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Grandma DJOnce upon a time, as testified by the mighty Kevin and Perry’s Go large, rave was all the rage. Glow sticks and whistles were actually very cool, and if you whoop-whoop’ed in a club, that was just ‘wicked’. Now, such behaviour is not wicked at all, it’s not even cosmic. Doing running man and saying ‘Mad for it’ in anything but jest and you can expect a swifty backhander.

You can still find a genuine, old school rave scene in certain more isolated pockets of the UK, for example those regions where the mullet is still fairly commonly seen in a phoenix nights style, local pub accommodating a few sheltered but very serious old school ravers with nowhere else to go. Think, Ayai Napa, Blackpool, most of Slough .. However if you are part of the new school cool which rightfully we all feel we are, you would rather eat your own head then be seen in such a place.

Here in the capital, newly launched, trendy nightclubs and cocktail bars probably have a lifespan of less than 6 months of celebrity spotlight before the heat reader crowd descend, complete with the tank top and chino wearer’s in tow, meaning you are compelled to move on if you want to be on the pulse of the next great thing and disassociate yourself from all those other ‘mainstream losers’. Heaven forbid you get caught in the same club as your grandma, no one wants to see your Grandma do the robot – your reputation would be ruined.

These bars and clubs generally tend to disappear in time, upstaged by better, trendier places or copy cats who rip off the edge our club once had to cannibalise your crowds. The length of their existence correlating with the gravity of their deviation from the boring, mainstream norm at their point of launch. This is what I like to call the nightclub effect. Something I heard on Jason Calacanis TWIST show on the episode featuring Gabriel Weinberg of DuckDuckGo.com, in specific reference to social media and email.

In his guest Tyler Crowley’s view, echoed by myself, Facebook has become no more than a platform for commenting on status updates. Using the nightclub analogy, Tyler feels social media has reached the point where the Grandmas (or in my case mother in laws) are now in the Facebook club. Recent research from Pew Internet found that between April 2009 and May 2010 social networking grew in the 65 and older group by 100%! Read more about this on mashable.com. Personally I love Facebook, but I haven’t checked it for months because it has lost the appeal it once had for regular visits. So we’ve travelled past the bell curve where early adopters are those buzzing around the channel and now we have technology laggards aplenty diluting its appeal. So what club is beyond social media? It’s hard to conceive there will be another layer of communication more far reaching than social media, so you want to head back to where there is a higher quality interaction, which interestingly in Tyler’s view was email. Although, if we’ve been in the email club before then how can this retro view resonate? Perhaps the edge the email club has is that it isn’t what it used to be. The bouncers are bigger than before and have been specifically tasked to only let the very coolest, charismatic people in. We’ve even removed the sawdust from the floor and replaced rusty speakers with a vodka luge. You’re welcome of course, just don’t bring your break dancing Grandma.

Happy Birthday

It’s been a year since eCircle’s blog Inside the Inbox launched back in September 2009. During this time we have aimed to provide you with useful, topical content on the subject of email marketing and the wider digital world. To celebrate a year of Inside the Inbox I thought I’d share with you our top 10 most read blogs posts from the year in order of popularity.

Top 10 Inside the Inbox Blog Posts

1)     Is it ever too early to start your Christmas promotions?

2)     The decade that digital came of age

3)     Getting seriously social

4)     Do your customers know their inbox from their shoebox?

5)     Do we really need the Royal Mail?

6)     Newsletter registrations really shouldn’t be this difficult!

7)     America sneezes and we catch a cold

8)     Crossing borders with email marketing

9)     When selecting an ESP is the most important question really, how much does it cost?

10)  Email Relevance – Be honest and you can’t go far wrong

If there are any topics that you feel we should cover over the next year of Inside the Inbox then please do let me know.

If you haven’t already signed up to receive Inside the Inbox updates you can do so via RSS here or by email on the blog.

So all that’s left to say is ‘Happy Birthday Inside the Inbox’ and here’s to another year of blogging!

eCircle Award NominationWe’re delighted to announce that our investors TA Associates have been short-listed at the InvestorAllStars 2010 Awards for the ‘Deal Envy of the Year’ for their majority investment of over €60million in eCircle.

Now in its eighth year, Investor AllStars brings together the best of Europe’s venture capital community to celebrate great investments, lucrative exits and all-round professional excellence. The awards recognise the leading risk-takers and backers of high-growth businesses in what is undoubtedly one of the most important events in the venture capital industry.

