Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New IAB Email Report Lays Out Good Behavior For Data Management

By John Gaffney, Senior Analyst

When it comes to email marketing maybe we all just need to get along. That was the main message conveyed in the Internet Advertising Bureau’s best practice report released last week, which was notable for its emphasis on “trust” and the email “ecosystem.”

With most marketers relying on email as the main driver of lead generation campaigns, the report “Email Data Management Best Practices” was light on new research, but confirmed many industry practices on acquiring and retaining customer addresses. Its goal in outlining the technology involved in effective practices was to “promote consumer and advertiser trust in and adoption of the email channel and to encourage responsible practices by all involved in the email ecosystem.”

By acting responsibly, the report stated, each email sender will build trust for itself as well as competitors. It made several recommendations. For lead generation, the most important were the following three:

Informed consent: “Senders should only send commercial email to individuals who have provided informed consent,” stated the report. In the interest of building community trust it urged all email senders and providers to commit to a “pledge” That pledge, which is also endorsed by TRUSTe, requires that marketers continue to serve only names that have been acquired via opt-in policies, and also provide free and frequent access to unsubscribe links.

The informed consent section of the report also addressed list owners, list rentals, and advertising on email via email ad networks. “Many companies that build email address lists (List Owners) are not experts on the complexities of monetizing that email list through advertising. Accordingly, these companies often contract with third-party List Managers with a core competency in monetizing email lists through advertising,” the report stated. “If List Owners share email addresses with List Managers for monetization purposes, significant due diligence procedures is necessary to validate the third parties’ compliance with CAN-SPAM and ensure adequate protection of the data.”

Data collection: Here the IAB sounded not so much a warning as an advisory tone. It recommends “clear, conspicuous and repeated notice of data collection” where that is the goal of the email. “Be clear about what you are offering the consumer. State the benefits, the content of the emails, the frequency and when the subscriber should expect the first email,” is stated. It also recommended keeping permission current and in an especially relevant section for lead generation, reaching out to subsets of customers who are not opening or clicking on emails frequently.

Authentication: Because most companies are dealing with relatively small sets of customers and potential customer in lead generation activities, many overlook the need to authenticate their email communications as well as the domain they are sent form. Here the IAB urged all email senders to authenticate all email domains by the end of the year. It is partnering with the Authentication & Online Trust Alliance (AOTA) on that front.

The report also includes extensive sections on handling bouncebacks, unsubscribe policies, and third party list usage. The full report is available here

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

3 Myths That Reveal The Hidden Truth About Campaign Measurement

By Mike Gospe, Founder, Kickstart Alliance

The single, basic truth about world-class campaign management is that it is easy to say, but hard to do. It is hard to do because to do it properly requires following a disciplined, systematic approach that becomes both a guide and a tool for helping a company make better marketing and sales investment decisions in order to optimize its performance. Done effectively and consistently, integrated campaign management will create a tighter company-prospect/customer bond and produce a differentiated level of loyalty so that when the prospect is ready to buy, your company is top on their list.

The term “integrated campaign management” is not new. And, most every marketing VP will say they are executing marketing campaigns. However, upon closer inspection, many marketing teams fall victim to at least one of the three following myths.

Myth #1: A busy marketing team is an effective marketing team.

In today’s global marketplace there is no shortage of work that must be done. Everyone has (or should have) goals and objectives that drive their day-to-day work. However, many companies (both Fortune 500 as well as start-ups) find themselves executing a variety of marketing projects that aren’t really part of an overall defined marketing plan. In other words, they are busy writing press releases, generating emails, coordinating webinars, but none of these activities are linked to each other. At the end of the day, they have produced “marketing popcorn” – discrete marketing projects that feel good when accomplished, but don’t clearly nurture an ongoing dialog with a prospect or customer.

World-class marketing organizations avoid this trap by crafting a campaign strategy, with clear goals and metrics that guide a dialog over a set period of time. They market to their target audience as if they are playing a game of chess – thinking one, two, or even three steps ahead. For each marketing campaign, a “blueprint” illustrates the specific activities and offers that will be used to engage the prospect in a meaningful dialog.

This takes time to plan, and discipline to follow. But, companies like Symantec, Informatica and HP will tell you that the pay-off is far greater when an integrated campaign strategy has been defined before the marketing tactics are deployed.

Myth #2: Sales people are a challenge to deal with; it’s too much trouble to coordinate with them.

When marketing teams act independently from sales, the results will always be less than optimal. There is an almost unlimited number of ways for marketing to be busy. The key question is what activities should marketing be executing (and when) that will help the sales team close more deals more quickly?

