Ann Taylor, What Have You Done?

I don’t normally name names, but recent emails I received from Ann Taylor, the specialty apparel retailer, reminded me of an email marketing best practice that is too often overlooked:

  • Tell recipients WHY they are receiving your email.
Email Marketing Best Practice: Tell Recipients why they are receiving your email.

Don't let this be a recipient's first reaction to your brand: "What? Why am I receiving this? Unsubscribe! DELETE!!!"

Since last Tuesday, I have received an email newsletter from Ann Taylor EVERY DAY.  Why?  I have no idea.  I’ve never purchased from Ann Taylor, LOFT, or what I can tell are its affiliate brands.  I don’t visit the Ann Taylor website.  And, while I appreciate a pretty email (they do have beautiful images), I do not take kindly to receiving unsolicited commercial email.

The problem? Nowhere in the welcome email (right) did I get a why.  Not even in the tiny print at the bottom.  Nada. The most I got was “Now that you’re on our email list…”

A brief intro goes a long way.
It really only takes a little snippet of text, preferably above the main body of the message, that says “You are receiving this message because…” or something similar to introduce yourself, your brand, and explain why you, the sender, feel the message is relevant to the recipient.

The when for the why: Any time you are sending to a list of new recipients, an introduction is a good idea.  Also, if you are mailing to an older list, be mindful that recipients may not remember who you are or that they opted to receive email from you.

Ultimately, a little explanation of why an initial email is being sent will:

  • Demonstrate that you’re a responsible sender, showing respect for your recipients’ time and interests.  Brownie points for transparency and valuing your relationship with the recipient!
  • Build trust for your brand and lessen the likelihood of spam complaints and unsubscribes.  Spam complaints are brutal, and depending on your ESP, they can damage your sender reputation and possibly result in your ESP threatening to ditch you as a client.

Also, although it should go without saying, be sure the list you are emailing has been acquired in a legitimate manner. List renting or buying is generally frowned upon and can do more damage than good to your brand and sender reputation.  Really… think of the puppies!

Got any email marketing horror stories to share, either as a sender or a recipient?  Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for an example of a good intro to share.  Sign up for email notifications or like Blue Tomato Creative on Facebook to receive instant updates!

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You Have Customer Emails, Now What? (Developing an Email Marketing Strategy)

Hooray, you’ve been collecting customer email addresses! That’s fantastic! Now what?

Develop an Email Marketing StrategyBefore loading all your customer emails into a mailing list and firing away, consider what you have at stake – brand reputation, penalties for not adhering to best practices, and, in general, a high risk of doing damage to your Email Marketing program before you even really get started.

First Things First –
Develop An Email Marketing Strategy

TIP: Develop your Email Marketing Strategy BEFORE selecting an email service provider. It may help to think of this initial Email Marketing Strategy as a wish list that you can reference when researching email service provider options.  Believe me, this will save the pains of moving your email file later!

Begin with a 5 year time frame (or 3 if 5 is too daunting) – Set your Email Marketing goals (for at least the first year) and brainstorm as many types of emails as you think you may want to send, plus some.  Also, keep in mind how you will measure the performance of your email campaigns and how you will utilize reporting to build a more robust Email Marketing program.

Set Email Marketing Goals: Setting goals is an essential first step in your strategy as every subsequent element of your plan will hinge on whether or not it is helping meet them. Depending on where Email Marketing falls in the grand scheme of your organization’s marketing plan, your goals may range anywhere from simply opening up the Email channel as a means of communication with your customers to growing your subscriber list to increasing revenues – or all of these and more.

