Another Email Serivice Provider Review

The leaves are at their peak here in Vermont and 2013 is an odd numbered year, so it must be time for another evaluation of Email Service Providers.  I won’t share much at this point, since I am still having discussions with vendors and negotiations are yet to come, but I will provide updates along the way when appropriate, with a full update after the fact.

The ESPs I am considering this year are e-Dialog, our current provider and consequently the path of least resistance, ExactTarget, which is definitely a heavy weight with its acquisition of iGoDigital last year it its acquisition by SalesForce this year, SilverPop, which brings with it some much needed marketing automation, and Bronto, which I always liked but which oddly enough seems to be want to play the role of high-priced vendor this year.

The one contender I reviewed last year, which I am not reviewing this year is Responsys.  Don’t get me wrong, they are a strong contender, but they seem to think they can charge a huge premium over that of vendors that provide similar or stronger features.  Of course, there are plenty of people who will buy the most expensive wine on the wine list because they can, even if there are better wines at lower prices available, so I’m sure they will continue to do well.  I did have a rather amusing interaction with them, which I will share with you later.

Action Devices

As an old-time direct marketer I’m fond of action devices.  There’s no reason you can’t implement them in email.  Here’s a good example from Overstock.com: UNLOCK YOUR SECRET SAVINGS COUPON

Clicking on the link unlocks a 10% off bedding discount, which they also mention in the small print at the bottom of the email.

 

 

Email Clients

I’ve been attempting to remove Google from my life due to privacy concerns. I’ve never been overly concerned about privacy, but I think Google has gone over the line. I’ve made the switch from Google search to Bing and am quite pleased with the switch.  I’ve also switched back to Firefox from Chrome; both are good browsers.  I’ve also been using Safari more and more.

Google+ has never been an issue because I’ve never really adopted it.

But it has been tough to find an alternative to gmail. I’ve switched some of my email accounts to hotmail and have found it to be OK, but the spam filtering is not quite as good as Gmail’s. I also want to separate my email account from the search engine I use, and since I’ve switched to Bing, I don’t want to also use Microsoft’s email client.

That left Yahoo mail as the only other option. Although I like the yahoo interface, their spam filter is horrible. Every time I’d flag an email as spam, I’d get this response from Yahoo: “Thank you! Every message you report helps SpamGuard perform better.” Unfortunately, the same spammy emails would show up repeatedly: SpamGuard just never got better, so I had to dump Yahoo.

For now I’ve split my email accounts between gmail and hotmail…at least until I can find an alternative online email client. If only there were an online version of Mozilla Thunderbird.

Great Customer Service at e-Dialog

It’s is time for me to praise e-Dialog again, this time about their customer service.  We set up an email improperly last week and scheduled it to go out yesterday at 9:00 AM.  When it didn’t go out, I tried to figure out what was wrong, but being a newbie, I couldn’t.  After sending them an email they took a look at it, fixed the problem, and the email went on its merry way.  All this on a long weekend.

More positive updates to come, I am sure.

BTW, if you are an e-Dialog user, I’d be interested in setting up an online forum or users group.  I’d like to be able to discuss how to use their tool-set with other, more experienced users.

Subject Lines (non-promotional): Week Ending 2/19

I’m keeping an eye out for subject lines that are not discount oriented.  Here’s what I found this week.

From Altrec, this one is either brilliant or the copywriter was bored:
New for Spring

Now this one from Bedford Fair isn’t bad.  It is qualifying the products that are in the email and making the subscriber feel special:
The looks we love, just for you!

For the procrastinators, from Pagamagram:
Last Chance for Romance

Actually, there were a lot of Valentine Last Chance emails, the above just happened to be the first I came across.

Here’s another one that tells us exactly what we should expect.  The open rates might not be great, but conversion might make up for it.  From Crate & Barrel:
Looking for the perfect rice cooker? We found it

This email also targets a very specific audience:
Get in and out of bed with ease…

This subject line (actually the whole email) from Ben & Jerry’s deserves a special attention, but unfortunately, there is no “see it here” link:
Take the Dough out of politics!

