Here’s a Modest Proposal for Batch-and-Blast Email Marketers and Robocallers

The increased volume of data-driven marketing initiatives have taken digital marketing to the top spot in the media universe. There, it’s likely to be king of the mountain until the next fashionable tsunami comes along. Enter, batch-and-blast email marketers and robocallers.

Unnumbered terabytes have been squandered recently as the increased volume of data-driven marketing initiatives have taken digital marketing to the top spot in the media universe. There, it’s likely to be king of the mountain until the next fashionable tsunami comes along. Enter, batch-and-blast email marketers and robocallers.

Consumers who formerly complained about getting too much mail are increasingly (and rightly) up in arms about the intrusiveness of unsolicited emails, ads jumping onto their Internet pages — visually blocking desired content, just when they want to see it — location-driven cell phone promotions advising them of the goodies inside the retail shop they are passing (remember them) or receiving endless robocalls.

Anything is possible! In today’s world of almost endless permutations and combinations of digital sales messages, what faster than a speeding bullet Superthing can stop them before they plunge irretrievably into some black hole, never to be seen again?

Would you believe that the answer is neither a superman nor woman? No: It’s not even a humanoid. It is quite simply that elusive substance that is said to make the world go ’round: money.

The useful website AlterNet recently carried what could be the game-changing story for our industry. Why stop with the industry? It could be a game-changer for our society and sanity. Consumers may not complain as much about emails and push ads as they do about robocalls, but you can bet they get nearly as angry about their privacy being invaded. Wrote Matthew Chapman:

Americans are being bombarded with robocalls. It’s an epidemic, and it’s getting worse. By a recent estimate, 71 million of these scam calls are being placed per hour, [my highlighting] often completely illegally.

Robocalls make up the top source of complaints to both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC); both of which, in theory, have power to police robocalls. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to get rid of them.

Almost; but not impossible. As Shakespeare wrote:

“If money go before, all ways do lie open.” —Ford, “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Act 2, Scene 2

Chapman reported that Roger Meiners, a professor of law and economics at the University of Texas at Arlington, has a brilliant proposal for how to defeat robocallers, once and for all. It has exquisite simplicity and can, by extension, apply to almost all of our batch-and-blast outrages. Professor Mainers’ proposal, which deserves nothing less than a Nobel economics nomination:

Levy a 1-cent tax on every outgoing phone call.

If codified into the law of the land, it would be collected automatically and digitally. Individuals and small businesses would hardly notice it. We’d all pay the tax but even for a heavy individual user who made 50 calls per day; his tab would be only $15.00 per month.

In the Wall Street Journal, Meiners explained how it would work:

Most taxes aren’t popular, but this one will be. Call it the Penny for Sanity Tax: a 1-cent tax on every call made. Fifty billion robocalls would cost $500 million — a powerful incentive to stop.

Because the tax would apply to all calls, it would avoid litigation about what can be legally disfavored. It would be impossible to evade by sneaking around classifications of calls. And it would not necessitate hiring more bureaucrats to enforce a complicated rule.

What a huge effect it would have if put into practice. The amount could be easily raised if it didn’t act as a sufficient inhibitor of batch-and-blast. The whole idea might also inform an app where the consumer could choose to get paid to look at ads. As the Bar proclaimed “ … all ways do lie open,” if there is coin to pay the piper. And imagine how even a little of this money might be used for the environment, the public good or worthy charities.

Now let’s stretch and imagine the application of the Meiners’ formula to email. The Radicati Group estimates the worldwide number of consumer and business emails sent per day in 2018 at more than 281 billion. If these were taxed at 1 cent each, (same as the calls, but harder to collect), the cost would be $2.8 billion per day. You get the idea.

Where technologies have run well ahead of the business models they support, not a lot of thought has been given to the actual costs of emails and robocalls. “Let’s mail another million. It isn’t costing anything. And then we can go to lunch” has an all-too-familiar ring to it, even if it happens to be more apocryphal than true. There is, as the saying goes, no such thing as a free email or robocall or lunch.

Because very few marketers have done the math to determine the real comparative bottom-line effect of over-promoting or looked at the medium- and long-term commercial and societal damage it causes, they might as well go off and enjoy lunch. Their C-Suite days are numbered.