Brainstorm Specifics about Email Campaigns: Make as many notes as possible about the types of messages you want to send.  Some questions that may be helpful:

  • What types of messages do I want to send? – personalized, informative, marketing, press releases, etc.  Consider your audience as well as whether you will send plain text or html or graphic-heavy messages.
  • With what frequency will I send emails? – Keep in mind you may later choose to add options to allow recipients to specify how often they want to hear from you.
  • How will I segment my list? – Advanced email segmentation takes time, so initially, it can help to reference what segmentation you are already using for “offline” customers.
  • Do I want emails with dynamic content? – Emails based on past purchases, interests, etc. can be very powerful and receive great response. My advice? This is definitely something worth looking into, even if it is not something you want to do immediately.
  • Do I want to send triggered email messages? – Automatically generated emails from your website or backend system triggered by customer actions.

Remember that your Email Marketing Strategy will evolve over time, so if you miss something, you can always add it later. Asking basic questions will get you started in brainstorming, but do not forget that analysis of key metrics and testing will also need to be built into your plan.

Email Analytics:  To determine your key metrics, ask what you want to know about how recipients interact with your emails – even beyond opens and clicks – and consider how you might use that information to determine which aspects of your Email Marketing Program are working and which need adjustment.

Testing:  Testing goes hand in hand with analytics, helping you hone in on successes and push poor performers aside.  When putting together your Email Marketing Strategy, make note of what you feel would be worth testing, then determine the types of tests that make sense for your email list and its segments (ex. A/B subject line or content split tests).

Do you have tips on how to build an Email Marketing Strategy? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Questions about developing your Email Marketing Strategy or anything mentioned in this post?  Click Here Now to contact me.


Seagull Eating a Starfish – When Quirky Works

A seagull eating a starfish smells like: “Tidelands, driftwood, downy bird musk, and the gingery spike of starfish terror.”

marf, marf, marf... mmm... starfishThanks to ZOMGsmells.com, I am now aware of this…  and the fact that seagulls really do eat starfish.  This unfortunate seagull snacking preference and the suggestion of its associated fragrance got my attention.  Quirky worked to draw me in. I quickly found myself lingering on the ZOMGsmells.com website, looking around for the next odd thing to catch my eye, and I didn’t have to look far…

ZOMGsmells.com sells unique fragrance blends, each curiously named.  Aside from the alluring scent of Seagull Eating a Starfish, I found gems such as: Coronal Mass EjectionKudzu Doom, Spacebat, Candy MechanicBaby Gorgon Birthday Party, and many more.  Each name just begged to be clicked to figure out what the heck that could possibly smell like.

Upon clicking through on each name, I was rewarded with a humorous little backstory and image, along with a very specific description of the scent (the oils included, etc.).  Win!  Quirky worked to keep me browsing, increasing the time I stayed on the site.

Now, the big question: Will quirky work to make me buy? Quite possibly… we shall see.  I could at least sample a “squee” or three.  (But, even though it got my attention, I probably won’t go with Seagull Eating a Starfish. I wouldn’t want to wander around my coastal home smelling of starfish terror.  I might get swarmed.)

And, on that note, I leave you with a bit of my YouTube research:


One of the Worst EVER eMarketing Mistakes

Anti-relevance.  And, I know it’s not just me who thinks this!

I’ve long stressed the importance of relevance to the budding eCommerce designers, developers, and marketers I’ve managed. It’s what most online marketers now think of as common sense, especially with the advent of paid search and getting folks to what they are searching for at all costs.

One area where so many websites still drop the ball is once the customer gets to the site, regardless of how or why, they must even be taken to relevant pages WITHIN the site when clicking around.  Seems like that would make sense, yes?  However, so often, the homepage of a website will show a picture of a flashy, attention-getting product, but with NO WAY TO GET TO THAT PRODUCT.  As a consumer, if I see a picture that catches my eye, and that picture is clickable, I expect to end up at a page that contains that item, explains more about it, and/or allows its purchase.

Example:

If I were to click on the flaming pink guitar, you’d think I’d see it on the resulting page… but no.  It’s nowhere to be found.

category page:
pinkguitar

resulting page:
guitar-results
So, food for thought when designers are putting together the page.  Just because an item is flashy and attention getting doesn’t mean it’s always the best choice for a teaser.  If it’s nowhere to be found for sale, it’s likely to generate more customer frustration than interest!