Recent Posts

Meeting the SAME Challenge

Written on June 2nd, 2010 | Posted by Ivan Chalif in Same project, Email metrics, Eec roundtable



I'm new here, but I've been around a long time. I've seen the confusion and frustration that non-uniform report metrics can cause, both for marketers and for agencies and vendors providing email services and technology.

Email marketers are almost universally judged based on program performance. For them, every click, open, delivered, bounced and sent matters. So when there are multiple email systems in play or marketers are considering a new email solution from a different vendor, there are always headaches around what the report metrics are and why they don't match.

The marketer gets mad because things are different and there's no way to compare apples to apples. The vendor gets mad because some performance metric in their system is not coming out as well as some other vendor's, so they look bad. The marketer's boss gets mad because the numbers don't match up between systems, so they lose confidence in ALL of the metrics.

It's all around bad for everyone.

I volunteered for the eec's Measurement Accuracy Roundtable because I believe that accurate and consistent reporting is key to improving not only email marketing programs, but all marketing programs. Metrics that marketers have faith in and trust provide the data they need to do more advanced targeting and segmentation, which creates a unique and more engaging experience for recipients.

Isn't that what email marketing has promised all along?

Accurate and consistent metrics give marketers the confidence to add bold elements to their programs because they can count on the data on which they make their decisions. Reporting data that is consistent across programs and providers lets businesses make informed decisions about which solutions best serve their needs, not just which one has the most forgiving formulas in their reports.

But now I put on my vendor hat and say, "Why should I do this? It's not a competitive differentiator. I haven't seen this on any RFP. What's in it for me?"

On the surface, nothing, but underneath, it says a lot about what's important: the email marketer. Your customers. Your users. Your industry.

Sure, as a vendor, there are a ton of new features, enhancements, and fixes that need to be added to the application, but this one is not just about your current users or prospects. It's about the email community. It's about making A = A. It's about fixing something that is broken with our industry.

What will you do for your industry? Will you join us in helping fix a long-time issue that affects all email marketers? Together, we can do it!


- Ivan Chalif
Director of Email Product Marketing
Alterian


Read Fred Tabsharami's post on the SAME project.

Read more about standard email metrics.

 

The S.A.M.E. Project or Support the Adoption of Metrics for Email was created and is administered by the eec's Email Measurement Accuracy Roundtable.  The purpose of project is to create a standardized framework for the reporting of email metrics across the industry.

S.A.M.E. is not only an acronym for the project’s name; it is also its goal – to have all email metrics reported by ESPs the same way under a uniform industry standard.  For email marketers in the field the standard provides four key benefits:

  1. The standard improves testing validity by limiting environmental variance.
  2. The standard improves industry benchmarking through increased data conformity and validity across samples.
  3. The standard improves internal historical reporting for benchmarking by easing the transition between vendors. 
  4. Use of the standards will eventually normalize data across the industry, a key assumption required for statistical analysis of email data.

 

 

 

 

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U.S. Congress Planning Broader Email & Digital Marketing Enforcement and Regulatory Power for the FTC

Written on June 1st, 2010 | Posted by Stephanie Miller in Can-spam, Ftc, Regulations, Eec webinar



The recession has made citizens more attentive to scams, especially those that promise easy money or frighten people about the banking system.  This accelerates the already large regulatory agenda of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), whose role as a “civil prosecutor” includes regulating and enforcing protections from online offers, advertising and email marketing.  Congress is also stepping up, and two major initiatives around privacy protection and the role of the FTC are in active play.

Partnering with all of us in the email industry and watching to make sure we properly self-regulate remains a key component of the FTC’s plans, says Lois Greisman, Director, Division of Marketing Practices for the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, who joined our annual Email Experience Council legislative update webinar on May 19th.  “Our goal is to stop fraud and scams as quickly as possible, to shut down offenders, and, where appropriate, seize assets and reimburse consumers,” she said in the webinar.

The recording of the full event is available in the eec Research Store and is free for eec members.

The U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which regulates permission practices for email marketing, continues to be a key anti-fraud tool for the FTC.  Greisman noted several successes in prosecuting spammers and other deceptive practices and said enforcement continues to be a major priority.  “CAN-SPAM has worked well to level the playing field among legitimate online marketers,” she said.  She also added that she was not aware of any active proposal by the FTC or Congress to expand or change the law.