Soon, they are likely to be replaced by a tribe of literate data nerds, a species currently in short supply. Their recruitment is driving up costs like international soccer stars. They are just what giant consulting firms, such as Accenture, need to support their acquisition of “creative” shops with funny names and casual dress and time-keeping habits certain to annoy the hell out of the senior partners, who are mostly former three-piece, dark-suited accountants who daily commute from the suburbs and arrive at the office with Swiss punctuality.

Imagine the culture clash. And imagine how in this radically changed game, our vision of response rates and costs — in fact, almost everything in our marketing sphere — would change for the better.

Best of all, when the telephone rings, we wouldn’t have to worry we were about to be propositioned or otherwise engaged in a time-wasting conversation with a robot.

Direct Mail: Create USPS Informed Delivery Ads

What is USPS Informed Delivery? It allows customers who sign up to receive emails with grey-scale images of the address side of letter-sized mail pieces that have processed through automated equipment. Why is this helpful for companies that send direct mail?

What is USPS Informed Delivery? It allows customers who sign up to receive emails with grey-scale images of the address side of letter-sized mail pieces that have processed through automated equipment. Why is this helpful for companies that send direct mail? You are now able to send the post office your artwork along with your mail.dat file to be included in the email that is sent to customers with a link to a web page of your choice for the campaign. Basically, customers get a digital preview of their mailbox. This means that prior to getting your mail piece, people can click on your link and start buying.

Here is an example:

How it works:

  • Your content is associated with an individual mail campaign. You can run multiple campaigns at one time for a single mailing. You may also run multiple mailings and campaigns simultaneously.
  • Each campaign is triggered by and mapped to a single Mailer ID that is used on the mail pieces. You may set a date range, as well.
  • Mailers can also use the Serial Number range within the Intelligent Mail® barcode to provide a greater level of personalization.
  • When a mail piece scan for an enrolled Informed Delivery user and the MID or Serial Number in the IMb is associated with an active mailer campaign, the customer will see your customized content that you provided to the USPS.

If you would like more detailed information you can check out the USPS guide at: https://www.usps.com/business/pdf/informed-delivery-interactive-campaign-guide.pdf

This is an easy way to add a channel to your direct mail. Since customers have signed up to get the emails you can easily provide color artwork they will want to click on. So what do you need to qualify to participate in this program?

  1. Mail pieces must be automation compatible
  2. Mail pieces must contain a valid IMb
  3. You or your mail service provider must be IMb certified

This is a free program, so why not try it out and see if your customers like it?

How to Participate:

The process is simple; you create and send the normal hardcopy mail, then provide USPS with your image content and web address. There are two ways you can run informed delivery campaigns:

  1. Ride-along Image and Target URL: This campaign includes the USPS gray scale scanned image of the letter-size mail piece and an image provided by the mailer. This image is placed below the gray-scale image in the email. The Ride-along Image is clickable and so is the “Learn More” link. These are both linked to the same URL.
  2. Representative Image, Ride-along Image, and Target URL: In addition to the required Ride-along Image and URL, this dual campaign includes an image that is provided in lieu of a flat-size image or in place of the gray-scale letter-size image. In this version, your images are static, they are not clickable. The images must be clearly branded and must be directly related to the hard copy mail piece. One more thing, images are optional for letter-size mailings; but required for a flat-size mailing.

Now you are ready for the required components to actually do your campaign:

  • Campaign Display Name
  • Campaign Title
  • Campaign Code
  • Campaign Start Date
  • Campaign End Date
  • MID on Piece
  • IMb Serial Number Range
  • Image and URL
  • Images must not exceed 200 kilobytes
  • Images must be in JPEG (.jpg) format
  • Images must meet minimum or maximum pixel height/width, which varies per image type
  • Images must be representative of the brand or mail owner and directly related to the mail pieces

Now you are ready to submit your campaign. There are two ways to submit an Informed Delivery campaign, via the Mailer Campaign Portal or PostalOne!. The Mailer Campaign Portal is currently in beta testing. With PostalOne! mailers enter campaigns. You may also edit campaigns here. Are you ready to get started?

2 Emails You’re Sending That Rarely Work

Never say never? I try to not speak in absolutes and remain positive. But there are two flavors of cold emails you’re probably sending that do more harm than good.

