Category Archives: Acquisition

Goodbye “channels” – Welcome the marketing “channel of one”

The practice of creating a seamless customer experience across digital channels has been a common marketing challenge for a long while now, and integration of some offline and online channels through campaign segmentation is the norm. However, for most of us it is difficult to get a grip on every part of the customer experience.

To put this into perspective, there are typically more channels or touch points throughout a customer experience that are entirely generic and not personalised at all, versus those that are. They are not personalised by name, proposition or offer, call to action, location. None of that. This is diluting the effectiveness of a CRM strategy because we don’t have a clear understanding of what every individual experiences through every single channel. But this is changing.

Take a look at this:

Technology is beginning to bridge some of the knowledge gaps to identify non-converting prospects who visit their retail stores. Some brands have tried to patch over this marketing need with solutions such as in-store wifi, but this newer technology is incredibly powerful to marketers. The customer experience in the video above could have resulted in a simple browse and no sale. The marketing opportunities created from understanding that experience through the data collected, will help us to follow-up appropriately with the right content, at the right frequency at the right time – all with an enriched profile of that customer.

The marketing challenge is beginning to shift towards a desire to converse “sequentially” with prospects and customers through any channel at any time. Sequential messaging across multiple devices, locations and mediums. All of these could be personalised, tailored and in a defined, tested and optimised sequence:

  • In-store offers and personalised greetings
  • In-product messaging (some cars are already enabled in this way)
  • In-app messaging
  • Email
  • SMS
  • Website
  • Outdoor advertising
  • Direct mail
  • Delivery messaging

What would this list look like for your brand?

Algorithms could be developed, to enable CRM platforms to intelligently learn and adapt to the best performing sequence of proposition, content and timing. Automatically.

What does all of this mean for Marketers?

Marketers will soon be spending much less time thinking about which message to send through which channel, but more time deciding on the right sequence of messages with the channel serving as a distribution channel. I like to think of this as ‘the channel of one’.


Data Collectum (or not)

My daughter recently had a week off school, so my wife and I took the week off as well and my father and his wife flew over from America to join us for a bit of UK tourism. I was looking for a true holiday: one where I completely unplugged from work and was able to focus solely on the family. I was very successful at this but was let down by a complete failure at two of the biggest attractions that we visited.

On the second day of our break, we went to Harry Potter World. My daughter had already been as part of her summer camp and was very excited to show mom, dad and the grandparents around. We were all equally excited being fans of the books and movies. Upon arrival, we were ushered straight into the queue to begin the ‘guided’ part of the journey and, as is the fashion at these kinds of places, the queue snaked back and forth on itself but moved quickly enough.

One of the things that caught my eye was a promotion of free Wi-Fi. I had read that they have an average of 5,000 visitors per day and I broke with my avoidance of email to log-in. I have been looking for a really good example of using free Wi-Fi for data capture and I was sure this would be it. In the words of my daughter, “I was wrong diddly wrong.” There was no data capture…AT ALL. After I agreed to the terms and conditions, I got a splash screen encouraging me to check in on Facebook and mention them on Twitter. Would I have given my email address to get access to the free Wi-Fi? Absolutely. Would I have signed up for an email program? Yes (but that is because I am in the industry, so I asked my more cynical companions). They all said that they would sign-up to an email program. This conversation then got the other guests around us asking, “Oh, do they have an email program? How do I sign-up?”

Later in the holiday, we visited the National Moter Museum at the Beaulieu Estate. After visting the museum we stopped off for a bit of lunch before visiting the other parts of the grounds. Again the restaurant offered free Wi-Fi and again did nothing towards capturing my data; just the same encouragement to check in on Facebook and share our visit on Twitter.

As the saying goes, “an opportunity not taken is an opportunity lost.” I know email marketers that would bite off their own arm to get access to that many potential registrations per day.

The classic methods of data collection have gone out the window. Consumers now understand that their data is the currency of the web and they are becoming much more protective about when they give it and to whom. At the same time, consumer behaviour on the web has changed. People no longer “surf the web” by wandering around to see what they may find. The internet is a tool and a place to get things done. Don’t expect them to sign up to your email program just because they have popped by your website. They are there to accomplish something. You need to make it clear to them what value they will get by giving up their data, and ask for it at a time that is convenient for them and not only convenient for you.


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…”
[ 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.”

[ 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 This site also provides information on how to take immediate action, by lobbying your regional MEPs.

