Tag Archives: email

7 Lessons in Email Marketing

I got an interesting email the other day, by someone signing up to the free Churchill Club newsletter.  He hadn’t received a username and password for it and wanted to know why.   I explained by email that it was a free newsletter and you didn’t need one. This of course got me thinking about email newsletter marketing – and what I had learned to date.

When we started sending out a Churchill Club newsletter in early 2006, we (my brother Peter and I) pooled together all our contacts and started sending it out to a list of around 600 people. Over time this slowly deteriorated until it was going out to around just under 300 people by January 2009.

I then made quite a number of changes, and now the newsletter has grown back up to over 900 people and is currently growing organically by at least 10 people a week. So I thought I might share what I had learned to date.

1. Comply with Spam laws

First and foremost, become familiar and comply with the Spam Act . It not that hard and has 3 basic components.

  • Get consent to send a message

  • Clearly Identify yourself

  • Provide the ability to unsubscribe.

2. Make it an easy decision to sign up

We moved the newsletter sign-up to the top left corner of the home page (an optimal offering spot). We highlighted the fact it was free and we made it easy to sign up (you don’t need a username and password). We’ve had over 600 new people sign-up (not including Russians or Romanians) in 9 months without doing any deals or specifically marketing it.

3. Manage your software

Initially we used a Maximiser CRM based system, which sat on our network and caused problems for us as we had to manually sign everyone up and the newsletter system was clunky. We then transferred it all over to the free, web based PHP List which was fabulous as it allowed the system to be run from anywhere (even when I was home sick) and ran problem free.

Finally we transferred it over to the ACAJOOM system (cost around $100) as I wanted automatic integration with the Club’s new Joomla based website. People who signed up for a Club Event or Club Membership are now automatically signed up to the newsletter, but there is still a manual sign-up option on the home page.

If you are managing your own software, make sure you keep it up-to-date. If there are patches available you need to apply them quickly as it prevents your system from being exploited by others.

4. Email Construction

One of the early things I found was that although its useful to use HTML to make a newsletter pretty, don’t get too carried away. Just like web pages can appear differently to people depending on what web browser people are using (let alone Windows v’s Mac issues). Email clients also make things appear differently. I try to use basic HTML for the newsletter and not more cutting edge technologies such as CSS as its just easier to control the appearance.

I also found out the hard way not to embed images into the email, instead have the images sourced from your website and linked to from the email. Images embedded inside an email dramatically increase the size of your mail out (plus slow it down) and increase the chance things will go wrong.

5. Keep your list tidy

For every genuine subscriber I have roughly 5 Russian spammers sign up. On an almost daily basis I log in and delete anyone who hasn’t a). confirmed their subscription, b). Has a Yahoo, Hotmail or GMail account and c). has a dumb name such as “GanjaBoy60 <p57o48k.@gmail.com>” . Actually this problem has now become worse in recent times and I’m now investigating ways to automate things using a CAPTCHA solution or a Bad Behaviour plugin.

I also make sure I delete any subscribers immediately whose email bounces. I like my current 925 to be a real 925 and I don’t want to have to double handle bounced emails.

6. Make it regular

Initially I used to send out newsletters just when I had something to say. After a while I found this adhoc proposition didn’t really cut it. Most people need to see a marketing message multiple times before they recognise what they are seeing (I believe the TV rule of thumb is 9 times before awareness starts). I now send newsletters out every week regardless. Tuesday is the day, just after lunch. I like Tuesday’s as it gives breathing space before a Thursday night event (occurring roughly ever other week), plus I feel that you are more likely to get read on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Note I haven’t validated this yet by moving the email around and tracking stats on how many people open it (but I could!).

7. Value Proposition

So despite the fact I am sending out a weekly email saying “come to our events”, that content doesn’t change much on a weekly basis (boring!) I therefore need to provide value to get people to open and or read the newsletter . So I decided to provide value in every email, along with the event marketing.