Never say never? I try to not speak in absolutes and remain positive. But there are two flavors of cold emails you’re probably sending that do more harm than good. These are the cold:

  • “help me find the right person” request;
  • “show me how to sell to you” request.

Not sending these emails? I’ll be surprised if you haven’t sent one in past … or still consider them as valid options.

Beware. They are marks of amateurs.

Asking for a chance to learn about customers’ current pain points or challenges is common … and increasingly fails. Clients are deluged with these requests every day.

It’s not the client’s job to sort a way to sell your thing. Likewise, requesting a meeting in a cold email is too big an ask, too early.

Don’t Know? Find Out!

Let’s say you don’t know the right person to talk with — at your target organization. Fair enough.

Or in cases where you do know the contact, the pain or goal may be unclear. I respect that. But ya gotta find out. No excuses.

Please don’t do this:

Hi {name},

I’m trying to figure out who is in charge of [leading general statement] there at {company}.

Would you mind pointing me towards the right person please, and the best way I might get in touch with them?

Consider tools like LinkedIn, Google and countless others. Your ability to find the right decision-maker(s) is unprecedented. Not to mention innovators like Data.com and old-fashioned (yet, perfectly good) sources like InfoUSA and their like.

“Who’s the best person to get in touch about this?”

You must be kidding. This is NOT going to work for you.

Don’t get pegged as lazy, or worse!

‘Do My Work and Pity Me’

If you’re sending emails hoping someone will do the work for you … that’s pitiful. Especially if you’re starting at the top of an organization, looking to get handed-down. Your cold email signals: “help me do my work.” And that’s pitiful.

You might argue, “Jeff, people like to help people.” They do. I help people when I can. But consider this:

Would you call the CEO or top executive on the phone — looking to get handed down? I’d hope not but maybe you would! In a digital age, cold calling top executives (to discover who to talk to) is not effective. Instead, research the target online.

You may also argue, “Jeff, I do well discovering who decisionmakers are using the phone … by tapping into administrative assistants.”

I’m cool with that. In fact, we might be forced to. Decision-makers are starting to hide or disguise their authority on LinkedIn.

Also, gathering intelligence this way is worthwhile.

However, blasting “can you help direct me?” emails, trying to discover decision-maker names is mostly ineffective. It’s the sign of an unskilled sales person. Avoid it. Don’t encourage clients to pity you.

Let’s say you use email to discover who targets are at mid-management level. This is also a losing proposition. Any idea how many requests for help these people receive each day? More than you might imagine.

Think about your hectic day. If you received three to four messages per day asking for help from sales reps, wouldn’t it get annoying? And it might even get you in trouble. Forwarding people who you don’t know (selling products your colleagues may not need) could cost you embarrassment.

There is often a negative incentive for contacts to help guide you.

Go Direct, Go Informed or Go Home

Let’s say you were face-to-face with a new prospect at a networking event. They’ve identified themselves as the decision-maker. You wouldn’t ask a potential client, “Can I get some time with you … so you can help me understand a way to sell to you?”

Personalization Framework

In the age of constant bombardment with marketing messages, staying relevant to prospects and customers is not just good practice in the manual; it is a matter of survival.

personalizationIn the age of constant bombardment with marketing messages, staying relevant to prospects and customers is not just good practice in the manual; it is a matter of survival.

Recipients of marketing messages are more immune to generic offers than ever, and a relentless series of emails and we-will-follow-you-to-the-end-of-your-journey attitude literally trained them to ignore anything that even resembles commercial messages.

You want to stand out in this world of omnichannel marketing? Try to stand out by making it about “them,” not about “you.”

Personalization

Personalization is not just another buzzword that came after the Big Data hype. It actually is something that marketers must care about.

According to Gartner Research, “By 2018, organizations that have fully invested in all types of online personalization will outsell companies that have not by more than 30 percent.”

I am not sure how they boldly put such a numeric prediction out. But in this case, I honestly think that the gap could end up being even larger, because the winners in this zero-sum game are moving at light-speed, while others still stubbornly carry that “If you keep reaching out to them, they will respond” attitude.