However, there are two active proposals of new legislation that could have significant impact on email marketing and the email industry as a whole.

  1. Online Privacy Protection Bill A “Discussion Draft” of a bill to require notice and consent to any individual PRIOR to collecting or using personal information was released in early May in the US House of Representatives from Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL).  Industry and consumer groups alike are not happy with the draft, including the DMA.  Although it may seem at first that the so-called Boucher Bill was just about online behavioral advertising conducted by large marketers; it turns out that it’s very broad and far-reaching on privacy and data security.  During the webinar, Jerry Cerasale, VP, Government Relations for the DMA, gave a very good overview of coverage, exceptions and terms of notice.  Basically, it impacts nearly all kinds of “first party” senders as well as any other company that has access to that data as a “third party.”  It proposes coverage of an extensive list of “unique and persistent” personal data on consumers.

    “One potentially bad impact this could have on the email industry concerns the scope of covered data, including email address, IP address, and other unique, persistent identifiers,” says panelist Tom Bartel, CIPP, VP, Receiver Services at Return Path.  “If the exceptions for transactional and operational purposes and for service providers are not effective and clear, this bill could interfere with many industry collaborations.  This includes IP-based reputation systems – data that determines if email messages reach the inbox or not.  It may also impact the operation of Feedback Loops provided to email senders by mailbox providers like Yahoo! and Hotmail.  These feedback loops are a key component in how the industry keeps bad actors out of the email ecosystem."

    Both Representatives Boucher and Stearns have indicated a willingness to work with industry and have requested comments on the bill, due by June 4th.  Cerasale said the DMA will be commenting.

  2. Expansion of FTC Powers: Congress is also considering significantly expanding the powers of the FTC as part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (HR 4173).  There is not a corresponding bill in the Senate, although Cerasale said in the webinar that one may be introduced later this year. 

    Part of the proposed regulation would give the FTC “unbridled authority” to create rules around “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” for many industry sectors.  Cerasale expressed concern about this, and said that more checks and balances are needed.  It is also unclear how this expansion will impact emerging technologies like social or mobile, he said.

    Another part of the proposed bill increases the FTC’s enforcement powers to seek civil penalties.  “That may be helpful in catching spammers and other abusers of email marketing,” said Rick Buck, CIPP and VP, ISP Relations and Privacy at e-Dialog.  “Marketers who feel they are exempt from prosecution because they are legal under CAN-SPAM may be following the letter of the law, but not the spirit.  I encourage everyone to go beyond the legal requirements and aim to provide email experiences that are welcome and engaging to subscribers.”

    The FTC’s Greisman said only that, “We welcome any support from Congress that helps the agency be more effective and efficient.”  There are some “tools that we lack which Congress may grant us the power to use,” she said.

    A third element to this proposed legislation is on responsibility/liability of the delivery provider (broadcast vendor, ESP, MTA Vendor) if their clients do not follow CAN-SPAM or other regulations.  “This aiding and abetting aspect is very concerning,” said webinar panelist, Dennis Dayman, VP, Privacy & Online Security at Eloqua.  “Blurring the lines between purveyor and sender may place an undue penalty on others in the ‘chain of responsibility’ for all brands involved in online advertising or other online acquisition efforts, like third party email senders and publishers,” Dayman said.


Greisman also reported in the webinar that there is no significant update on the behavioral targeting protection guidelines that the FTC has had out for comment for over a year. “Nothing will happen without input from industry,” she said.  Since the mandate from the FTC has been, “self regulate or else,” the webinar panelists Buck, Bartel and Dayman had a number of suggestions for marketers to follow best practices, including:

  1. Ensure transparency in disclosure and notice of permission and use of data.
  2. Be very clear about opt out vs. opt in.  CAN-SPAM requires only an opt-out, but that is the “bare minimum,” Buck advises.
  3. Update your Privacy Policy and provide prominent links.
  4. Audit your data usage practices.
  5. Be clear on use of data in all web forms and at the point of collection/sign up.


Marketers and everyone in the email industry can support the FTC, Greisman said.  She suggests:

  1. File a complaint.  When those complaints are also referred by the DMA, they are particularly helpful, Greisman said.
  2. Make sure your opt out mechanisms are working.  (e-Dialog’s Buck recommends checking this at least annually, and preferably monthly.)
  3. Be clear about the sender and the advertiser relationships.  (Return Path’s Bartel recommends first party senders consider “framing” the content from third parties or advertisers and clearly distinguish between editorial (original content) and advertising.)
  4. Keep data clean, particularly around new sources.  (Eloqua’s Dayman also recommends care around affiliates’ use of data.)


The legislative update webinar was sponsored by Eloqua, e-Dialog and Return Path, with technology sponsor GoToWebinar.  The recording of the full event is free for eec members.  More details on these and other legislative issues important to digital and direct marketers is in the DMA’s quarterly government affairs newsletter, Politically Direct.

 

- Stephanie Miller
Return Path & eec

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7 B2B Trends in Strategies and Spending

Written on May 3rd, 2010 | Posted by Lynne Nigro

 

While each B2B marketer must consider its unique situation – products, purchasers, sales cycle, etc. – there is ample evidence of a shift from traditional media to digital tactics to facilitate growth for business marketers.  In fact, there are, in my analysis, seven trends in B2B marketing strategies and spending starting with …

  1. The Internet has become the premier resource of information amongst C-Suite executives with search engine first for information. 
  2. Digital marketing – in its myriad forms – along with email marketing, form an important part of B2B marketing outreach to generate leads and facilitate sales growth.  
  3. Online social networking is emerging as an important tool in business-to-business marketing.  
  4. Usage of blogs, microblogs, and RSS Feeds – currently segregated by generation – may eventually become essential contact points in maintaining B2B brands. 
  5. Mobile marketing or the “mobile web” seems to be in its genesis amongst B2B marketers. 
  6. B2B branding is growing in importance and directly correlated with increases in top-line revenue and market cap. 
  7. Accountability is predominant – from analytics and front-end campaign tracking to back-end lead nurturing.

Developing campaigns that account for these seven trends is of especial importance now – in order to foster sales growth and profitability – and perhaps even a necessity in a hypercompetitive world.  Read the full report in the Research Store.

 

- Lynne Nigro
Direct & Digital Marketing Consultant
Lynne is accepting new consulting assignments.

 

 

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After the Click: Improving Campaign Performance With Web Analytics

Written on April 19th, 2010 | Posted by Marco Marini in Email, Email marketing, Analytics, Metrics




What happens after you send out that carefully crafted email campaign? What do you look for beyond open rates and click throughs? What do people actually do when they get to your landing page or website? And are you able to not only track that information, but put it to use in your next campaign?

To really understand the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns, you need to keep tracking your customers’ behavior beyond your email, even beyond your landing page. How else can you know your real success if you don’t know your real results? Plus you can learn from knowing what people do at your website. Where else do they click? Which other pages do they visit? Do they sign up for your emails? How long do they hang around? At what point do they bail? To gather this data, your email must be integrated with your web analytics. It’s the only way to carry your tracking through comprehensively.

And on the other side of that information gathering is what you do with that data to improve your email marketing. Ideally it’s a closed loop process, with the ESP and web analytics both feeding information to each other.

By integrating your email with your web analytics, you can track behavior and better understand your conversion rates, improve your campaigns, respond to individual behavior in near real-time, and ultimately increase your email marketing ROI. You can learn, tweak and improve, and even segment your email marketing messages in the future.

Integrating email with web analytics gives you real-life data, but it’s not as easy as it seems. However, the payoff is worth it. If you’re ready to take on—and profit from—this kind of integration, here are some things to consider, both when choosing an analytics provider and when setting up the integration:

  • How often data is flowing from the analytics provider to your ESP and how quickly do you need to make decisions based on that data? If you can wait 24 hours to get data back, then a batch process is fine. However, if you’re looking at shopping cart abandonment, and you need to react right away to a behavior, you need something more real-time so you’ll want an inline process that allows immediate reaction, without the delay of a batch process.
  • What segments are important, and what information do you need in order to allocate or define the segments?
  • What is your internal availability for building an API now plus supporting it later? Do you want your IT team to take this on, working with your marketing team? Do they know the ESP well enough, and can they support the integration when something goes wrong? Or should you outsource this?
  • How easy is it to migrate if you switch ESPs? You have to make sure your new ESP can tag links to where your analytics package can easily identify the same information for a person, and for a campaign. That new ESP is also going to need to be able to consume data from the analytics company, send and consume data back and forth from the analytics package.
  • As a preventive measure, your marketing department needs to acid test the solution. You have two separate systems operating relatively independent of each other, but you need to regularly make sure the information going back into both systems is accurate.