Every time I have a new event report, 22 plus times a year, I put the event report in full in the newsletter. Giving away this free knowledge is clearly valued as I get feedback almost every week saying a variation on “fantastic stuff”. I know that our newsletter is getting forward to to others and has unique content in a crowded market place. The value proposition is clearly there. On weeks where I don’t have something new to put it, I put in teasers to older content people may have missed with links back to our website. This content can also be accessed for free.

I’m figuring that, like TED , if I provide quality information for free, I will increase the numbers turning up to Churchill Club events to get it first hand plus enjoy the networking, and grog.

It seems to be working.

Moving email into the cloud

Last week I advised that I had decided to try out a netbook as a replacement for my dying notebook. And to make things a little more interesting, try it with a Linux based operating system rather than my usual Microsoft Windows. (Note – The notebook has now died – bugger)

The rationale is to substantially reduce my costs (say 80%) and force me to be a better collaborator (because I can’t really store that much locally).

So first up is moving over my email since its the tool I use the most. Over the last couple of years I have amassed a couple of Gigabytes (Gb) of email and I want to take it with me. I feel there is nothing wrong with being a hoarder when it comes to data. Storage is meaninglessly cheap.

Previously I have been using trusty old Outlook with a number of different POP 3 mailboxes. Pop 3 is the basic type of mailbox available on the internet. With POP3 you point your email client to your mailbox, enter your password and download your email. No rocket science here and no issues. Unless of course you want to do something a bit cleverer.

If you do, then its time to look at IMAP. IMAP keeps your email on the mail server. When you look at your email, you download a local copy (header first, then the rest when you open it). This is incredibly handy, because it means amongst other things, you can look at your email from more than one computer. Because of this, I chose to move all my emails over to IMAP email. Luckily, my hosting provider offers the ability to connect to my mailboxes with either POP3 or IMAP.

So changing my email over took 5 steps.

1. Checked I had details of all my email accounts; Username, password and servername.
2. With my old notebook, I went into the Account settings and deleted my mailboxes (Not the old emails, just the connection to the mailboxes).
3. I then went back to the account settings, and recreated the email accounts, but this time as IMAP mailboxes.
4. I then checked to make sure the new accounts worked by sending an email to each.
5. I then transferred (dragged and dropped) all my folders full of emails into the inbox of each relevant IMAP account (this wasn’t quick mind you – I’m talking hours on a fast connection).

Voila, I now have IMAP email accounts which:

1. Keeps all my messages on the mail server so backups get done by others on a nightly basis.
2. Ensures my email client doesn’t store a copy of the emails permanently unless I want it to. And thus doesn’t chew up storage space.
3. Allows me to access my email without synchronisation issues from the three different computers I regularly use.
4. I can allow my bookkeeper to simultaneously access the IMAP email account that keeps event registration information in it.
5. Happily connects to the webmail systems I use so I can check my email accounts at an internet chafe if I desire.

The next step was to access my email on the new netbook. Since the netbook was running a linux distribution, Microsoft Outlook wasn’t an option. Instead I chose Thunderbird (free), which is a familiar looking email client that comes from the same people that make the Firefox Web Browser. Thunderbird comes in both Windows and Linux flavours was incredibly easy to setup, however getting onto my notebook was a nightmare, which I will deal with later.

On the netbook, I set up the new email accounts, the 8 Mailboxes as IMAP Accounts.

I can now access all my email, including sent emails, from my netbook, my desktop PC and even my iPhone. Life is sweet.

Next week alook at the other applications I setup and the rationale.

Technology Enabled Bastard Bosses

To record some of the Churchill Club sessions, we decided to invest in a digital voice recorder.  We purchased the Olympus WS-331M [ pls link to http://www.olympusvoice.com.au/products/digital/voice_music/ws331m.html ], which is a tiny little device capable of pickup up most speakers in a conference.  While fiddling with it to determine what it can and can’t do, we discovered that it is slim, silent and powerful enough to slip unnoticed into a shirt pocket and record conversations.  We can then plug it straight into the PC and treat it as a USB Memory stick to store conversations in WMA format.

Kind of cool; I could be nasty and record conversations with staff on the sly.  Which then made me start to wonder, what technology is now available to use if I truly were a bastard boss.

Now I am not making any recommendations on how you should go about your business, or even the legal status, but looking around, I came up with some nasty uses of technology which I thought I’d share.

In the Car
=======

GPS

Sat Nav and GPS are now readily available as either aftermarket or part of the standard package of vehicles.  This technology, although handy of the average punter, can also be used by the bastard boss.  Companies such as Quicktrack [ link to http://www.quiktrak.com.au/  ] and GPS for Fleet [ Link to http://www.gpsfortrucks.com.au  ] allow you to know where your vehicles are at all times.

Black Boxes
————
In the trucking industry, vehicles have been monitored for more than just location for some time.  Products such as Environav [ Link to http://www.ess.com.au/products/environav.asp ] let you look at anything you want to that has a sensor attached, such speed, engine speed, time of use, deviation from routes.  This technology is now starting to be packaged standard into some vehicles [ link to http://www.projo.com/projocars/content/CA-BLACK_BOX_09-08-07_KM6QTV0.1d4300a.html  ].  So you can monitor your staff at all times when they are out and about, and can get SMS or email notifications when they are not behaving themselves in your vehicle.

On foot?
———
Of course if you want to know where your people are once they have got out of the car, why not try the Benefon Track 1 mobile phone.  It may not have a camera or sweet multimedia capabilities, but it does have a built in GPS device.  Lets you know where your people are within 50 metres.  Which could be disappointing for staff, if they tell you they are looking for a parking spot, when it turns out they are still at home.

In the Office
========

Office Cam
————
Anywhere you have power, you can now put a wireless IP camera such as this d-link job [ link to http://www.ht.com.au/N/Accessories-Multimedia-Devices-D-Link/part/D-Link-SECURICAM-DCS-G900-Wireless-G-Internet-camera-Network-camera-colour-10100-80211g/detail.hts ] .  Connect this camera to your wireless network, and you can view (or record!)  what’s happening from anywhere in the world.  In fact I know someone that drove his staff wild, by constantly watching his programmer’s effectiveness, every time he went on a sales trip to the US.

Personally, I have used the wireless IP camera to show me whether there was a spare guest parking spot, when I had visitors coming (two flights of stairs, was too much for me).

For around the $300 mark, you get a nice solution.  Add another $1000 and you get a camera that you will be able to pan, zoom and tilt.

RFID Tags
———-
Of course if you want to run a time clock without it seeming you are running a time clock, you can also equip your staff with security passes that contain RFID tags.  [ http://www.ramp.com.au/leisure.html ] you can then passively monitor what time people are arriving and leaving as well as how much time they are spending in areas such as the lunchroom or out for a smoke.

I actually met someone some years ago, that had been terminated for lying on his timesheet (his rfid tag record for the parking lot didn’t match the project timesheets he was filling out).

On the Phone
=========
In Office
———-
Now while your staff are in the office and being productive, you can have a good look at their phone patterns.  If your telephone system runs through a PABX that was made in the last ten years, you can almost guarantee that a log pf every single call is recorded, including the handset, number called and data/time stamps.  Useful if the Bastard Boss tires of someone whom is constantly yakking to their friends.

Normally the information can be extracted into an excel spreadsheet.

However, if you are using a really new PABX [ link to http://www.nec.com.au/accessories/default.htm  ] that runs on internet protocols,  the easiest thing to do, if you are filled full of distrust, is configure your phone system to record every conversation to a computer server for you’re later review.

This is even easier if you are using a virtual PABX [ link to http://www.nch.com.au/pbx/index.html  ](a computer pretending to be the PABX)

Mobile
——-
If your staff are out and about using your mobile phones, you can of course get the bill in either paper and/or electronic format.  But did you know if getting the bills in electronic format, you can also suck all information from the bill into an excel spreadsheet.

A couple of bills and voila, you can a database of most called numbers, percentage used afterhours, amount of time and cost of an employee regularly ringing a girlfriend.  In fact if you ring a couple of the most used numbers, you may be surprised to find a competitor answering.

On the Computer
===========

Configuration
——

Now you have probably noticed that on your standard windows computer, you can have a couple of different user accounts, and each of these users can be of a different type.  So what does this mean?

Well, if you don’t allow people to be an administrator on their own computer, it means they can’t install any nasty foreign software that they find on the internet.  Better yet, you can setup their account so that they can only store information centrally on a file server rather than on their own computer.  You can then review their work at your leisure.

Spyware
———-

You have probably read about nasty software on the internet such as spyware [ link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spyware  ] and keyloggers [ link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keylogger ].

Spyware isn’t normally called spyware when its being sold.  It usually goes under the name of Monitoring software [ link to http://www.download.com/System-Surveillance-Pro/3000-2162_4-10625684.html ], with rationale’s such as use this for invisibly monitoring your children.  It can record all websites visited, instant messages sent and programs run.  It will even take regular screenshots and email them to you if you like.

Keyloggers capture all that’s being typed into a keyboard, and can either store it or send it out automatically to a predefined location.  Most available keyloggers [ link to http://www.download.com/3000-2092-10252681.html ] can be tried out for free, but you have to pay a small fee to make them invisible.

On the Internet
=========

Proxy Server
————–

Most users of the office network don’t realize that their internet access goes through a computer called a proxy server.  The most popular is called Squid Cache [ link to  http://www.squid-cache.org/ ]  The point of a proxy server is to store a copy of a webpage, in the likely event that someone will want the same page almost immediately, and thus reduce the amount of data a company has to buy, and the load on the network.

A side affect of the proxy server achieving this is that it keeps a log of your IP address and the web page you have requested.  Therefore, if you are surfing to http://www.fatchicksinpartyhats.com   its highly likely that your network administrators already know and are laughing at you.

Firewall
———
Of course, if you are running a decent firewall  [ link to  http://www.watchguard.com/ ], you already have the ability to monitor all web traffic, stop instant messaging, and block user access to any website you don’t like the look of.  Good bye Facebook.

But did you know that firewall solutions can also be used to inspect every email, and block images, jokes or anything else you don’t like, including attached images with too much skin tones inside the picture.

Mail Marshall [ link to  http://www.marshal.com/pages/whitepapers.asp ] has an interesting paper on the issue of “leakage” of proprietary and confidential data.  Basically staff sending either information home or to competitors or their next employer.  A recent (2006) FBI survey found that 68% of their respondents found it to be a current issue.  Firewall’s can notify you every time a company document leaves your premises and block it if desired.

Mail Server
—————
Many companies run mail servers either on their own network or using a third parties.  Mail servers can do a lot more than just send and receive email.  For instance you can have the mail server send a copy of company policies to every user on a monthly basis.  No one then gets the chance to say…….” I didn’t know “

Google Alerts
—————
Shouldn’t ever forget Google alerts, when your employees go home and blog about their day at the office from their own computer, its nice to know what they are saying.  If you are a bit paranoid, setup an alert on your company name and your own name.  I must admit I have come across a temp on a working holiday, telling his mates in the UK what a slack time he was having at his employers.  Unfortunately he used their name and they quickly terminated him.

Using the Printer
===========
Finally, here is a nice piece of software I found for “Informed Printing”  [ Link to http://www.pharos.com/General_Office/Informed_Print.html ].  This piece of technology will not only audit how much each person is costing you on the printer, but generate a popup everytime thy print, telling the how much their print job will cost, and offering cheaper options.

Its called “Involve your company’s users in the print cost-savings initiative”.  Bastard Bosses have got to be happy with that.

Get the Message?

Now I’ve managed to get my new mobile phone to access my email, I thought I would share how I set up my email because I am feeling a bit chuffed with myself.

First, I have a number of different email addresses:

adsl0abc@tpg.com.au
bml@lewisfamily.com.au
newsfeed@churchillclub.org.au
bml@churchillclub.org.au

So why do I have all these email addresses?

1. The ugly looking email address at the top was given to me by my ISP. I never use it because it’s ugly and therefore hard to remember/get right; and it makes changing from my ISP a hassle if I am using their email system.

2. The lewisfamily address is for my friends and family. They know this is my address no matter which ISP I am with and I will have it forever. I have set up my work computer to download content from the mailbox, but not delete it. I have set up my home computer to download emails, then delete them from the mailbox. This is so I know what is going on while I am at work, even though the proper place for dealing with these emails is at home.

3. The newsfeed@churchillclub address is for all the newsfeeds I sign up to. This separates the emails full of general stuff, from the emails that want me to do something.

4. The bml@churchillclub address is the one I use for important emails in regards to work. My home computer is set up to download from this mailbox but not delete, so I can keep up to date at home with what’s going on without having to address it.

The cool thing about having newsfeeds going to a different mailbox than emails sent specifically to me is that when I am out and about I can check if any important email has come in, without getting the clutter of 20 different newsfeed items. My mobile phone is set up to download but not delete from my bml@churchillclub mailbox only.

Now I think that’s clever.

(BTW, if you try to send an email to any of the above addresses, don’t bother: it will bounce. I have changed them slightly so I don’t end up with a whole lot of spam.)

Signature or Mental Blocks

The other day I got an email from Ausindustry that stated at the bottom:

“The information contained in this e-mail, and any attachments to it, is intended for the use of the addressee and is confidential. If you are not the intended recipient you must not use, disclose, read, forward, copy or retain any of the information. If you received this e-mail in error, please delete it and notify the sender by return e-mail or telephone.

The Commonwealth does not warrant that any attachments are free from viruses or any other defects. You assume all liability for any loss, damage or other consequences which may arise from opening or using the attachments.

The security of emails transmitted in an unencrypted environment cannot be guaranteed. By forwarding or replying to this email, you acknowledge and accept these risks. “

Typical stuff that lawyers write, with a very aggressive tone “you must not use” etc. Now I am sure that lawyers will argue that clauses like this at the bottom will put you on notice that information contained may result from a breach of confidence.

Although I am not a lawyer, I note that there is very little case law in this area, and virtually nothing since the advent of the internet, and certainly nothing in Australia. I would also suggest that I wasn’t aware of any of the conditions, until I received the email and had read all the way to the bottom. And it seems to me that clause would only be tested in extremely rare circumstances, as it would be difficult to prove, and be a protracted expensive matter.

So I’m not going to argue from a legal point of view that the clause is stupid. What I will do is argue from an Entrepreneur’s point of view. What a waste of opportunity! Why not send emails with signature blocks that benefit you 99.999% of the time, rather than protect you 0.001% of the time.

When I get an email, I like to know whom its from and what their contact details are so I can call them if I need to discuss an issue. There’s nothing worse than getting an email from someone, and then having to look them up in the whitepages or their companies website before you respond to them. So please, when you send me an email, make sure all your contact details are in your signature block.

Secondly, everytime you contact someone by email, its an opportunity to promote your company, products or services. Searching through my sent mail folder, it appears I send around 20 emails a day (excluding mail outs). This is 100 people a week that I am touching, or roughly 400 a month. Why wouldn’t I be advertising my services?

This blog was written by:

Brendan Lewis
Executive Director, The Churchill Club Ltd
7 Leveson Street, North Melbourne, 3051, Victoria, Australia
Tel: 03 9329 8411, Fax: 03 9329 9939, Mob: 0412 039 495, skype: brendanlewis24
Email: blewis@churchillclub.org.au, Web: www.churchillclub.org.au
——————————————————————
Upcoming Events Include:
19th July 2007 – Melbourne – Entrepreneurship : Australian Web 2.0 Success
23rd August 2007 – Melbourne – Entrepreneurship : Killer Business Models