Poor database management can destroy your brand’s credibility


My inbox is overflowing with ‘invitations’ to attend numerous conventions, exhibitions, masterclasses, seminars and so on. I don’t know where these guys get my email address but I must be on every mailing list from Malaysia to Mexico.

I’ve trained my junk mail filter to send most of them to the trash without me having to do it manually but somehow, quite a few still get through. One company is particularly good at getting around my filter and I find myself actually reading the subject line or even some of the copy, especially when I can’t find anything with which to self harm which is what I would prefer to do.

Normally I just swear at the sender, make a note of the company name and promise myself that I will never, ever attend one of their events and then just trash the email. But I thought I’d share this one with you so that if you are in the event or seminar business, you might learn something.

Here is a section of their most recent email

Not quite relevant to brand consultants
Not quite relevant to brand consultants

Of course her earlier email was included so I’m going to share part of it with you

Who is responsible for boilers? Are you serious?
Who is responsible for boilers? Are you serious?

You can draw your own conclusions from this farcical attempt to get the head of boiler operations at a brand consultancy to attend a seminar, the benefits of which are according to the email, “boiler efficiency, improved water strategy and analysis, better understanding of modern boiler burner operations as well as easier identification of its failures, by reducing cost and increasing safety and finally better understanding of legal requirements of Dosh

Tosh more like. If you must use email campaigns to try and drum up business, here are 5 top tips for an email campaign:

1) Give recipients an opt out from your list. This email doesn’t even allow me to unsubscribe, which may well be illegal.
2) Segment your list or risk destroying your brand. You’ve collected information, use it properly. Failure to do so may see you embarrassed on a blog.
3) Make your subject line creative, short and sweet.
4) Less is more. Trust me, the more emails I get, the more determined I am not to attend any of the seminars listed.
5) Track your customer activities. If they don’t respond to any emails, get in contact and find out why.

There you are, despite annoying me I’ve given you some sound and free advice. I shall be sending this post to Anna. Feel free to send it to anyone who keeps sending you irrelevant emails.

Infographic: The history of marketing


HubSpot, the inbound marketing gurus have come up with an impressive infographic that outlines the history of marketing from the first one dimensional ads of 1450 to the digital, more interactive model of today.

The history of marketing
The history of marketing

It’s a massive infographic that features all the key moments in the evolution of marketing such as the print era that lasted 300 or so years to the introduction of new channels including TV and radio advertising and then onto the digital era of video, search marketing, inbound marketing, email and more before coming to the present era of social media and mobile.

Great tips for using email to build your brand


More and more firms are using effective email campaigns in association with their social media initiatives to build brands. This is because an email campaign allows you to know who is opening your emails, which links they’re clicking on and how many of your them are forwarding your emails to their friends. The right product also means you will only pay when a recipient clicks through to the offer.

Malaysian firms are slowly waking up to the benefits of a good email campaign. Let me put that differently, Malaysian firms are waking up to the fact that email is an effective marketing tool. Which is good timing because according to a recent report from MarketingProfs, email returns the highest return on investment (ROI).

The problem is that too many Malaysian firms are trying to do their email campaigns ‘on the cheap’. often they do it inhouse or if they do outsource, they outsource to the cheapest company.

This means they often send out poor quality emails that can damage the brand. it is important to get the email and the content of your email right. Because this is the first interaction a potential customer will have with your brand. It is a great opportunity to make a good impression and start building the foundations you need to earn their trust and eventually make a sale.

Unfortunately, it is also a great opportunity to make a bad impression. And once you’ve made a bad impression, it is very dificult to build trust with a consumer who is already forming a negative opinion of you and your brand.

Not only should your email campaign resonate with your target markets, it also needs to be well written and to the point. If it is full of poor English or grammatical errors, you will create a bad impression with the recipient.

Below are two examples of emails I received recently. Although I haven’t included the subject line, take it from me they were almost as bad as the copy.

poor proof readingterrible email copy

How to create a good email campaign
When you prepare an email campaign, the subject line is the most important element of the exercise because this is the first thing the recipient will see.

If there are spelling mistakes in the subject line, the reader will not have any faith in what you say from there on in. If you make outrageous claims in the subject line, the email will go straight to the trash.