The marketing-sales alignment should be a topic of every day discussion, not just once a year. By that I mean that developing a joint sales and marketing strategy at the beginning of the year and then discussing feedback in real time and making course corrections should be a standard operating procedure for all companies. Some companies will leave this interaction to the discretion of the individual; however, world-class marketing organizations drive and encourage this process by setting up a series of marketing-sales touch points to review progress quarterly, if not monthly. In short, marketing and sales teams should be working with a “hand in glove” expectation and mentality. As an example, many companies hold quarterly marketing-sales Summits. These ½ day to full day meetings are typically led by the CMO, but include representatives from corporate and regional marketing and sales teams. These are interactive meetings designed to create tighter bonds between the teams while solving business issues in real time.

Myth #3: Realistically, we must be open to all revenue opportunities. “We can’t say no.”

Of the three myths, this one is probably the toughest for marketing teams to wrestle with because there can be some painful fallout by saying “no.” In fact, it is a common frustration for marketing teams when they go through a planning process that focuses attention on a specific market only to find that the sales team has landed a big fish in a totally separate industry, requiring the marketing team to back-peddle to support the closing of this specific sale. Unfortunately, this is usually the rule rather than the exception. Regardless, the most effective marketing teams are those that have the courage to help the executive and sales teams drive focus and agree upon which target markets and which opportunities are the most important. Trying to be all things to all markets always leads to sub-standard results and confused customers and prospects.

Now, there is a common misconception about this myth and how to address it. When marketing drives focus, it is really saying where, when, and how its proactive marketing investment and activities should be executed. It is not saying that it won’t accept a sale from some other non-target customer. In other words, a company may decide to execute a series of webinars, sales events, and direct mail to the financial and hospitality industry; but, if a medium-sized retail business wants to make a purchase, the company will happily sell them the product.

To help alleviate this frustration and provide a venue for productive discussion and decision-making, world-class companies like Aspect, HP, Sun have formed cross-functional executive steering committees to address business, marketing and sales disagreements. The steering committee, when used properly, can be a very effective tool and guide for escalating important issues that have a direct impact on the vision and mission of the company.

About the author
Mike Gospe is a senior marketing strategist with KickStart Alliance ( and author of the new book, Marketing Campaign Development. The book explores techniques and templates designed to help marketing teams discover their optimum marcom mix while successfully navigating internal politics in order to allow their campaigns to flourish. For more information on these and other tips and tricks, please contact Mike at (650) 464-7662 or email at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Aberdeen Study Shows Firms Can Increase Satisfaction, Loyalty By Tracking Customer Feedback

By Debbie Hauss, Contributing Editor

Best-in-class companies increased customer satisfaction by 26% and customer retention by 26% in 12 months, as reported by Aberdeen Research in a recent study titled Customer Feedback Management: Mind if I Ask You a Few Questions? To complete this study, Aberdeen surveyed more than 300 organizations in a diverse set of industries between April and June 2008.

With the advent and growing use of social networking and the Internet, today’s customer feedback looks a lot different than it did 10 years ago. Customer feedback can come from numerous sources including blogs, ratings and review websites and peer-to-peer networks, to name a few.

Customer feedback collection and management becomes even more valuable in a challenging economy, in which companies are being forced to reduce spending and other new initiatives and focus inward on improving the satisfaction of current customers.

Today’s companies “have no choice but to actively encourage customer feedback and to treat customers as strategic assets in the incessant quest to improve operations, marketing, research, products development and the overall customer experience,” says Aberdeen in its report.

That said, many companies are maintaining or increasing their spending on customer feedback management. According to Aberdeen, 41% of survey respondents say they will increase spending on customer feedback initiatives within the next fiscal year. The goals? To retain existing customers, attract new customers and identify new revenue sources.

Aberdeen uses three performance metrics to define its best-in-class companies:

1. Customer Satisfaction = analyzing feedback and responding quickly with necessary changes.
2. Customer Retention = responding to customer complaints and suggestions.
3. Customer-Focused Innovation = using innovative methods to meet the ongoing needs of customers.

Top companies clearly define their strategies for continuous improvements in these areas, and do so by the following methods:

• Define best practices for using customer feedback for actionable initiatives
• Calculate revenue derived from customer feedback initiatives
• Create an internal customer feedback management team
• Set up a clearly defined method for collecting and responding to customer feedback
• Communicate the importance of customer feedback metrics to all key company stakeholders

To track customer feedback, companies deemed Best-in-Class by Aberdeen use the following four primary channels: email, corporate website/ecommerce cite, call center, and direct mail. Generally, customers appear to be happy to share their feedback. According to Aberdeen, more than half (53%) of all companies say they do not need to use incentives to motivate customers to complete surveys and provide feedback. The key here, though, is to take action based on input from customers, and make sure they know you’ve done just that.

The most successful companies are actively analyzing, reacting and responding to customer feedback. Those that have little or no involvement in customer feedback management must first define the performance metrics, proactively inform customers of any changes resulting from the feedback, and bring on board employees dedicated to customer feedback management.

Once the first steps are in place and are working productively, then a company can look at enhancing the customer feedback strategies by analyzing customer feedback data and defining best practices for using that data.

