Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I quit writing about email awhile back. I figured everything that could be written about it pretty much has. It has been the topic of plenty of SAST posts in the past (search them out on the blog using the tool below). All of that being said, I have recently seen some other pieces about email that triggered some thoughts so I was inspired to touch on it yet again.

A LOT of companies have adopted email as a marketing and sales tool, and rightfully so. Email can be an incredibly effective tactic to increasing interest, keeping clients and interested audience members tuned in, etc. Even in a world that has produced many alternatives and lots of fear around email (spam, scams, etc.), when it is properly utilized it is still very efficient and very effective.

Unfortunately, it is still misused, in my estimation, by at least 85% of the organizations that engage it. How do I know? I receive a lot of it from groups that I want to stay in touch with and it is usually poorly executed. Sent at bad times, frequency issues, poorly conceived and executed content, poor click through opportunity, and no real payoff or value proposition for the communication just to name a few.

It is easy for me to critique, so how about some recommendations to improve this oft abused tool?

Well, contrary to the issues mentioned above, when you collect your email recipients' email addresses the correct way, that is the first huge step in a successful email strategy. Do not be tempted to buy lists or secure email addresses without expressed permission of the desired recipient. Next, take the time to properly segment your lists. This will allow you to create content that your recipients actually care about - it will be relevant. One size does not fit all in this medium and segmenting your lists will insure that you see the benefit. Insure your recipients understand the payoff to them if they click through the email to further engage with your brand. make it valuable based on their interests, not yours. If you have a click through rate lower than 10% - 15% on any email send, you have effectively failed. Industry standard click through rates traditionally have hovered around 3% - 5%. Those rates may be acceptable to someone, but this guy has seen email most effective only when click throughs exceed that 10% to 15% watermark. If you, or your email vendor, are not delivering those higher rates - stop, reassess and try again.

Lastly, quit measuring open rates. They are often inaccurate and it is hard to secure an actual conversion on an open. Create an opportunity that your audience finds valuable enough to click through and further engage. Click throughs are measurable because the user has to take that action, moreover it is a better way to understand what your audience finds valuable. Define the conversion funnel and allow email to kick it off in a way that is meaningful to your audience.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Opinions, Pundits, Fads and Trends

You know the thing about fads - there can sometimes be a thin line between them and honest to goodness trends. Especially when we talk about developments in online communications. There have been tons of fads - thus resulting in the bubble of the late nineties and early two-thousands.

However there are honest to goodness trends that are defining what an acceptable, effective high-quality and lasting digitally delivered web experience developing right now. Frankly, there isn't always a huge gap between the fly-by-night fad and the long-lasting market changing trend. If you have never read Al Ries' writings on the differences between fads and trends and how they relate to marketing I highly recommend them. I believe he does a great job in establishing and differentiating how to impact a market and their differences in effectiveness for a brand.

Definition of fad - a temporary fashion, notion, manner of conduct, etc., esp. one followed enthusiastically by a group.
Fads tend to burn out with no real lasting influence - remember fat laces?? jelly shoes?? pokemon?? (still trying to hang on, but well past its fad prime)

Definition of trend -
1.the general course or prevailing tendency; drift: trends in the teaching of foreign languages; the trend of events.
2.style; vogue: the new trend in women's apparel.
3.the general direction followed by a road, river, coastline, or the like.
Like a road mentioned in the definition a trend leads you to a destination - it is not a loss because it leads to an end, a place to be. Trends that led to a result beyond the initial "fad" - rap music started as fad became a trend and resulted in a serious influence in popular music and culture that continues with hip-hop culture and has/will continue to an end result to the music industry and our American pop-culture. How about reality television?? Started as fad and is now created a sub-culture of self-recording, Internet disseminating extroverts. For better or worse you cannot deny the shift from fad to trend - and where it ends up at this part, I believe, is too early to tell.

Recently I read two different blog postings about two different developing communications tactics that are frequently used in digital communication (content or communique delivered via a web connection). Two different tactics but I thought they were good examples of fads vs. trends.

Posting #1 - Online Video
Okay this is pretty general right? You have all different kinds of online video based on presentation, placement, etc., however this particular blog post was clearly stating that online video is getting easier to create, there are many different providers of this service and it does not have to cost a lot to achieve a result (what kind of result, however is debatable).

Posting #2 - Flash for a cell phone - actually it was for a particular brand of cell phone, however this is and will increasingly become a moot point as Flash is, has been and continues to be adapted for all different types of cell phones - the iPhone, other smart phones, windows mobile OS, etc.

Okay which one is a fad and which one is a legit trend with future potential?? Hey, who am I to say?? I have an opinion and I will state it then you can choose to agree or disagree. Nobody died and made me king.

Both online video and "flash enabled" cell phones are both fads and trends. How can they be both?? Actually, I would suggest that they both can be trends based on position, use, result of use and quality/effectiveness of execution. Lack of those factors makes them fads.

Regarding online video and flash on cell phones - in my opinion, one has become a fad, the other is too premature to be anything.

Flash via cell phones - if we understand that web sites viewed on a cell phone are simply THE SAME SITES WE SEE ON OUR LARGE "boxes" just forced into the constraints of a primitive delivery technology, then we understand flash on the web has moved well beyond a fad and is now an integral part of experiencing all that an interactive environment has to offer. Flash media delivery is leading the web experience to a entirely different level. Flash has been doing this for years and will continue as they integrate new capabilities that increase not only opportunities to interact but to also improve usability and function from a development perspective.

That being said a cell phone web experience is only bound by the hardware and software that keeps flash limited. Once the technology is in place the cell phone experience is the same as a PC or even digital TV experience. So I guess why are "cell phone web sites" being discussed as if they are different beings than web sites interfaced on PCs? No fad here. However, if flash cell phone experiences start out like flash experiences did in the late nineties (silly and counter intuitive intros and poorly executed line art moves) they certainly could become a fad based on a comparatively much different "big box" flash experience.

Now on to the 900 pound gorilla - online video. Seriously, when we take away all of the hype and positioning - isn't video online the same as video anywhere else?? Not really, but based on how a lot of (not all) online video producers and delivery systems treat online video, it is. Yes, I said it - a LOT of online video is pre-produced, produced, shot, edited and delivered no differently than traditional talking head corporate video. In that instance where it does as much to bore the audience as a traditional video delivered via television it runs the risk of becoming a fad. Why you ask? Because the lack of results it delivers will sober those that are drunk on its novelty. A novelty from being delivered online with a link or two. Now, on the other hand there are a lot of technologies, techniques and best practices that have been developed and exhibited specifically for web video, the media consumption habits of its audiences, the story it communicates and the results its developed to produce, that will help push it past fad and convert it to not only trend but into a stratosphere of helping to form the next huge step in digital media evolution. I recommend that you start watching online videos with as critical eye as you would watch a film you shelled out $20 to watch in a theatre - determine if it is any good based on desired result, ability to tell a story, production quality, opportunities to interact and overall experience.

There is a glut of video online - how much of it is actually any good?? How much transcends fad and becomes a trend or trend setting? How much of it is recognizable as a bridge to the next step of a legitimate digital media? To simply "do online video" is quickly becoming as relevant as sporting zipper filled parachute pants in 2008. Break me off a moon walk while you are at it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Right now I am posting this entry from the service waiting area at my local Toyota dealership. I am connected through my cell phone because the dealership has no wireless connectivity for its customers. When are these folks going to learn??

This dealership has a computer room for its customers full of computers that are probably at least five years old. That is a great service for its customers but unfortunately it does nothing for their marketing or customer experience. They could sell these machines for scrap, take that money and buy one heck of a powerful wireless modem - or hook up with my friends at eWireless and pay about $60 a month to provide the service for their customers. Simple enough.

Only after that does it get interesting. Why not require any user to sign in with their name and a password? Once that happens they can take that name and match it to their service database info. to determine what kind of car is being serviced and tailor offers that can be delivered through the wireless network that are actually relevant to that customer, promoting either a car sale or additional service opportunities?? In this scenario they have opportunities to establish customer loyalty, positive feelings toward the brand depending on how nice the offer is and if it is relevant, and make life a bit easier for customers by offering free wireless while they wait for their automobiles.

Not complicated and in this guy's opinion a lot more effective than the crummy letters I get in the mail trying to convince me to come in and test drive a new car for a chance to win free groceries.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

All Different Directions

XBox just announced that they are having what appears to be short films and short form content produced exclusively for their XBox live system through the XBox 360 console.

If you have experienced the XBox 360 Live service you know what it is about, if you have not and you want a glimpse into the future of IPTV check it out. HERE is the full article.