Finally, if the subject line doesn’t state its point concisely, it will be ignored. Accept that it is impossible to include content in a subject line that will appeal to everyone on your mailing list. It may take more time but it is better to break up your database and rewrite different subject lines and body copy for different segments.

Once you get to the body of the email, a good rule of thumb is that less is more. Don’t waffle on and on about how great is your product or use textbook marketing jargon that confuses the reader and drives them away from the product.

Keep the email simple. Remember, you are not trying to make a sale, only get the recipient to interact with your brand. Explain what you have to offer, where the recipient can get it or gather more information, who you are and why they should buy your product or service.

Finally and most importantly, focus more on the benefits of your product not the features.

Get the message right, and email is an effective and inexpensive way to make sales, grow your customer base and build a valuable, profitable brand. Used wrongly and it is a complete waste of your time and the recipient’s time and instead of making sales and building your brand you will actually damage your brand.

Email and your brand, part three


Sticking with the use of email as a tactic within your brand strategy, I came across this interesting graphic showing when are the best times to send emails. Thanks Chuan Choong for the heads up.

But even if you get the timing right and the recipient does actually scan or even read the email, there are certain rules that must be adhered to.

You must be honest (in the US, deceptive subject lines are illegal) and transparent by revealing routing information such as the originator email address.

Make sure you offer recipients an opt out method and if they opt out, accept it and don’t add them back again three months later.

If you want to be taken seriously, I suggest you also include your physical address and website in any emails.

It is important too to make sure you track the effectiveness of your email campaigns and analyse the results. Create a source code for each campaign, track response rates, cost in terms of personnel, financial and time.

But most important of all is the content of the email and whether it is personalised and relevant to the target.

Here is another email that I received recently. From memory lane it is an absolute shocker. It isn’t personalised, it doesn’t resonate with me, the content is dull and uninspiring and the design, if I may call it that is dreadful.

When I receive a good example I will post it!

Direct Mail, Email and your brand


Direct Mail and Email marketing are critical components of any branding strategy for either a business to business or business to consumer brand. And it is a growing business. But the quality of Direct Mail and Email marketing in Malaysia and the mining and management of the databases used is horrendous.

If you own a company and you want to destroy any equity there may be in your brand, prepare a badly written product sheet on your desktop and when you are finished, don’t bother to spell check the document.

Print 50,000 copies and shove them in all the letterboxes of as many office or apartment complexes in the Klang Valley as you can. While you are sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring (assuming you included it on the flyer – and believe me, some don’t), your ‘DM campaign’ is being thrown in the rubbish bin by the lift, used as a place mat for lunch or simply thrown on the floor by the mail boxes. Hardly an inspiring ‘moment of truth’ first time experience for your brand and potential customer.

Another way to damage your brand is to send the wrong material to the wrong people. I have three kids, two under the age of 13. Yet this year they have both received two offers from credit card companies. These offers state that applicants must be at least 18 years of age.

A lot of firms are moving away from DM to save money on the printing of their flyers or brochures and looking at Email marketing. Although figures are unavailable for Malaysia, the Direct Marketing Association in the UK informs us that 90% of companies are now using email marketing.

There is no doubt that a well thought out and planned email campaign can be effective and profitable. But too many firms don’t do this and instead are simply adding to the seven trillion spam messages expected to be delivered to inboxes around the world in 2011.

I signed up with a local event organiser for information on forthcoming branding and marketing seminars that they organise in the region. Within a week my inbox was inundated with emails related to human resources, accounting, insurance, motivation and other topics I have nothing to do with and no interest in. These emails are trashed with the same irritation as the ones for Viagra, lottery wins and Nigerian banks.

Despite my repeated requests to be unsubscribed from their list, I continue to receive multiple emails. I cannot simply mark the email as ‘junk’ because they are using a Gmail account and this will send all mail from Gmail addresses to my trash. The name of the company is ingrained in my subconscious, but for all the wrong reasons and it is now a matter of principle that we will not sign up for any event organized by this firm.

I have received about 10 emails in the past month from an insurance company that recently spent RM13 million (US$4 million) on a rebranding exercise. The emails are not personalized, the attachment is of a flyer that is dull and states in two places that the offer is exclusively for Mastercard holders yet I don’t have a Mastercard.

I really lose faith in financial institutions and other companies when they make such mistakes. Think of the money wasted on the cost of the name, flyers, administration and so on.