Finally, companies must be wary not to become stale in their customer feedback management practices. To stay on top of industry trends, companies need to continually evaluate the relevancy of customer feedback management strategies. In addition, they must take into consideration the relative value of different types of customers and weight the feedback based on their value as a customer.

“By integrating customer feedback into a centralized database where it can be married with individual customer profile data, including purchase history and lifetime value projections, companies can become increasingly adept at knowing when (and when not) to respond with VIP service,” suggests Aberdeen in the report.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Leveraging Facebook For Business, 7 Steps For BtoB Marketers

By Michael Goldberg, Associate Director of Marketing, Datran Media

Good business involves getting social with your clients and prospects. While marketing certainly plays an important role in demonstrating the value of your products and services, communicating with people on a personal level helps close deals and increases the likelihood of establishing long-term relationships.

This is not an unfamiliar agenda for businesses that routinely network through phone calls, set-up meetings and attend trade shows. However, many businesses fail to recognize the same inherent opportunity in social networking sites like Facebook.

If you’ve ever shared a photo online, written a product review, or watched a viral video, you can call yourself a social media user. Social media platforms have gotten so big so fast, you may have not even noticed that it has become part of our daily routine - both at work and home. Until recently, many marketers associated social networks with a fad of the younger generation, but sites like Facebook are clearly changing that perception.

With more than 90 million active users, Facebook is the most popular social network, and the fourth most-trafficked website in the world, according to comScore. And with more than half of Facebook’s users out of college and users 25 years and older representing the site’s fastest growing demographic, chances are pretty good your clients and prospects are using it, too.

Facebook for Business

Facebook recently opened its social infrastructure to businesses by providing them with the ability to create dedicated “fan pages” and interact with customers on a whole new level. These pages are completely free to set up, and allow marketers to send updates to their audience or “fans”, post events, upload photos or videos, and engage their audience with discussion boards. What’s more, the audience can interact on these pages with other members by writing messages on a company’s virtual “wall” or sharing opinions and reviews.

Word-of-Mouth at its Best

When your fans interact with your Facebook page, the actions they take are automatically generated into social stories. These stories are published to the News Feed, which friends may see the next time they log into Facebook. The stories link back to your Facebook page, increasing the likelihood that others will notice and interact with them, which generates more social stories and drives even more traffic to your page.

What is a Facebook News Feed?

The News Feed is one of the main components of the customized home page presented to each Facebook user. It sits in the center column of the page and serves as the hub of the Facebook experience. The bulk of the messaging users receive comes into their News Feed, and it is the most conspicuous place for marketers to message to Facebook users.

What is a Facebook Notification?

The Notification feed is the other main component of the Facebook home page. This area of the page is generally reserved for information regarding requests made by the user – friend requests, relationship requests, event and group requests, photo tag requests, and others. The Notification area is also where friend birthday reminders are served.

Facebook Applications
While most “apps” are dedicated towards non-business-related events, harnessing this technology can provide benefit to your brand and organization by cresting additional brand awareness and offering a level of interactivity that you can not attain anywhere else. Building an app is simple and you can find instructions on how to across the Web.

Why Communicate with Users in Facebook?
Many users spend a large percentage of their online time within the Facebook interface and rely on it heavily to stay in touch with their friends and organizations. For these users, Facebook has become their inbox of choice. Highly targeted, relevant messaging to these users within the Facebook interface will surely yield better response rates than traditional messaging to their email inbox.
You can also increase the viral distribution of your Facebook Page with Facebook Social Ads. Attach an ad creative to stories in News Feed or in the left-hand Ad Space. Social Ads increase the number of friends who will see the story when they visit Facebook, and you can also target the ads to specific demographics.

Getting Started

As you have learned, Facebook offers you an unparalleled opportunity to connect with your consumers – in an environment they are comfortable and in which makes your message more meaningful. Here a few actions you can take to get started immediately.

  1. Set up an account on Facebook. You need a personal account to be able to create a page for your company.

  2. Follow Facebook’s simple steps for creating a Facebook page. Be sure to label your page under the appropriate category.

  3. Click on “edit page” to add a logo, company description, products, photos, etc.

  4. Be sure to become a “fan” of your own page. Once your page has at least one fan, it will be indexed by Facebook’s search engine so others who enter your company name will be able to find you.

  5. Promote your Facebook page on your website, blog and in emails with Facebook’s prerequisite promotional banner.

  6. You can choose to set up ad campaigns through Facebook to help attract more customers.

  7. Share company news, events, and opinions with your fans and start engaging them about your business on a completely personal level.

  8. Michael Goldberg is the Associate Director of Marketing at Datran Media. In his role, Michael works with the team to produce, measure and grow marketing campaigns across media and search. Prior to joining Datran Media, Michael was employed by iCrossing, Where Magazine and ParadyszMatera. Michael received a B.A. in English from the University at Buffalo and leverages his training and experience to advance Datran Media's brand and marketing communications programs. He can be reached at: