“#=)!$&€+?, FREE and other “spammy” things that WON’T get you blocked

I have a very serious pet peeve and that’s marketers that spout research and data verbatim from years ago without bothering to confirm if it’s still a fact. My least favorite one that I continue to see repeated over and over again is that symbols and certain words will hurt your ability to get into the inbox.

This hasn’t been an issue for legitimate marketers for a number of years now and I really wish people in the industry would just stop repeating it. 

The people that get impacted by this type of junk foldering are those that are doing bad things to begin with, so please don’t worry about including ALL CAPS, or “free”, or “discount”, or “)=!%&#?”, okay? I feel that marketers have their attention drawn away from the important stuff (like their value proposition for subscribers) by myths and legends like this one.

And for those in the industry, every time you repeat this outdated “best practice” you are required to eat a loaf of SPAM.


Ps. A good text-to-image balance is still important, however, as the biggest email clients (Outlook, Gmail, et al)  block images by default due to spammers hiding nasty things in images.


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When more doesn’t equal more; or why marketers are “afraid to send”

I subscribe to the Magill Report and try to read every article Ken Magill puts together as he writes in a perfect balance of entertainment, sarcasm and education. I can’t recommend subscribing more. This past week’s newsletter had an article that really rustled my jimmies, however. It was a recap of Dela Quist’s presentation to the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

First, I know this is a standard spiel from Dela regarding send more to make more, but there were some key phrases in the recap that really bothered me, primarily this one:

…he said. “You get the idiots who shouldn’t be on the list off the list because they unsubscribe. I love unsubscribes. Get off my list. You have free will and the opportunity to do so. Get off my list.”

Why did that bother me so much? Well, if we are talking about the legitimate email marketing universe, ie. those that obtain permission prior to sending, the people that subscribe are not “idiots” and we should not treat them as such.

If we work hard to gain their permission to send in the first place (which is difficult due to spammers and marketers that do exactly what Quist is suggesting to the frustration of recipients) we should not be so cavalier about irritating them to the point of unsubscribing, much less call them names that imply we think they’re all a bunch of simpletons who don’t get the genius that shouts at them from our email campaigns.

The world has changed. The way we can communicate and sell to consumers has changed. The facts are the facts regarding sending too frequently (see the chart in this post) and it’s time Quist gets on board with that and decide not to be controversial just for the sake.

Reasons people unsubscribe. Source: Hubspot

Reasons people unsubscribe. Source: Hubspot

We in the industry are not cowards for advising people not to send more and more push marketing content no matter how many times Quist insists we are.

The goal should not be to send more, but to send smart.

Because we work so hard to get into the inbox in the first place, we should not abuse that fragile trust by blasting our subscribers away with email.

What Quist does not include in the numbers calculation presented in the article is the cost to acquire new subscribers and the opportunity cost of each lost subscriber. These numbers can, and likely will, be greater than the gains from sending one more email.

He does clarify in the comments stating that he’s not recommending just sending untargeted blast emails, however, it does sound like he’s trying to oversimplify something that is much more complex than “more emails = more money”.

Fact is I have run tests with clients ramping up the frequency of sendings and what usually happens is the quality suffers and the quantifiable increases in ROI (Return on Investment) becomes almost negligible compared to lost potential gains.

Bottom line? It seems we are all in agreement that sending more valuable content to subscribers is a good idea and will result in short-term, as well as long-term, gains. BUT – where we differ is in how we approach the sending frequency. As marketers have so little time during their day to spend on email, I would much prefer they send less frequent, more valuable messages that gives their subscribers a brilliant impression if I have to choose an option.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Have any of you run tests for frequency and seen an impact either way? Share your findings below.



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Major errors in testing – Don’t fall victim to these mistakes!

Map showing Malmö, SwedenToday I want to talk about testing. The idea for this post came when I was recounting to a friend how miserable the winter has been this year in Malmö, Sweden. Now, you must first understand that Malmö is about the furthest south you can get in the country, therefore, typically, also one of the warmest cities – see the map in this post for reference on where Malmö resides.

I moved to Sweden in mid-2011 when it was one of the best, warmest summers in recent memory (according to my potentially short-term-memory-having friends) – thanks for the nice welcome to my new home, Sweden! As summer turned into a brief, week-long fall (not really only a week, but just about!), and then fall turned into winter, the weather was quite okay. Not terribly colder than North Carolina in January and February. Granted, I was more exposed to the wonderfully cold weather as I have no car here, but still manageable.

That was the point where I thought I could really see myself living here. I look back at those naive days and just have to laugh at myself as I was trying to get through the darkest days of this past winter.

And oh boy, was it a winter. According to my same short-term-memory-having friends, winter 2012 has been the worst winter of recent memory. It started snowing in October and almost literally didn’t stop until a week or so ago. The temperature has been well below 0 degrees Celcius for as long as I can remember (I also have short-term-memoryitis) and the sun has just this past week made a reappearance from hibernation.