The rewards for good campaigns are significant. The Direct Marketing Association reports that more than RM550 billion was spent on direct marketing advertising (including email marketing) in 2008 and sales generated from that were an astonishing RM6,450 billion! There is no question then that DM can be effective because it allows consumers to read about the products and services before deciding to explore further, or even buy.

But it has to be done properly. It is not enough simply to create a campaign and send it out. It is also important that the content resonates with the target market. And you still need to ‘sell’ the product. Just because you have got into the prospect’s inbox, doesn’t mean the prospect will buy.

The key for all direct marketing or email marketing is get the customer information right in the first place and keep it updated accurately thereafter. If you are collecting a lot of leads but don’t have the resources to input and clean the data, then outsource. There are many firms offering such services and it will be money well spent.

There is an edict within Direct Marketing industry that says, “Right offer, right person, right time.”

So it’s time for Malaysian firms, from SME up to main board, to end all this untargetted, uninspiring, untrackable, unproofed direct mail and start building brands with quality marketing collateral.

Effective email campaigns must be part of your brand strategy


You’ve probably never heard of unsolicited bulk Email (UBE) or for that matter, unsolicited commercial email (UCE) but you have of course heard of junk mail or spam, the more common moniker.

The earliest known spam was a message sent in 1978 and the earliest known commercial spam message was sent in March 1994. This latter event coincided with the opening up of the Internet and the amount of spam has grown exponentially since then and the forecast is that seven trillion spam messages will be sent in 2011, making up about 85% of all emails sent worldwide.

This constant carpet bombing of consumer inboxes with irrelevant messages has had a detrimental effect on email marketing and now, with the advent of social media, our belief and trust in email is wavering. Nevertheless, email is still an effective tool in the communications of any brand strategy. It can be used as a marketing, sales, retention and CRM tool and response rates to personalized emails have been reported to be as high as 62% although 2-4% is the average. Still impressive.

But it is critical for marketers to ensure that their emails are relevant to the target market, well written and succinct enough to gain the attention of the reader in the roughly three seconds they have before the reader hits the delete/spam button.

It is also critically important to ensure before the campaign begins, that you know what the purpose of the campaign is and, most important of all, that your database is clean and up to date.

I am constantly stunned at the amount of shockingly written, poorly thought out and irrelevant emails that land in my inbox. I’m equally stunned at the amount of times I receive the same email from the same organization.

For instance this email, from an organization that recently spent RM15 million (US$5 million) on a ‘rebranding’ exercise, is exclusively for Mastercard owners yet I don’t have a mastercard!

Furthermore, the email is addressed to ‘undisclosed recipients’ and contains no cover message or other form of personalization. Finally, to the detriment of the brand, it has been sent to me an incredible six times in less than a month!

Takaful Malaysia which refurbished its 13 platinum branches and outdoor signs and billboards during the rebranding exercise should have also looked at its communications processes and systems, including qualification, lead and list management and other elements. As its stated aim is to ‘make the company more appealing to the younger age group, it should also review its creatives! But I digress!

What should Takaful Malaysia and other companies, who are thinking of carrying out email campaigns do to ensure those email campaigns create leads and prospects rather than brand antagonists?

Here are 10 recommendations that will help them and others get the most out of email:

1. Target your message
It’s critical that the subject line grabs the attention of the reader and encourages them to open the email. The best way to do this is to personalize the subject line. The Takaful Malaysia subject was the name of the product. Few people buy products. A better option would have been “Can I help you protect your family?”

2. Segment your target markets
Keep list sizes to a manageable amount. Don’t send gazillions of messages and then be unable to respond to them in an acceptable time frame (24 hours). Segmenting your targets will stop this happening.

3. Target messages
Keeping list sizes to a manageable level will allow you to develop multiple messages for multiple segments, critical to successful tracking. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

4. Use a Salutation
The whole point of the exercise is to get a response, not to make a sale. If you met someone at a convention, you wouldn’t start pitching to them the moment you are introduced and it is the same with an email campaign. Be contemporary, slightly informal and inviting. Start prospecting emails with a greeting and, depending on the product or service, the contact’s first or last name, such as “Dear Mr Smith” or “Hi Fatima.”

If you don’t have the first and last name, don’t send the email until you have the correct information. The majority of emails without a name will go straight to the trash folder.

5. Keep Your Email Short
Lay the content out so that it is easy to read and keep the first email short to ensure it is skimmed. You want the prospect to read the entire email but they won’t stick around for long so make it a fast, easy read.

Keep the email to three paragraphs of no more than three or four sentences. You can also close with a one-line sentence.

6. Track each segment within each campaign
One of the great advantages of email campaigns over traditional advertising campaigns is the ability to calculate an exact CROI (campaign return on investment).

But don’t limit your calculations to response and conversion rates. Depending on the goals of the campaign, track demographics, territories, consumer data, page visits, click-throughs, time spent on pages, and other elements. Use this information to influence future email campaigns with more efficient and effective content.

7. Have a hook
Business owners and C level executives are busier than ever. They don’t have time to waste so have an instant hook. We are in difficult economic times and businesses are looking to save money, especially small businesses so an obvious hook would be related to saving money for a business. Ensure content resonates with target markets.

8. Content is still king
Mention specific issues relevant to target segments. There is so much information available that it is easy to identify issues affecting segments. It may take a little more preparation but it will be worth it in the long term.

9. Don’t go overboard on design
I’ve received emails with video clips, multiple graphics, embedded links, audio and so on. These are all distracting and time consuming when opened on a mobile device at an airport. Keep it simple.

10. Email marketing should form part of a brand strategy
Many firms conduct email campaigns on a whim, without any real thought or planning. This is a bit like driving a Ferrari in first gear, the car does everything you want it to but is it getting the best out of the car?

Incorporate your email campaigns into your brand strategy. Identify your quiet periods and implement an email campaign to boost sales in that period.

Email is still the most effective way to reach a lot of new prospects quickly and inexpensively. Email campaigns also have impressive response rates.

But email campaigns, carried out in an amateur way, can have a negative effect on your brand. However, if you follow these email best practices, prospects will take notice and respond, increasing your sales and building your brand.

Mass emails have a negative effect on your brand


In the early days of the Internet, as brands tried to capitalize on the consumer accessibility email addresses offered, spam was a real problem. But more efficient filters and the ineffectiveness of the one-size-fits-all mass marketing approach soon saw a reduction in spam.

Unfortunately, after a brief lull, the amount of mind numbingly irrelevant and sometimes irreverent emails that I receive from a variety of sources seems to be on the rise. But what’s surprising about the latest avalanche is that many of the emails are coming from advertising industry trade publications that should know better.

Recently I received 3 emails telling me how great a new radio station is. I received another three telling me about the launch of the Mandarin version of the same trade publication.

Now I understand that when I agreed to submit irregular articles to the publication, I probably also agreed to receive ‘carefully chosen 3rd party promotional messages’ but these emails were in Cantonese (I think)! Marcus Osborne does not sound like someone who might be interested in listening to Cantonese radio stations!

I’m also getting tired of receiving badly targetted emails from supposedly tech and branding savvy organisations like Amazon. Now this may be a coincidence but earlier this week I went to amazon.com to see if I could buy a Kindle. Unfortunately because I live in Malaysia I cannot buy one and even if I could it would be useless because none of the titles available on Kindle can be downloaded in Malaysia. I was obviously disapointed but after a while you get used to these things in South East Asia. However this morning I received an email from Amazon suggesting I buy my father a Kindle for Father’s Day. That really is rubbing salt into the wound.

Case studies of successful email campaigns are hard to come by, but American Greetings Interactive, an online supplier of greeting cards increased customer engagement by 13% between October 2009 and April 2010 thanks to a number of targeted email marketing campaigns.

Rather than shooting out the same email to the whole 5 million member database, American Greetings Interactive and their partner, Metrics Marketing, segmented the card company’s customer database into more than 15 sub segments and created relevant content based not only on the members status, but also previous history, account type and more.

This focus on relevant content and information that resonated with each of the sub segments increased engagement and resulted in more click throughs, more information, more referrals, opportunities for increased share of wallet and more subscriptions.

If you have something to offer, identify those in your data base who may be interested and target them alone. It may take a little time but it is time well spent. Otherwise using mass emails to try and sell the same product to everyone may actually have a negative effect on your brand and you may end up actually turning those customers away.