Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Is Your Database Unified or Integrated and Do You Know the Difference?


Despite all the hype around 'audience', many marketers still focus on lists.

Nick Cavnar By Nick Cavnar
08/06/2013 -14:52 PM

Back in 2005, I proudly debuted my first audience database for a b-to-b media company focused on residential construction. Working with our fulfillment company, I’d pulled together all the subscribers from forty-some magazines and email newsletters into one consolidated database.

“Look at this!” I told the sales and marketing groups working with surveys and events and webinars. “Rather than just pull a list for our home builder magazine versus our remodeler magazine versus our architect magazine, we can identify all the builders and remodelers and architects we reach across all our products.”

The response was pretty much:

“Wow, that’s great! But for this particular effort, we only want to focus on remodelers. So let’s just use the remodeler magazine list.”

Yes, for all our hype about audience integration, many b-to-b marketers still think of audience as a mailing list or email list for each product and brand. Maybe it’s because we’ve done such a good job of establishing brand identity for advertisers—“If you want to reach Group A, you have to use our Magazine A!”—that  we find it hard to look beyond brand and see our audience as one pool of customers whom we touch through multiple channels.

Even many of the new integrated database systems being offered by fulfillment and email vendors focus on audience as a collection of lists. I’ve worked with several systems that simply compile multiple lists, so that an individual involved with several products ends up with multiple separate records. Yes, those individual records are matched up, so when you combine lists you’ll get a de-duplicated total. But the database is essentially just a big merge-purge, with no real integration of the records.

That type of database is sometimes called a “unified” structure, as distinguished from an “integrated” structure that builds a single consolidated record per individual. On a practical level, you can see the difference in the actual process of building a selection. Can you start by selecting all customers with a particular characteristic—everyone in certain states or with a valid email—regardless of what list they are in? Or must you always start by selecting List A and then List B and then List C, and combining the three for a de-duplicated total?

Both approaches have their advantages. A unified database is generally simpler to set up and manage. The structure makes it very easy to add new lists from multiple sources—a big help for media companies struggling to combine contacts and registrations from different channels. You don’t have to map each new source to update a consolidated individual record, with endless business rules for when one mailing address should override another or which business demographics have priority.

The “list first” query process of a unified structure also matches the way many of us think about list selection. In fact, if all you really need from your audience database is the ability to create targeted lists for promotions, a unified database will more than meet your needs—and probably cost substantially less in both time and money.

However, if your company is looking beyond easier list creation, and hopes to move into the big data world of communication and advertising targeted by individual behavior, then a simple unified list of lists won’t take you too far. You will need a true integrated database structured around the individual audience member, with a single record that ties together all of that individual’s registrations and history and activity.

I think most b-to-b media companies are still struggling to find big data business models that work in our small industry-specific niches. Most don’t need a true integrated audience database right now. But if you are picking a database solution today, keep in mind the structure you may need tomorrow.

Nick Cavnar By Nick Cavnar -- Nick Cavnar is a Washington, DC-based audience development consultant. Reach him at nick@nickcavnar.com.

The Myth of the 360-Degree Customer View

Getting there still requires the much less glamorous de-duping.

Nick Cavnar By Nick Cavnar
05/28/2013 -13:57 PM

One of the promises always made by consultants and system providers offering integrated audience solutions is “the single view of the customer.” 

“You’ll tie together all of the ways you reach your audience—publications, newsletters, web traffic, webinars and events—and be able to see how each unique member of the audience engages with you.”

It’s a promise that puts stars in the eyes of b-to-b media executives. But beyond a few mysterious references to “complex algorithms,” very little gets said about the nuts and bolts involved in creating that single view. Namely, how do you match up all those engagement records from dozens of files and registration systems to make sure you correctly identify each unique individual?  

Identifying the single customer used to have a much less glamorous name—de-duping. One of the most basic steps in the controlled circulation audit process was to check for duplication, and catching duplicate subscribers was (and still is) an obsession for managers and fulfillment companies. We even had inside jokes about it: One Halloween, the circulation staff at a big bto-b publisher dressed the same, wore name tags with their director’s name slightly misspelled, and called themselves collectively the "Dupes of Earl."

We would de-dupe lists for new subscriber promotion against our existing database, and de-dupe the responses again as we added them to the file. Then we would run a suspect dupe match and do a clerical check to identify duplicates the computer hadn’t caught. After all that, the auditor would find yet more duplicates—although we hoped few enough to keep within BPA’s (supposedly top secret) auditing tolerance.  

What makes de-duping such a challenge? Well, to start with, we have all the normal variations in names and addresses that slip past a computer match. But in the b-to-b audience, it isn’t enough to pin down the same name at the same address. What about individuals who had offices at more than one of their company’s plants? Those who switched jobs mid-year and showed up at two different companies? People who got magazines at their home address as well as the office? 

Knowing how much work it takes to identify duplicates in a controlled circulation list of 50,000 or so, I’m always floored when database companies brush by the question of how they will match up unique individuals across several million records drawn from multiple sources. And I’m even more dismayed when some admit that they simply rely on the new “unique identifier”—an email address.

At first it makes perfect sense: While everyone at the same business location shares one mailing address, each has a separate and unique email address. You cannot even create identical email addresses that point to two separate, unrelated inboxes. If you have one email, you have one individual. Right?

Well, half right. Yes, one email address equals one inbox. But a surprising number of businesses still have inboxes shared by multiple individuals. And a much larger number of individuals use multiple addresses. In my last company, I did an analysis of the 1.5 million records in our corporate database, and discovered that nearly 20 percent of our audience members had more than one email address on file with us. And 4 percent of our email addresses were connected to more than one individual at the same company.  

If we had assumed each email represented a unique individual, we would have been hugely misled about the true size of our audience.

For the purpose of sending out an email blast, it may be enough to de-dupe by address only. But to accurately identify one individual across many points of engagement, and deliver a single view of each customer, we can’t avoid the tough, old-fashioned work we learned with controlled circulation. Accurate identification takes multiple levels of matching, multiple points of contact information, and usually some clerical clean-up after those “complex algorithms” have done their best. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a challenge we have to face to make our databases accurate and reliable.

Who knows? Maybe someday, at a Halloween party, we’ll see an integrated audience database team dressed up as the Dupes of Earl.

Nick Cavnar By Nick Cavnar -- Nick Cavnar is a Washington, DC-based audience development consultant. Reach him at nick@nickcavnar.com. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

I attended a recent webinar regarding Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation.
The webinar was put on by Email Experience Council (EEC) and Shaun Brown, Attourney, nNovation LLP. Very informative and some good reference materials.

Below are the main diffences between CAN-SPAM and CASL (Canadas Anti Spam Legislation):

CASL (Canadas Anti Spam Legislation)
- Addresses broad range of Internet issues (spam, spyware, pharming, etc.)
- Applies to all forms of electronic messaging (email, SMS, IM, etc.)
- Applies to "commercial electronic messages" (very broad)
- Applies regardless of proportion of commercial content
- Primarily opt-in; permission based
- No specific rules for certain types of content
- Must give effect to unsubscribe request right away
- Unsubscribe request takes effect when it is sent
- Unsubscribe mechanism must be valid for 60 days
- PRA available to anyone affected by a violation of the Act

CAN-SPAM (US Legislation)
- Addresses spam only
- Applies only to email
- Applies to messages that are 1) commercial; or 2) transactional or relationship (more narrow)
- Applies only if ‘primary purpose’ is commercial
- Opt-out; you can technically mail any person at least once
- Specific rules for sexually-oriented content
- Must give effect to unsubscribe request within 10 business days
- Unsubscribe request takes effect when it is received
- Unsubscribe mechanism must be valid for 30 days
- PRA available only to providers of Internet Access Services

Monday, October 26, 2009

The truth about flash in email

I came across this great article in regards to flash in an email piece.

Published January 11, 2006 by David Greiner



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Canada Bill has Key Differences from Can Spam

Canada Bill has Key Differences from Can Spam
Apr 28, 2009 2:37 PM, By Ken Magill

Read more commentary from Ken Magill
An anti-spam bill has been introduced in the Canadian House of Commons that may have big ramifications for U.S. marketers.

Dubbed the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, Canada’s anti-spam bill is permission based and would allow individuals to sue suspected spammers.

The U.S. Can Spam Act does not require marketers to get permission from recipients before sending commercial e-mail. Also, it allows ISPs to sue spammers but not individuals.

Justin Weiss, associate counsel to the Email Sender and Provider Coalition, advised U.S. marketers to keep an eye on this bill.

“This bill is not law yet,” he said. “But if they have practices that are only looking at U.S. law and Can Spam, they may not be entirely aligned here.”

Allowing individuals to sue often spawns cottage industries of people bringing frivolous lawsuits.

For example, after Utah gave individuals the right to sue alleged spammers, Salt Lake attorneys Denver Snuffer and Jesse Riddle in 2003 filed more than 1,000 lawsuits against companies such as Verizon, eBay and Columbia House in a massive shakedown effort before the law was repealed.

In an apparent effort to head off such lawsuits, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act caps damages at $200 per violation.

Meanwhile, though the bill would require marketers to get permission from Canadian e-mail address holders before sending commercial messages, it would exempt commercial e-mail sent to people with whom the sender has a business relationship. It would also exempt e-mail from one individual to another inquiring about the second individual’s business.

Also under Canada’s Electronic Commerce Protection Act, marketers would have to honor opt outs within 10 days. However, the law does not specify 10 business days as the Can Spam Act does.

The unsubscribe mechanism would have to allow recipients to opt out electronically by providing either an e-mail address to which they can reply or a hyperlink that takes them to an opt-out mechanism.

The unsubscribe function would also have to remain active for at least 60 days after the mailing.

Also, Canada’s Electronic Commerce Protection Act would require commercial e-mail to contain contact information—valid for at least 60 days after the message is sent—for the sender of the message, and the person or organization on behalf of whom the message was sent if that person or organization is different than the sender.

This may mean that e-mail service providers would have to include their contact information in messages sent on behalf of clients to Canadians.