The first paragraph of copy reads as follows:
At Ben & Jerry’s we’re so fond of dough we invented Cookie Dough ice cream! But when it comes to politics, there’s no place for “dough”. So why are corporations allowed to spend as much money as they want to influence our elections? Join us to take back American democracy with a Constitutional Amendment that will keep corporate money out of our elections. Take action at getthedoughout.org!

But most of the subject lines that didn’t feature discounts or offers were product or product category specific, like this one from Valley Vet:
Udderly EZ Goat Milker Sale @ ValleyVet.com

Or this one from Costco:
Safeguard Your Home Or Business With Security And Monitoring Systems.

And here’s one from Campmor:
Coleman Outdoor Gear

 

 

 

Subject Lines: Week Ending 2/5/2012

This subject line tells you what to expect and if you are into suspense novels you’re likely to click. Ideally, this is data driven and B&N knows something about my reading or click habits.
B&N Recommends a Chilling New Read

Deadline right up front, where you can’t miss it:
Ends Today! Get Free Ground Shipping on Ink, Paper, and More

I like this one because it is all self-contained and you know what to expect.
Starting at $599, our Camp Bed is a favorite + no shipping surcharge!

Here, SmartBargins is telling people what to do (ClickNow). And, yes, the typo was in the original subject line.
Click now to see what’s inour TOP 10 BEFORE 10 Event

And the first Easter email, from Miles Kimball, but it’s so early so would people make the connection?
“EGGS” cited about Free Shipping…Then Hop To It

Busy Week for Emails Last Week

Last week was a busy week for emails, with volumes not seen since before Christmas. Of course, most of those emails were of the ##% off variety. If email marketing professionals are going to contribute to the marketing mix, they will need to figure out how emails can be used to drive sales without discounting everything. Unfortunately 95% of the emails I read feature discounts, including the emails that I’m responsible for. That is what we’ve trained our subscribers to expect.

Things are going well with e-Dialog. We got five emails out last week in our first full week with them. By the end of the week click rates were as strong as they have been. Data integration is our next major undertaking, as is a triggered welcome series.

Email Service Provider Review

I have been meaning to talk about a recent Email Service Provider review I conducted in the last four months of 2011.  The short story is that we ended up choosing e-Dialog for their great new tool set, reputation for service, and competitive pricing.

Now for the long story.

We started our search with almost 20 vendors on our list.  Entry level vendors, such as iContact and ConstantContact were not considered or were quickly dropped, since we were looking to do more than batch and blast.  Instead we wanted to rely more on triggered events, dynamic content, and advanced segmentation.  We had been using MailChimp, which is a phenomenal tool but one that doesn’t have the features we want.

The starting list included BlueHornet, Bronto, CheetahMail, e-Dialog, emailDirect, ExactTarget, Responsys, SilverPop, and StrongMail.  There were others in the initial list that were immediately eliminated because they either didn’t respond to calls or emails, or because they fell into that “entry level” category.

Of this select group, CheetahMail was quickly dropped because their technology doesn’t easily adapt itself to a self-service model.  If you are looking for a full service model, then you should definitely consider them, but I found their tool set clunky and far from user friendly.  Since we were looking for a self-serve model, but also wanted access to professional services, their business model didn’t really fit ours.

BlueHornet was getting a lot of buzz, but their technology didn’t seem as advanced as some of the other vendors.  The same was also true of emailDirect.  Remember, that we were under a tight timeline, so I may have not given these two vendors fair consideration.  I was looking to narrow down the list, and it didn’t take much to get cut.

The next two vendors to get cut were Bronto and SilverPop, and both for the same reason: I was looking for a company that could integrate relational data into their platform, so that we could use that relational data in our segmentation, triggers, and dynamic content, and neither company at the time could do that.  Of the two, I was really sad to have to cut Bronto out of the mix.  Aside from their ability to absorb relational data, they have a great platform.  It is both powerful and easy to use: a rare combination.  I had a lot of comfort with the people there and would have liked to do business with them.  I understand Bronto (and SilverPop too, I believe) will be able to work with relational data sometime this year.  If I were starting this review later this year Bronto would be in the final bidding.