Being Clueless

I’ve actually met marketers who asked me how many more emails they should send out each week to compensate for an increasing number of non-responders.

They actually asked me if they can poke their customer base even more frequently. (They were sending uniform messages to everyone more than six times a week.) That means they had been diligently training the customers to ignore their emails.

I bluntly told them they just can’t mail their way out of that trouble. They should think about contacting their targets less frequently, and staying relevant as much as possible.

Do Unto Others

It is not difficult to sell the concept of personalization to marketers. They, too, are recipients of irrelevant marketing messages, and I bet that they mercilessly purge them out of their personal inboxes on a daily basis.

Surely, there are enough conference tracks, webinars, whitepapers and articles about this subject. But how are they supposed go about it? Do we even agree what that word means? (Refer to “What Does Personalization Mean to You?”)

Based on all of the client meetings that I’ve been to, the answer unfortunately is a hard “no.” And that conclusion was not solely drawn from some rudimentary practices being conducted by many marketers in the name of personalization, either. Because of available data and in different stages of customer relationship development, we do need to differentiate various types of activities under that all-inclusive personalization banner.

We Can Get There From Here

There are many personalization frameworks out there, listing various endeavors, such as collaborative filtering (as in “if you bought that item, you must be interested in these products as well”). Then there’s customer segmentation, and personas development based on predictive modeling techniques, usually in that sequence. If you add technical elements in terms of ability to show different things to different people, multiplied by content generation and content management pieces, things get complicated quite fast.

In any case, I do not agree with such sequential framework, as that is like saying the patient cannot be admitted to the operating room unless the doctor’s exhausted all of the simpler forms of treatments. Needless to say, some patients need surgery right away.

Likewise, when it comes to maximizing the value of data assets for personalization, marketers should not avoid predictive modeling by habit, just because it sounds complicated. That shouldn’t be the way in this age. If you want to be sophisticated about personalization, you’ve got to get serious about analytics without resorting back to simper, often ready-made, options. Unless of course, you as a consumer think that seeing offers for similar (or the same) products that you’ve just purchased for next couple of months is an acceptable form of personalization. (I don’t.)

Nuts and Bolts

Then, what should be the not-so-sequential data framework for personalization? Allow me to introduce one based on activity type and data availability, as no marketer can be free from data scarcity issues at different stages of customer relationship development.

Pumpkins Attack My Inbox 2: The Revenge

It’s that time of year again! Last year around this time I wrote a post about some of the best pumpkin-themed emails that were pouring into my inbox. So I thought, “Everyone loves pumpkin, and everyone loves sequels!” And with that amazing segue out of the way … here are some creative uses of everyone’s favorite fall flavor.

Alright, first things first since I know you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seats to find out …

My Harry Potter wand is 12 inches, made of reed, with a Phoenix Feather core. Whew, you can all relax now!

So yes, I had my exciting adventure to Wizarding World since we last chatted, and it was everything I could have dreamed and more. In addition to all of the amazing book-inspired food I ate that weekend, Wizarding World offers this amazing Pumpkin Juice that comes in these adorable bottles:

Merchandise product shoot for internet online store Harry Potter HP merchandise on white seamless Pumpkin juice chocolate frogs

I was reflecting on this, and I realized …”Hey … it’s that time of year again!” Last year around this time I wrote a post about some of the best pumpkin-themed emails that were pouring into my inbox, so I thought, “Everyone loves pumpkin, and everyone loves sequels!” And with that amazing segue out of the way … here are some creative uses of everyone’s favorite fall flavor.

Subject Line: Just in Time for Fall: Our Top 5 Pumpkin Desserts

hersheys

Chocolate much? Love this recipe email from Hershey’s, which is a great use of Pumpkin-mania and a great example of content marketing. Let those mouth-watering recipes do the selling for you!

Subject Line: Our Fall collection Is here

wax

Wax Crumbles is one of my new obsessions, thanks in large part to their branding, and their simple but highly personal communications. Aside from their products smelling amazing, emails from these guys are like a warm fuzzy hug through my inbox — this fall products announcement was no exception.

Subject Line: Get Pumped for Pumpkin Spice!

keurig           keurig

I mean, punny subject line + animated text for emphasized excitement+ close-up on coffee steam = this is working on me even though I already have a Keurig.