The truth behind the buzz: what really made the difference in Obama’s re-election

One of the big stories in digital marketing in recent months has been about a campaign whose results have a major impact on people around the world – the US Presidential Election. Marketing pundits representing all channels have had an opinion on how Obama’s campaign led to his re-election but I would argue none was more significant than the use of email.

Let me start by saying there is no doubt this election was won by email. Here is a direct quote from an article published by Business Week; “Most of the $690 million Obama raised online came from fundraising e-mails”. And by the way,  $690 million represents nearly 75% of the $934 million raised in what ended up being the most expensive Presidential election in US history. This makes email, by far and away the No1 non-political contributor to the drubbing of Mitt Romney.

So why has there been so little said about this incredible achievement by email marketing pundits, ESP’s or their PR machines? When you look at the fuss made over the 2008 campaign – allegedly won by social media – the silence from the email industry has been deafening. When anyone does mention it, there has been a tendency to attribute the success of Obama’s email fundraising activities to anything other than email.

Some may suggest that without the “age old lessons [and presumably wisdom]” passed down from wise-old DM to rather awkward, gauche and somewhat unattractive email marketing the story would have been very different.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is what really happened. Obama won because he sent more email to more people more often than Romney period!

According to numbers put out by eDataSource and Return Path, Obama mailed a staggering 40+M subscribers compared with Romney’s 4M, on some days they sent 350M compared with 26M from Romney. So while relevance, engagement, creative – ugly or otherwise, Subject Line testing etc. did play some part in his success, they pale into insignificance compared to the impact reach and frequency had in his success.

What seasoned email marketers might find surprising (I see this as further proof of the fact that frequency drives engagement) is that the Obama database was more engaged and less likely to view the emails they received as spam. The figures below which I extrapolated from numbers published by eDataSource and Return Path illustrate this clearly:

Obama Read 15.85% Total 6,340,000
Romney Read 7.94% Total 317,600
Obama Delete Unread 9.01% Total 3,604,000
Romney Delete Unread 5.11% Total 204,400
Obama ISP Spam 17.95% Total 7,180,000
Romney ISP Spam 52.51% Total 2,100,400
Obama User-Marked Spam 0.02% Total 800,000
Romney User-Marked Spam 0.03% Total 120,000


The Obama campaign raised an average of $17.25 per subscriber, if you assume Romney was able to do the same, he would have generated $69M from email compared to Obama’s $690M. So if you were Romney what would you have learned from this, A) Segment and test your way to $172.50 per subscriber or B) Send email to a lot more people more often?

Email delivers something DM cannot. Broadcast reach at near zero marginal cost.

If you don’t want to leverage that, stop sending email!

I have read lots of peoples’ take on the article and what they found most interesting and would like to share mine – something Bloomberg Business Week chose to call a counterintuitive. I don’t and I think it is an awesome admission: “Most people have a nearly limitless capacity for e-mail and won’t unsubscribe no matter how many they’re sent”. Now read the comments made by the very people who made the campaign successful. Note how few said they enjoyed the blitz yet on average they donated $17.25 each.

Now that’s an insight!

I know for certain that they are not the first people to have worked this out, but they are the first significant entity to come out and say it.

Let’s give credit where credit is due in the 2012 presidential election; segmentation, targeting and testing techniques were the tail, reach and frequency were the DOG!

Location, location, location, where to ask for email permission

What can you learn from your competitors? When it comes to email marketing I’ve been analysing the habits of the top 100 online UK retailers to understand what common good habits they have that enables them to get the best value from email marketing.

All email marketing has to start with an email address. If you’ve nobody to talk to the best message in the world won’t work. So gaining and maintaining a quantity of quality data is a fundamental building block for all successful email marketing.

One of the best places to collect email permission is on your website. I analysed where on the page the subscribe form was placed. The following heat map illustrates the most common locations.

Subscribe form location heatmap

Top right is the best location to maximise sign-ups. It’s where consumers are used to seeing the sign-up and its immediate presence as soon as a visitor comes to the page means it’s going to be seen and increase the number of subscribers you gain.

This is of course prime real estate on your webpages and use of the space will be competing with other marketing objectives. You need to decide on what the smallest, easiest and logical first step a visitor to your website can be persuaded to make in their customer journey.

As the heatmap shows, locating the subscribe form at the bottom of the page is also very popular amongst top brands. Having the form here can work for those visitors who whilst not ready purchase,  have engaged with your content and scrolled through the page and are interested enough in your brand to know more and thus subscribe to your email programme.