StrongMail was eliminated next.  They also have amazing technology, but they are used to selling software and although they are moving rapidly to embrace a hosted business model and developing their professional services offering, I still felt like I was buying software.  Watch out for this company, however, because if they are able to leverage their technology in a hosted environment, they will be hard to beat.

That left us with eDialog, ExactTarget, and Responsys.  ExactTarget was in the mix primarily because they are the most competitively priced vendor.  Their technology is also incredibly sophisticated, but like CheetahMail, a bit clunky, old fashioned, and difficult to use.  They need to invest in a new UI, which could make their product much more competitive.  With ExactTarget, a trained email profession could pretty much do anything, but you’d need a lot of training, patience, and technical help.  I felt that ExactTarget’s technology was at least as flexible and powerful as any of the other vendors, maybe more so, but that the price to be paid was not one that would be buried in the contract, but in the time involved.

That left us with eDialog and Responsys.  Both of these companies are great companies.  The Responsys sales effort is a beautiful thing to watch and any student of the sales process would be well served by observing Responsys.  One can tell that is is tightly choreographed and aggressive, but it feels natural and comfortable for the most part.

Here’s my brief summary of eDialog vs. Responsys: eDialog is a service company that is adding sophisticated technology to their offering, while Responsys is a technology company that is adding sophisticated services to their offering.  From my admittedly limited perspective, they haven’t quite yet met in the middle, with eDialog being slightly stronger with their services and Responsys being slightly stronger with their technology. eDialog’s parent company (eBay) appears to have invested in eDialog’s technology and I expect them to make great strides in the coming years.

Aside from that, the big difference is in the cost.  With ExactTarget throwing low ball offers out there the other vendors have to decide whether they are going to also play that game.  Although we got into negotiations with only a few of these companies, many acknowledged ExactTarget’s pricing and how it requires them to react.  Responsys, and from what I hear CheetahMail, are exceptions to this.  I my eyes, the difference between the technology provided eDialog and Responsys was not proportional the the difference in cost.  Especially given eDialog’s significant and recent improvements to their technology.

Since the time when we signed our agreement with eDialog,  I have become even more impressed with their company.  They have been great at holding our hands through the transition period, stepping in to manage things for us that we weren’t yet able to manage.  I know that if I have a question or concern it will be answered or addressed immediately.  I look forward to a successful email program in 2012 and am sure that much of that success will be enabled by eDialog.  I’ll continue to post about my experience with them as we gain more experience and history.

Don’t Tarnish Your Reputation

Here’s a very good article on you how your email reputation can be impacted by email metrics and what you can do about it.

E-commerce Link : Don’t Tarnish Your Reputation!

Enjoy,
Victor

Subject Lines: Two Weeks Ending 1/28

At some point I hope I’ll have time to talk about other things than subject lines.  For example, I’m currently working on an e-Dialog implementation that is going very well and I’d like to discuss that.

But for now, just subject lines, and not many of those.  Here are some more from the last weeks.  As you would expect, there are a lot of Football and Valentine related emails.

A game is always a good idea – this email was remailed 2-days after the original.
Crack the Code: Save up to 40%

Mother nature made me do it?
Mother Nature made us knock off 20%

Everybody likes a tent sale, this one from Orvis:
The Orvis 7 Day Tent Sale – It’s back and better than ever!

This one from Bare Escentuals is clever:
What are you doing later tonight?

This one from Gardener’s Supply is cute; not sure how successful it was:
COW-abunga!

Two things going on in the subject line from PacSun: a 48 hour Flash Sale and a 24 hour Secret Sale:
Don’t wait! The 48 Hour Flash Sale ends tonight! Plus, 24 Hour Secret Sale starts now!

Very Cute:
It was either a Hug or 20% Off Everything…

Anybody want a TV?
Shop Our Top Selling TVs And Save Up To $700

As simple as it gets:
24-HOUR SALE