My point, besides grumbling about the weather, is that were I to have left Sweden after winter 2011, I would have drawn the conclusion that summers are excellent and winters aren’t that bad in Malmö. Now, I’d probably say the opposite and that 2011 was just a fluke. But either way I’d be wrong and that brings me to the point of this post.

Many marketers draw the same types of conclusions after running a test one time. They probably would have agreed with me that Malmö was the best possible place to live in all of Scandinavia (which it still is, by the way!) after winter 2011 and that it was time to pick up stakes and move here also (which is still a good idea!). There isn’t enough conclusive data to make that decision, though. So let’s talk about the biggest mistakes people make when testing:

  1. Testing a tactic only once – See above story if you have any questions why this is a bad idea. You must test the same thing a number of times to exclude external factors and bias. 
  2. Measuring success on the wrong metric – As I’ve talked about before, I am not a fan of the open rate as a measure of success, however, many marketers use the open rate as the success metric for a test. Even if the test is based on time of day/day of week or subject lines, make the success metric the action!
  3. Creating a sample size that is too small – In order to definitively select a winner, the sample sizes must be statistically significant. See this calculator for determining the size of the samples needed to implement a result with certainty.
  4. Drawing conclusions too quickly – One of the things I wish we as ESPs (Email Service Providers) didn’t offer was the ability to select a winner mid-test. What typically happens is a marketer will select 10% of the list to get one version, 10% another version and 80% to get the “winner”. However, this often results in selecting the wrong version to go out to the remainder of the list due to sample size error (see point #2) and/or drawing conclusions too quickly. The default setting, for instance, is usually one or two hours after the test began. Considering that many actions happen after that timeframe, it is impossible to say what will ultimately win out. My recommendation is always to test on the whole list and implement the learnings from there. The test will be more valid and you’ll be better able to draw conclusions for the next sending.
  5. Not implementing the learnings – Don’t test just because you’ve heard it’s a best practice. Test to actually learn something, please.

Those are the most common errors I see when analyzing marketers’ email programs. What do you see in your own tests or with your own clients?


Ps. Malmö is a truly lovely city, by the way. This winter has just been abnormally bad weather….or has it been? 😉


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Starting in the middle of the story (Repetition is key)

Sometimes I read an article and it just smacks me in the face. This post over at Connection Agent did just that. “Of course I understood me…” is something that I struggle with everyday.

I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people that is talking in my head constantly. I read something, watch something, am talking to someone, and my mind just takes an interesting point and whirs along off on a tangent about it. (I promise I’m still listening, though) Then what happens more times than not is that I will then say aloud the final thought in that line of thinking that had nothing to do with the original conversation. Awkward.

Do you do this as well or am I alone in this behavior?

I assumed my own context. Marketers do this too when we assume that our customers are as involved in the day to day life at brand X like we are. Truth is they spend probably 0.000001% of the time thinking about brand X as we do.

It is, therefore, vital that key concepts like our value proposition, campaigns, events, messaging gets repeated over and over again. And that you start from the beginning of the story each time even if you think it’s redundant so that your customers can ride along in the journey with you.



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How to become successful in business and make lots of money

Read this post. Seriously, read it, it’s worth it. This post will most likely change your entire perspective on your company’s value proposition.

It’s a post written for B2B marketers, but the lessons apply to every. single. marketer. One of the most important things everyone in the company, from CEO to intern, needs to understand is your brand’s value proposition. And it needs to be a good one that actually solves a real need or want of your customer target group. 

Don’t just guess what it is, either. Sit down with customers (if possible) and really dig into why they buy from you and why they should continue doing so in the future.

Once you have your value proposition, ensure it is communicated in every channel by every employee. You absolutely cannot expect the customer to just figure out why they should shop with you instead of the other guy down the street. They won’t, and frankly, they shouldn’t have to.

Every year or so after that, ensure that your value proposition still holds true and is actually valuable for your customers. If the answer is no, revisit your merchandise, services, hiring practices, etc.



Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Lifecycle Marketing, Strategy


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How cool are these subject lines?

Sometimes in my job I get really excited about an idea. These two subject lines I encountered recently made me smile and my brain exploded with possibilities upon viewing.

Hat tip to Apsis' CEO Anders Frankel for the image

First is from Jeep and shows off their iconic grill via ASCII symbols. The second is ThinkGeek utilizing hex color codes which is spot on the nose for their audience.

ThinkGeek's subject line

These two brands also epitomize passion and man, are their subject lines some of the coolest ever!

What are some other really cool subject lines that have made you think “I have got to open this right now”?


Ps. Hat tip to Apsis CEO Anders Frankel for the Jeep example.

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Posted by on February 5, 2013 in Fun, Neat ideas, Newsletters, Strategy


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