relevant. However three years after signing up for various email communications I still receive weekly updates because I fall into the bucket of we have the email address ….and he’s not opted out ….yet by clicking the link …… the bottom of the email ……he never sees.

Social media provides individuals with the ability to easily un follow information suppliers that are no longer pertinent.  As individual email marketers should we not be allocating finite resources on ensuring engagement focuses on optimum opportunity and as an industry should we not encourage email euthenasia ?

“Email marketing’s £500,000 Monetary Penalty”

As a headline it would surely grab the attention. From Tuesday 6th April 2010 the Information Commissioner is now able to issue Monetary penalty notices up to £500,000 where companies persistently contravene the Data Protection Act.

Statements such as “I am trying to raise awareness not revenue” from Chris Graham, the Information Commissioner, suggest the probability of such a sanction for poorly maintaining an email programme is unlikely. This is backed up further by the guidance notes issued by the ICO.

However the change in the ICO’s power of sanction does provide a reminder to revisit the DPA principles and overlay them to your own data at a minimum. In fact it is a great opportunity to spring clean your programme, develop better targeting and improve the effectiveness of your activity.

The recent DMA National Client Email Survey reports that

  • Only 30% have a newsletter based on purchase habits
  • Only 43% have a contact strategy for the maximum amount of contact
  • 55% don’t know if they segment , don’t segment or have only 2-3 segment.
  • 77% are unable to track the value of an email

Even allowing for the fact that 62% of statistics are made up (source this is more thought provoking given that respondents to this survey are likely to be more aware of email best practice.

Feedback from the recent DMA/IAB Ready Steady email workshop is that whilst the “Do – Review – Refine” approach is acknowledged,  operational constraints often stop this from happening. People are too busy doing, to do it!

So how can the ICO’s new powers help you ?

 a)      Why to do ?  The ICO’s new powers provide the opportunity / alarm call to review if and how well you comply with the Data Protection Act – Which manager would not want an update highlighting the risks and proposed mitigating actions?    

 b)      How to do ? The DPA provides eight principles of good information handling e.g. personal information must be

  • 3. Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • 4. Accurate and where necessary kept up to date   
  • 5. Not kept for longer than is necessary.

It does not provide definitions of what “relevant” or “kept longer than necessary” means but it does provide the questions your company should define and can highlight where you can be more effective.

For example

  • Relevant -  Does your sign up form collect information that you are not sure how you are going to use ?
  • Excessive -  Can you tell / control how often you email individuals ?
  • Up to date -  Can you confirm / prove opt in initially and how do you define it ongoing ?
  • How long is it kept for – Do you set a date for a different approach for non openers / purge them after x months, keep mailing them in the hope that they will open one day?         

Whilst the ICO’s new power of sanction headlines are moving data protection up the board agenda it provides a great opportunity to review and improve your email activity.

Drunkards & Accountants

Ok before I start let me acknowledge that I know they are not mutually exclusive !

However in the context of Andrew Lang’s famous quote “He used statistics the way a drunkard uses lampposts – for support, not illumination” I do believe that Finance functions and accountants can help sober up the worst Marketing reveller. In fact this detox is something I’d recommend you try.

At a recent Ready Steady email event I was asked the question regarding how and who to publish information to regarding Digital and particularly email marketing performance as budgets are increasingly scrutinised.

In recent posts there has been discussions posing questions such as Is email the new direct marketing and what direct marketing offers marketers in a digital world but one trap Marketers continue to fall into is that alot of statistics posted up the corporate flagpole has little currency. Headline figures on open rates for email campaigns, email database volumes or number of twitter followers have little relevance unless presented in the correct context .

In today’s Google analytics rich world - where an array of statistics can be interrogated, extracted and presented there is a temptation to produce reports and management packs that focus on “so wow data” - cherry picking headline figures, rather than “so what information” that informs and enables business decisions.

Given the recent economic climate I believe marketers have two options

  1. Keep your head down – publish / shout about occasional campaign success and hope no one understands or notices what you are doing
  2. Actively develop and distribute real KPI’s that help support the activity being undertaken – identifying and projecting future performance, measuring actual experience, and understanding and learning from variances.

The answer I gave proposed inviting someone from the accounting area to provide a sense review the Management Information produced currently and ongoing. To really develop a robust continual learning marketing function some of the disciplines necessary reside more frequently in Finance teams than marketing teams and “In  a dog eat dog world – get yourself a big dog”.

Agree / Disagree : Please post your thoughts

“Email Equity” or “Spray & Pray”

£9.11, £20, or at the risk of sounding like Bruce Forsyth – Higher / Lower? 

At the start of January 2009, an article that was published in Revolution magazine put the value of a permission based email at £20. This proposed a new updated value from the £9.11 put forward by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) National Benchmarking report in this post in 2007.

Two things struck me by this:

  1. Whilst both these figures can be criticised as being only "finger in the air" – how many companies can, even if they choose not to say, actually place a value of their own asset (excuse me if I don't put email list, database etc but lets call it what it is)

  2. Given that they can value this asset do they treat it as such i.e. regularly measure it, manage it, and through a structured process aim to improve it !

Over 2008 I monitored the number of emails I received from 24 companies (I registered but then did not open). Have a look at the monthly figures but the difference was stark.

  • One company emailed me 105 times in the year!! This suggests that they are either very persistent, very optimistic or not listening to the feedback they should be getting ?

  • Others emailed hardly at all – I opted in and they failed to deliver !

"The time has come when advertising has in some hands reached the status of a science" - Claude Hopkins wrote in 1923, but my experience over 2008 suggests not all hands !

If companies do not go beyond a "never mind the quality feel the width approach" i.e. How big as opposed to how valuable, they will be unable to have communication that is relevant both to their customers and their corporate goals.

In discussion with various delegates at a recent Ready Steady Email event, feedback suggested that people are starting on the route to email equity but it still has some distance to travel. However the sooner companies start the sooner they should get there!

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Stefan Elliot
Six Serving Men