We’re up against some strong competition including our last investors Wellington Partners. Other nominees for Deal Envy of the Year Award include:

  • Heliatek GmbH − RWE Innogy GmbH
  • Spotify Limited − Wellington Partners
  • Mimecast Ltd − Index Ventures
  • Jolicloud SAS − Mangrove Capital Partners & Atomico Investment Holdings Ltd

The winner of the ’Deal Envy of the Year Award’ last year was the $17 million series B funding deal in Playfish by Accel, Index Ventures. We’re hopeful that our nomination is strong, as the €60million investment has already proved beneficial in the expansion of eCircle.

So fingers crossed we’ll be bringing home an award at the end of the night!

Investor AllStars 2010, Thursday 23rd September 2010 at the Hilton, Park Lane, London.

FlowersMy sister recently got married.  It was a gorgeous day: sunny, beautiful venue, stunning bride, dashing Naval Officer husband and groomsmen, verrrrry stylish bridesmaids (well, apart from me who was 6 months pregnant at the time and ever so slightly rotund in a very snug dress!) and the champagne flowed.  The photographers snapped away in the background, and – as all good wedding photographers should be – we didn’t even notice that they were there!

However it was the process of sharing the stunning snaps after the big day that impressed me so much.  I only got married 5 years ago, but I was struck how much things had moved on in terms of showing off the proofs and circulating the photos, post-wedding.  In ‘my day’ (circa 2005), we met the photographer (word of mouth), he took the snaps on the day, we met him afterwards and showed us the proofs, we chose which ones we wanted, he gave us a set of colour and black and white prints, plus a CD of the set, and off we trotted to choose which ones would adorn our fireplace/mantelpiece/sent to the family.  Job done.

My sister’s wedding photo experience was entirely different!

Firstly they found their photographers through a long and extensive search online, checking recommendations and web reviews, reading their blog, checking out their portfolio online and basically doing thorough research.  The photographers were booked, then turned up at the bride-to-be’s house as we were all getting ready in the morning, spent the entire day snapping away discreetly, and off they went well into the evening festivities.

The new Mr and Mrs Phillips were then – in less than a week! – sent a sneaky peak of some of the better shots from the day, via email, as a little teaser. The photographers told Hannah specifically that these were the shots to put on Facebook before too many amateur shots are tagged of them to ensure the newlyweds were able to showcase some amazing photos to their friends and family.  Of course the shots were subsequently forwarded via email to close friends and family to enjoy, shared on Facebook and generally admired by all their internet-savvy mates.  (And WOW were they worth sharing!)

The following week (and we’re talking less than two weeks after the wedding day), the photographers had put a simply stunning montage of ‘part one’ of the wedding onto their blog site (I know I’m biased but I have to say they are some of the best wedding photos I’ve ever seen).  The link was duly emailed around between friends and family and – again – shared on Facebook for all and sundry to enjoy.  The blog received loads of hits and comments from proud rellies and friends, and the photographers were able to gather a huge amount of glowing testimonials for the fabulous piccies.  An invaluable way of the photographers gathering feedback from both clients and their friends.

Blog posts ‘part two’ and ‘part three’ were shared in the following week, and less than 6 weeks after the wedding took place, all of the photos were posted onto a secure part of their website, password protected of course, and the bride and groom were able to share the link – via email of course  – with their guests.  In turn, the guests could send a link, again via email, of any of the shots to their own friends and family to encourage them to buy the photos.  Amazing!  So amazing that another sister of mine has booked them for her wedding later this year.  How’s that for a recommendation?

This is such a far cry from the process my photographer went through for our wedding just 5 short years ago.  I can’t imagine how much things will have developed in the next 5 years, exciting times indeed.

Me: Coffee please.
Barista: Would you like Espresso, Americano, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Mocha, Latte, or our new Frappuccino’s??
Me: Erm, Just a coffee.
Barista: A Drip? Grande?
Me: ? just a coffee. please.
Barista: A Grande Drip Americano?
Me: I just don’t know. Do you do Tea?
Barista: ?
Me: It’s ok, I don’t want one now. ..  I’m off to the pub.

The paradox of too much choice is that although clearly some choice is better than no choice, too much choice causes paralysis which leads to no choice at all. The need for extra information to assist an educated choice becomes overwhelming, so a reduction in decision confidence leads to a decision not to act at all. A classic 2000 supermarket study involving choice of exotic jams showed that although more shoppers were attracted by 24 varieties of jams in one stand, only 3% of them bought any of the jams displayed. On the other hand, 30% of the shoppers who stopped by the stand that offered only 6 varieties of jams bought some jams.

This flips conventional marketing wisdom for internet advertising on its head and compounds the theories that ‘TV industrial complex tactics’ practised by generation X are ineffective. We can’t continue to expect that when faced with a universe of unlimited options, consumers will apply some complex mathematical formula in their head to ascertain the merits of all choices and optimise the very best, even if overall having those choices are in fact better for them. Instead they avoid a decision altogether because they are unable to handle unlimited choices, there’s a defined limit to what they’re able to cope with. Barry Schwartz talks about the paradox of choice in this video.

