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Archive for February, 2010

When I started with eCircle many years ago, it was impossible to predict how much the online marketing landscape would change and what scope there would be within my job to help charities across the globe.  We recently ran an email campaign, shown at the end of this post, on behalf of the DEC to raise funds for Haiti. 

Lately, charitable causes have been able to really utilise the web to raise funds quickly and with minimal effort, not just through email campaigns like the one we ran for the DEC, but through Twitter, Facebook and other online means. Reportedly, over $1million has been raised for Haiti via Wyclef Jean’s twitter account alone! Additionally, the Haiti disaster has also seen record funds being raised through text message campaigns  with one site reporting over 10,000 text messages sent per second.  

In order to be even quicker off the mark in reacting to severe disasters, eCircle are attempting to create various concepts to help charitable organisations.  It’s incredible how much support can be gained from online marketing channels and we’re delighted to be able to be a part of raising funds for causes so important.

Haiti email campaign

eCircle Valuemail DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal Email

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So what happened to Swine flu? Apart from Johnny Sick Note claiming he was on death’s door when it first hit the news reels? At my last check it was going to wreak havoc on an unprecedented scale and within 28 days we’d all be squealing. I bought lots of newspapers that day ..

Maybe it wasn’t as bad as we first thought.

Today I was sat in a meeting with a head of marketing for a major European brand and I faced a similar sensationalist, yet somewhat tiresome opinion:

“In America the email open rate is less than 1%: the UK will be the same, it is just a matter of time…”

How depressing. He was of course referring to email list rental response rates in the US, and in part he’s not wrong.  In fact nevermind America, there are plenty of European lists which perform in a similar, appalling way. I bet this fellow also had swine flu recently.

But in the case of email, America’s sneeze shouldn’t result in a cold in the UK or Europe. Apart from the obvious differences in the privacy laws, we have an unforeseen advantage of multiple countries each developing their email marketplace maturity at different paces, and different cultures and legislation tackling those developments as they occur. This causes a natural barrier to large scale mass marketing techniques so effective with generation X, but totally ineffective for generation Y, thus resulting (possibly through more fortune than design) in far efficiently adapted online marketing channels. America’s once well trusted application of old school marketing methods has resulted in an unfortunate mass consumer snub, yet Europe’s inability to apply the same methodology to the same magnitude has bought us time and education to establish greater consumer trust created by technologies designed in more turbulent waters. 

So what might have initially appeared a logistical headache now presents huge opportunities. Email marketing in Europe has not only maintained healthy response levels, but also presents measureable, predictable metrics and highly profitable rewards for the well thought out campaign. Couple this with the growing establishment of specialist pan European email marketing companies, like eCircle, 2010 is looking like it could be a great year for European suppliers and marketing brands alike.

Like many dot com success stories, they say the first up the hill gets the arrows, but it’s those that follow who eventually take the prize. So when it comes to email, with cup of tea in hand and a stiff upper lip I say; “you can keep your swine flu, just like the guinea pigs you are!”

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I was lucky enough to attend the Email Experience Council’s Email Evolution Conference in Miami last week (it rained) and was extremely interested to see what our friends Stateside had to say about this industry we all know and love.  I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest, but one thing was glaringly clear: us Brits are most definitely holding our own and it was extremely comforting to see that, actually, we’re doing OK. 

I attended a presentation entitled ‘Social Relationship Marketing: New Building Blocks for 21st Century Brands’ with a panel from RAPP North America, Publicis Modem and Bank of America. And as you’d expect from the title, the session was all about understanding where dialogues (or should I say dialogs?) are happening, how companies are reacting and interacting with our brands and the provision of tools which will enable our clients and prospects to engage with us.  In short, it was about providing relevance and value.  All very interesting of course.  But one phrase kept on cropping up: Tribes.

I am, like most marketing bloggers, an avid reader of Seth Godin’s blog and was of course aware of his Tribes book and free Tribes Ebook, but I wasn’t aware that the phrase had entered into our marketing vocabulary quite so prolifically, at least in the USA. I acknowledge that it’s highly possible that I might have just been sitting in my own little bubble, but somehow this phrase (in this context at least) has basically passed me by.  So I decided to do a little research into the definition and reassuringly most of the stuff I found was a) generated from the USA and b) only written in 2009. When I asked my colleagues whether they had heard of the word used in this way, they looked as baffled as me.  Phew.  So, as the saying goes, we’re divided by a common language from our lovely American cousins.

What does it mean?  Basically according to Mr Godin (see video below), the internet has ended mass marketing (which obviously isn’t a new idea in itself) and has revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. We’re supposed to nurture and grow our own tribes, creating products and services that will continually delight said ‘tribes’.  In a nutshell, from what I can understand, tribe marketing is highly targeted marketing to specific social groups.  A tribe is a group of people, connected to each other AND a vision or an idea.

For millions of years, humans have joined tribes, be it religious, cultural, political, ethnic… the list goes on.   Before the internet, leading a tribe was practically impossible but nowadays, communication is free, easy and global.  With email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and all the other tools at our fingertips, all it takes is a shared interest for us all to become part of a movement…a tribe. 

Shhh don’t tell anyone but a small part of me just thinks why use the word ‘tribe’ when ‘group’ works just as well?  However, whilst I can’t see us Europeans adopting this phrase as quickly as our friends over the pond, it has really made me think. What are your thoughts?  Can you see us talking about our ‘tribes’ in the near future?

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Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m notoriously ‘thrifty’. I see myself as abstemious with my finances, most everyone else thinks I’m tight. It must be my Scottish ancestry. My underlying logic is; if I’m buying a packet of cereal, for example, then why pay twice as much for Kelloggs as for the ‘own brand’…it’s probably the same stuff inside the packet anyway. It is a bit more difficult to justify this same logic with higher value items (electrical goods, clothing, furniture etc) but I will generally trawl the internet and find the best offer I can and feel better about myself afterwards, knowing that I’ve got the best ‘deal’. This is why it came as no little surprise to me, and some astonishment to my wife, that I recently bought one of the more expensive models of car in its category. Sadly, it isn’t a mid-life crisis sports car, it’s an MPV and I went through similar thought processes as I would do when buying say a pair of jeans, but I still ended up spending more money than I’d imagined I would at the beginning. How and why did this happen?

I started-off the process with my normal mentality; ‘how much do I want to spend and what’s the best I can get for my money?’ However, as my research progressed and the more cars I test-drove, the more it became apparent to me that adopting my normal ‘Scottish’ approach was not the right way to go about making a high involvement, lifestyle purchase such as this. I had my family’s safety to consider. There were practical aspects to take into account, such as inside space and economy, the age of the car and after sales service. The list was endless…

Then it dawned on me…the way I normally approached making purchase decisions was completely the opposite way that I should approach buying this car. I should work out what was most important, what I wanted to achieve from buying this car and try to work out the ‘deal’ backwards from that. Initially this made me feel nervous; I’m used to having a budget and either sticking to that or paying less than I’d budgeted for. However when I thought more pragmatically about things I realised that I wouldn’t sleep soundly at night knowing that I’d bought a clapped out, 3rd hand Vauxhall Zafira when I could have bought a newer, safer, better loved model that would last me longer and come with a proper service history and support plan. In the end my wife and I found our ideal car – a Mazda 5, should you be interested- and it has been absolutely brilliant. Suffice to say that I still got a ‘deal’ from the salesman at the dealership and haggled for days to get it, however I ended up spending a lot more than I’d originally budgeted for. I appreciate that it’s not like the Mazda 5 is the Porsche Cayenne (although they compare much more favourably in terms of economy, reliability and holding their long term value!)…

So why would I share the story of my recent car-buying exploits with you? Well, it occurred to me recently that this is quite a good analogy for how it seems that email marketers choose an ESP. There are the first kind who always want the best price, irrespective of anything else (functionality, reliability, service etc). There are the second kind (the majority) who want a good all round package of the right product/provider at the right price. However, there has been a trend recently of clients coming to me having completely flipped their search criteria on its head. This third, newer kind of buyer says, ‘I’m here and I want to get to there by the end of the year, how are you going to help me do this?’ For example; email marketing contributed £5 million in sales in 2009 and we want it to contribute £10 million in 2010, plus we want to increase the size of our active database by 25% in the process…provide a proposal for how you are going to do this. This buyer recognises not only the power and potential of a good email program, but also the hugely disproportionate increase in sales that a small increase in spend can generate. I guess it is the old ‘speculate to accumulate’ mentality in action.

I’ve heard it said by one of our competitors, that the worst question that you can ask of an ESP, without understanding anything about their offering/company/system is ‘How much does it cost?’ and I’d have to agree.

So often people make their selection of ESP based on the wrong criteria as Tamara Gielen suggests in this article. Over the past few years, I’ve heard people say ‘we don’t want to pay for support, because we won’t need any’ or ‘we really like your system, but can’t justify the prices’. Increasingly, my response is ‘have you thought about what you are looking to achieve and what you want to get out of your email marketing strategy and partner?’ For those people who tell me that they just want to send the same email to their whole database once a week, and want a cheap, reliable way of doing this, then I’m generally happy to refer these people to one of the basic, entry level systems that are so readily available out there (the no frills VW polo, if you like – get’s you from A to B). For those people who appreciate that they should be getting more out of their program/partner, but can’t always justify the cost or effort then sometimes eCircle is the right partner or sometimes they’ll go elsewhere to a cheaper provider- this is a bit like buying a VW Golf, but potentially buying it from the wrong dealer. However, those of you who really want to take things to the next level and really develop your strategy, understand your customer base and drive both retention and acquisition as a result, you will end up with the right vehicle for that (hopefully eCircle). That is not to say that you won’t be able to negotiate with your ‘dealer’ once you’ve found and test driven the right piece of kit. You might also spend more than you originally expected, however, if you end up being as happy with your email marketing partner as I am with my Mazda 5, then you’ll have approached your review in the right way!

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