When your email and web analytics are integrated as a closed-loop process, it should be seamless. Your ESP sends an email and links within the email include identifiers of who that recipient is and the campaign they’re being sent. When they click on a link, the ESP feeds that information over to the analytics provider on a batch basis. You’ll learn about the campaign performance, but also specific metrics about who did what individually once on the site. But that’s not the end of it. The web analytics can also feed information back to your ESP, enabling automated responses or other email messages appropriate to a customer’s particular actions. Then you take all you’ve learned and tweak your next campaign accordingly.

If you’re tracking email and web analytics separately, you’re missing the big picture. If you have them integrated, you’re ahead of the game…and the competition. 

- Marco Marini
CEO
ClickMail Marketing

 

 

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Update From the Measurement Accuracy Roundtable

Written on April 15th, 2010 | Posted by Fred Tabsharani

 

For the past few years, the eec's Measurement Accuracy Roundtable has been conscientiously working to standardize email metrics. Standardizing these metrics is crucial to improving the quality of reporting and to enhance the creditability of the email industry. As part of the standardization goal, the Roundtable seeks congruent email reporting across existing Email Service Providers.

The email industry operates in a dynamic environment, and, like every major industry, it has its shortcomings.  But, one thing that has remained constant over the years is the ambiguity that faces marketers because of differences in how email metrics are calculated from one ESP to another.  When these reporting variances occur, marketers get anxious, and it adds to the already toxic elements that challenge the industry every day.  Currently, the biggest issue that the industry faces are the ever-increasing levels of spam, but other inconsistencies also pose a challenge.

For example, when email marketers shift from one ESP to another, reporting of metrics can cause a headache, due in part to the method that certain ESPs use to calculate reporting metrics.  By standardizing metrics, both ESPs and marketers will benefit, as standardization radically improves benchmarking and further enhances credibility.  The “common denominator” created by standardized email metrics gives marketers an even playing field when choosing ESPs.

On the other side of the equation, ESPs are faced with challenges of their own.  They must systematically convey to their existing clients that changes in reporting are imminent and industry-wide.  They must make changes to dashboards and publish new calculations to alleviate any irregularity from one ESP to another.  Furthermore, ESPs must demonstrate the value of these changes through a series of well-defined communications which explain why a standardized method is a benefit for all.  These transitioning steps may cause clients to feel alienated.  To maintain a good relationship, ESPs will need to formulate a plan to minimize client inconvenience during the transition process.

One of the benefits for ESPs who shift to the new standards will be their ability to apply for an adoption seal program.  This seal can be placed conspicuously throughout their online properties, informing potential clients that this ESP supports and has adopted the new standards of email metrics.  This will quell any uncertainty that the marketer might face when trying to discern between ESPs.  In essence, the seal provides reassurance to clients that switching to a new ESP will be relatively painless.

Finally, ESPs must ask themselves the proverbial question; will making changes to their existing reporting infrastructure help the industry in the long run?   If so, ESPs must make standardization of email metrics a priority.  However, moving toward standardization too quickly can stifle growth and innovation.  Therefore, we must use this time wisely and collaborate with industry colleagues to develop congruency across the majority of ESPs. These innovations have the ability to help email marketers better discern email metrics, especially if or when they switch providers.  These changes will increase clients’ satisfaction when choosing a provider and, ultimately, brighten the future of the entire industry.

Learn more and join our efforts.

If you are interested in joining the Measurement Accuracy Roundtable, please contact Ali Swerdlow.

 

- Fred Tabsharani
Marketing | Industry Relations
Port25 Solutions, Inc.

 

 

 

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