Looking to maximise signups? The location is not an either or question, use top right and page bottom for best coverage.

This goes further too. The brands that are most successful in building their permission email database integrate collection of email addresses in multiple places and channels. The more often you ask for an email address the more often you’ll collect one. Work through all touch points you have, such as:

  • Purchase process
  • Partnerships
  • Online competitions
  • Recommend a friend
  • Call centre
  • Social channels
  • Blogs
  • In store
  • Offline touch points, printed materials
  • SMS-to-subscribe

In all cases giving a good reason for someone to hand over their email address makes the difference between good and great list growth. For example, these are not reasons for someone to subscribe:

  • Join our list
  • Get our newsletter
  • Subscribe to our emails

Whereas using free, win, save type incentives are reasons, such as:

  • Deals exclusive to subscribers
  • Discount on first purchase
  • Take part in competitions
  • Be the first to know
  • Don’t miss best offers

Good examples of brands getting it right and all the findings from the analysis of the top 100 brands is available for free download in three whitepapers.

Disposable email addresses in your subscriber lists

Disposable email addresses, sometimes referred to as anti-spam addresses, are email addresses that people use for a period of time and then disappear causing emails sent to that address to either bounce or get automatically filtered to the trash. No email address lasts forever but these types of addresses can have very short life spans. They can be categorised into two types. Those that exist permanently until the recipient removes them, which we will call semi-disposable, and those that exist for a short pre-defined period of time or for a set number of messages before disappearing. A semi-disposable email address is in effect an email alias. For example I have the email address shill@ but also the alias sh@. At any time I can remove the alias sh@ and the emails will start to bounce without it affecting my main email address. Many disposable email addresses are unrelated in any way to your main email address as they use a third-party email service and forward replies to your main account until the address expires.

Disposable email address services

Most ISP’s will allow you to create semi-disposable email addresses. Yahoo! Mail call the service AddressGuard. Gmail and Hotmail allow you to set up alias addresses so the new address gets delivered as normal to your main account.

Some ISP’s including Gmail and Hotmail also allow you to append a tag to your email address to create a new address. For example, if your address is, then you could also use or and they would both get delivered to your inbox. You can have any text after the “+” symbol to create an infinite number of possible email addresses.

The downside of using a tag to create a disposable address is that there is no way to remove the address should it start to get spammed. It will always be valid and if you no longer want to receive anything from the address you will need to setup filters to send it to your trash.  The advantage of an alias is that they can easily be deleted and the address becomes invalid and will then bounce.

If you want to create true disposable email addresses then there are many free services available such as SpamGourmet, TrashMail or Guerrilamail. Some give you the option of setting the number of messages your temporary address will receive before consuming or bouncing messages, others allow you to set a life span for the address. Some give you the option to do both.

Why do disposable email addresses exist ?

Disposable email addresses have been around for a few years now. People are very protective about their email address and are very aware that the more they give out their email address the more likely they are to receive unwanted emails and spam.  The idea is that you only give your real email address to friends,colleagues and trusted sites. For everything else you use disposable or semi-disposable email addresses.  You can give a different email address to every website or company that requests an email address. If you start to receive spam you not only know who shared your details but you can also simple remove the address and the spam will get consumed by the disposable address service.

How does this affect your subscriber lists ?

Semi-disposable email addresses or aliases are a standard part of email and shouldn’t really cause a problem within your subscriber list. If you’re sending relevant content at a good frequency to these addresses then the recipients will be less likely to remove the alias. Basic list maintenance such as removing your hard bounces in a timely manner will ensure that any addresses that are no longer valid will be removed from your list and not affect your reputation.

Disposable email addresses can cause more of an issue if they exist in large numbers in your lists. They can cause damage to your IP reputation and waste resources.  ISP’s use engagement as a measure for deliverability. If you send to disposable email addresses that aren’t being used then the emails will likely get consumed (deleted) by the service and your level of engagement will be lower. Some disposable address services bounce emails when they are no longer used and these should be removed in the normal way.

The best solution is to stop people subscribing to your lists with disposable addresses. When requesting an email address if you tell people exactly what you need the email address for and what you are going to use if for then you are more likely to get the “real” address you are after. As a second line of defence there are services such as that allow you to check for disposable addresses when the address is submitted and reject them.

It’s all about trust. If the user trusts that their email address won’t be abused then they are more likely to give you their real email address and not use a disposable address.