The Electronic Commerce Protection Act would allow penalties of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million in all other cases, including businesses.

The Canadian Marketing Association applauded the bill.

“This is important news for legitimate marketers and good news for consumers,” said the CMA’s president and CEO, John Gustavson, in a statement. “Through rigorous enforcement and the backing of the federal government, we will now have a law that will help combat what has been an ongoing problem for legitimate companies that use the Internet to grow their business."

Under Canadian legislative procedure, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act will be up for multiple readings in the House. If it passes the House, it will be sent to the Senate.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bigger spotlight on e-mail marketing emphasizes better subscriber lists

Bigger spotlight on e-mail marketing emphasizes better subscriber lists

By ByJudith Nemes
Story posted: February 26, 2009 - 6:01 am EDT


As companies cut budgets to streamline operations in these tough economic times, e-mail marketing managers are feeling the heat to deliver stronger results. In many instances, direct mail budgets are being slashed, with some of those funds diverted to e-mail as a potentially more cost-effective use of marketing dollars, said Jeanne S. Jennings, an e-mail marketing strategy consultant and owner of the eponymous JeanneJennings.com.
“The people making those budget decisions are also transferring high expectations that the e-mail channel will make up for lost sales they once expected from direct marketing,” Jennings said.

Sharpening your company’s e-mail subscriber list is a key factor in improving results of online marketing campaigns, she said, offering these tips to help make that happen:

1. Relevance is more critical than ever before. Put yourself inside the readers’ mind and make sure you really understand the people you’re sending e-mails to, Jennings said. In some cases, you may need greater segmentation of your list. “What you send a junior-level or a senior-level IT person on your list may be very different,” she said.
2. Build relationships. Spend time understanding what information is critical to readers on your e-mail list, Jennings said. It’s imperative to know what subscribers need to do their job better in their markets. “The more you can do to show them you understand their needs, the more likely they will buy from you down the road,” she said.
3. Eliminate the dead wood. It’s worthwhile to comb through your e-mail list and eliminate those who aren’t responding at all, Jennings said. If you’re sending e-mails monthly and someone hasn’t opened a single one in a year, chances are they’re not going to open any going forward, either, she said. “People don’t really unsubscribe anymore; they just ignore you,” she added. What’s more, some of those unresponsive individuals may have been laid off by their companies and the IT departments may not have gotten around to returning the bounce to let you know they’re gone, she said.
4. Test to optimize performance. If you’re getting a little more money in your e-mail budget, spend 10% to 20% of it on testing to learn more about what will trigger people on your subscriber list to respond to your e-mails, Jennings said. What you learn may result in a 1% lift in your conversion rate. “That doesn’t seem like much but, if you can do that consistently, it adds up over time,” she said. Plus, “you’ll never improve your effort if you’re not testing it,” Jennings added.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Text vs. HTML: The Great Debate!
February 2, 2008:

We’ve located an interesting study below regarding the use of HTML vs. Text in creative content. It is always important to remember that most ISPs will by default block images until the sending address has been added to the users address book. If an email’s creative content contains 100% HTML, the message will appear empty for many first time recipients.
URL: http://www.marketingexperimentsblog.com/email-format-31-07.php

HTML vs. Plain Text has long been among the most hotly debated email-oriented topics. HTML format offers a visually pleasing design that:
1) Affects readers’ ability to process and benefit from the information.
2) Provides marketers with the ability to track the effectiveness of emails.
Two of the most recent Marketing Experiment email tests provide significant insight into this debate.

How Much HTML Should Be Used:
MarketingExperiments suggests that not all HTML messages are created equal. They make a clear distinction between two types of HTML:
* “Heavy” HTML (which she defines as “Ad Style” - I take that to mean a high ratio of imagery to
text, frequent use of bold and italicized text… a design that brings to mind the emails I’m used to seeing Chad White discuss on RetailEmail.Blogspot)
* “Lite” HTML (low imagery to text ratio, less frequent use of bold/highlighted/italicized text)

Test One was Lite HTML email format Vs. Plain Text email format. Lite HTML outperformed Plain Text by 55% in click-through rate. Test 2 was Heavy HTML (Ad style) email vs. Plain Text email. Plain Text outperformed Heavy HTML by 34%.

I believe HTML format will continue to reach more readers because of its pleasing appearance and functionalities. No one likes to read boring messages, especially today’s readers who are getting more and more sophisticated with new ways to interact. The ability to tinker with fonts and font color and to do other things such as italicize appeals to many people. With that said, we also need to constantly remind ourselves to respect our readers with every marketing effort we make. With the same respectful content in both emails, a Lite HTML email looks like a nicely layed out letter and Heavy HTML email looks like advertising material. I suspect most people would prefer a nicely layed out letter. With HTML format, it might be possible to track the effectiveness of emails and provide readers with “what really works” insights of how such email campaigns perform from the beginning to end. However, if it is done wrong, HTML format can face the danger of being blocked by email services and irritate readers with such things as improperly embedded images or aggressive advertising.

The important thing to remember is to test until you become convinced about what really works best for you—and then continue to test periodically.

Yesmail Deliverability.