 But with the exponential growth of communication, punctuated by the transcendence from TV marketing’s one to one, web 1.0’s one to many, and now in web 2.0, the social & viral internet paradigm of many to many, how do you combat information overload and limitless choice? Dave Allen in his book Getting Things Done talks about combating information overload by emptying your mind of open loops through total organization thus achieving a Zen like state of ‘mind like water’. Tim Ferris in his best seller ‘the 4 hour work week’  takes a more aggressive approach, suggesting adoption of disciplined, information overload reducing tactics where amongst many suggestions you only permit email delivery twice daily to efficiently deal with communication in bulk and reduce distraction. And Seth Godin eulogises about making your products stand out, to be remarkable like a ‘Purple Cow’, segregating your message from the average masses. All of these approaches are practical solutions, but more importantly they anticipate the prevailing wind. Therefore it is with welcome arms that yesterday Google announced the launch of Priority Inbox for its web based email service Gmail. An inevitable evolution towards reducing the white noise of limitless choice in your inbox.

In essence, Google has developed a complex set of algorithms that can analyse a user’s email behaviour, and rank emails depending on their perceived importance. Users will see their messages separated in to three categories, with emails deemed important and unread bumped to the top of the inbox. Messages that have been “starred” by users as a way of denoting importance, or something that they still need to action will appear next, with all other emails appearing at the bottom of the inbox pane. So in essence, Priority Inbox is a refreshing solution to email overload. This changes the dynamic of your inbox, instead of priority being given to a date stamp, priority is now given to relevancy. Halleluiah.
See techcrunch.com article for more information on this.

My colleague Philip Storey, Creative Consultant at eCircle recently gave his thoughts on how Priority Inbox will affect brands and email marketers in this great Econsultancy post ‘Gmail Priority Inbox: implications for email marketers’ .

It’s easy to arrive at the obvious conclusion that this will harm commercial email, but this would be embracing marketing strategies in their traditional form which are no longer effective. See Seth Godin’s talk on this topic here. A heartwarming conclusion is that those mailers who will suffer with this new development are the generic mailers, who’s tactics have thus far been to interrupt, shout loudly and to repeat mail en masse. We saw this when adverts interrupted our favourite TV show again and again until the program wasn’t worth the interruptions, so we switched over, or off. In terms of email, those same exploited, brow beaten consumers have already snubbed this approach by unsubscribing, complaining and junking. That’s because those customers are not your customers or prospects, they’re irrelevant, so they ignore you or complain. The development of Priority Inbox speeds the demise of those brands who have failed to make the necessary adaptations to emerging marketing trends. Rather than attempting to push unremarkable, mass market offers to the early and late majority, priority inbox commercially forces email marketing brands to engage their super fans, the innovators, early adopters or ‘sneezers’ who will happily spread your brand merits for you. These individuals will tell their friends and create highly lucrative, many to many communication which happily sells your brand for you. So priority Inbox can be the economic agent that heralds the rebalancing of the inbox by reducing consumer choices to definitive, tolerable levels through behavioral accuracy, making your message count only if you’re prepared to respect, understand and listen to your customer.

Me: Beer please
Barman: Usual sir?
Me: Yes please.

Email is still singingI sit on the IAB Email Council so am always really interested in the studies and research documents they produce.  The IAB are the trade association for digital marketing and they – in conjunction with iCD Research – recently carried out a survey of attitudes towards email marketing, levels of usage and preferred layout.

The results revealed that we should apparently be looking towards Amazon, Tesco and Marks and Spencer for inspiration when planning our email campaigns.  Around a quarter of consumers cited one or more of the three big brands as those they’d ‘most like to hear from’ via email, citing easy navigation and simplicity as the biggest draw in emails from marketers.  And here’s the good news for all of us in this industry we all know and love:  Email still resonates with consumers with a third of people having become interested in a brand or product they weren’t previously aware of as a result of an email.

Here are the key results the IAB and iCD Research recorded:

•    85% still see email as a vital communication tool
•    88% use their personal email accounts on a daily basis
•    66% like to hear from brands because they have good offers
•    60% used email to receive information from their favourite brands

In terms of what emails were the most popular, the survey revealed that simple, straightforward and useful emails with images and teaser texts were the most likely to be read. In short, the study proved that email is still very much a key player in our marketing strategy, but that we need to provide value, relevancy and a simple strong promotion to get the best outcome.  To view the research for yourself simply click here.

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