How a 1% unsubscribe rate KILLS your business

 

Below is a screen shot of the footer of an email I received early this morning, one which illustrates a common problem in email subscription management. This particular one is from a software vendor not unlike many others. As a long-time customer of this company I receive regular email, and in good faith started to read it like so many others before.

After getting halfway through the email, I realize this is another one of their “marketing emails” and conclude that my information must be mistakenly classified in their database as a prospect. As a customer this is completely irrelevant to me, so today I took action to make it stop.

clicking the “update your e-mail subscriptions” link at the bottom.  sends the user to a preference center, with some choices where I could opt out, so far so good.

Surprise!  The web page displayed the following choices, all of them EMPTY:

How do you unsubscribe when all the checkboxes are empty?

There is no obvious way to stop getting this particular type of email sent to me without stopping all of it. At the bottom of the page there is a choice to unsubscribe from all emails. But that is rather drastic, I don’t want to do that! What if I unsubscribed and then missed some important announcement?  Like a new version of their software?

With no reasonable option to choose, I closed the page taking no further action. Too bad for them!  It amounted to a missed opportunity to collect my preferences and tailor their messaging.

Epic fail
This experience is being relived by countless people all over the world every day.  We can all appreciate the frustration, what begins as an honest effort to help the sender correct its email lists, instead of hitting the “spam” button and condemning that company to deliverability issues, ends as a failure to communicate.

Imagine losing 1% of your customers every time you email
Let’s extend this example further.    Imagine that your email audience no longer had a say in the type of email they wanted to receive.

It’s fair to say you are putting your entire business with them in jeopardy.

Some marketers I’ve met develop an entrenched attitude about this; they defend by explaining that any unwilling recipient can simply opt out of all email.  They will blindly accept a 1% unsubscription rate as “normal.”

If you knew that your very next email would cause 1% of your customers to defect every time you sent it, would you still send it? Of course not.

Yet people do it every day!  The graphic below illustrates what happens when you send emails at a rate of 1 per day, with a 1% unsubscribe rate.   You would be severing your communications with HALF of your customers after only 70 emails. decay_curve_at_1_percent_unsubscribe_rate

Linking Lists with Choices
The good news is, if you are giving careful thought to the value of your email content, most of your audience is already receptive to hearing from you. Otherwise they would have unsubscribed a long time ago.  That said, it’s normal for your audience to crave more control over the content they receive.

When you offer them controls, and those controls work properly to change the outcomes, it has tremendous positive benefits: Lower opt-out rates, better readership, better email click-throughs,  more shares, more brand loyalty.

Fixing this problem is something every marketer should make their top priority. And I do mean a TOP priority. This means it should be addressed before the next email goes out the door.

Here are some guiding principles to building a good subscription management page:

1. Put the “unsubscribe from everything” choice at the bottom. This is the convention that people expect. There is no benefit to hiding it, putting it in small size, etc. Make sure that people can execute that choice in one click. In some countries this is the law, plain and simple.

2. Group your list choices according to your sending habits. Remaining checkboxes you offer should have a real and substantial impact on the emails that a person receives. Be sure to sanity-check your choices; better to go broader and have less displayed choices. For example, instead of “case studies” and “webinars” you could combine them as “product expertise”.

3. Now, execute your emails. Every promotional email you send from now on should be sent to subscribers of the corresponding checkbox choices. In other words, if you send me the email, I will be able to opt-out without unsubscribing from everything.

4. Automate the programming for “net new” contacts. Anyone you add to the database (via CRM, via Upload etc.) has pre-defined choices. So they are automatically subscribed to the right choices without any direct effort by the marketer.

5. Build your lists with the subscription choices in mind. In other words, use the subscribers to a given choice as the basis for your distribution list.

6. Coordinate your colors. This is my favorite technique. The careful use of colorized email templates or other creative elements can be a powerful signal to your audience and make their subscription options dead simple. If you don’t like the green emails, unsubscribe from them!

7. And lastly, while this may seem obvious it is imperative to include your new footer with the “update your preferences” link in every email! You might need to retrofit some of your nurture emails in progress.

After awhile, you may find the subscription center emerges as a focal point for all marketing communications planning. You start to visualize your overall segments in terms of the subscription choices. What is the lineup this month for people who subscribed to “product expertise”? Do we have enough coverage in our marketing calendar for people who are subscribed to “special events”?

In larger marketing teams, the executive might designate a single marcom employee to “own” each list. The list owner acts as a champion and traffic cop for that audience. The owner does not necessarily need to reside in the Marketing department, either; good candidates can be found among sales managers. The owner should have the authority to act as dispatch, and escalating for any campaigns scheduled at the same time, or when they see dry spells coming up on their calendar.

Ken’s Really Big List of Disposable Email Domains

Here is my list of “disposable” email address (DES) domains. You can add these domains to your Master Exclude list (Eloqua > Setup > Management > System Management > Master Exclude List > Domains) , or use them to spot fake email addresses you can safely remove from your database.

Use at your own risk! If there are any missing please add to the comments below and I will amend the list. If you send me more, please do not include “free” email services such as yahoo and gmail. This is intended to screen out disposable email addresses only. Thanks.

0815.ru

0clickemail.com

0-mail.com

0wnd.net

0wnd.org

10minutemail.com

10minutemail.de

123-m.com

126.com

12minutemail.com

139.com

163.com

1ce.us

1chuan.com

1pad.de

1zhuan.com

20minutemail.com

21cn.com

24hourmail.com

2prong.com

30minutemail.com

33mail.com

3d-painting.com

4warding.com

4warding.net

4warding.org

60minutemail.com

675hosting.com

675hosting.net

675hosting.org

6ip.us

6paq.com

6url.com

75hosting.com

75hosting.net

75hosting.org

7days-printing.com

7tags.com

99experts.com

9ox.net

a-bc.net

afrobacon.com

ag.us.to

agedmail.com

ajaxapp.net

akapost.com

ama-trade.de

ama-trans.de

amilegit.com

amiri.net

amiriindustries.com

ano-mail.net

anonbox.net

anonymail.dk

anonymbox.com

anonymousmail.org

anonymousspeech.com

antichef.com

antichef.net

antireg.com

antireg.ru

antispam.de

armyspy.com

asdasd.ru

azmeil.tk

baxomale.ht.cx

beefmilk.com

big1.us

bigstring.com

binkmail.com

bio-muesli.net

blogmyway.org

blogos.com

bluebottle.com

bobmail.info

bodhi.lawlita.com

bofthew.com

boxformail.in

brainonfire.net

brefmail.com

brennendesreich.de

broadbandninja.com

bsnow.net

buffemail.com

bugmenot.com

bumpymail.com

bund.us

buyusedlibrarybooks.org

c2.hu

casualdx.com

cellurl.com

centermail.com

centermail.net

chammy.info

cheatmail.de

chogmail.com

choicemail1.com

chong-mail.com

chong-mail.net

chong-mail.org

clixser.com

cmail.com

cmail.net

cmail.org

consumerriot.com

cool.fr.nf

correo.blogos.net

cosmorph.com

courriel.fr.nf

courrieltemporaire.com

crapmail.org

cubiclink.com

curryworld.de

cust.in

cuvox.de

dacoolest.com

dandikmail.com

dayrep.com

dbunker.com

dcemail.com

deadaddress.com

deadchildren.org

deadspam.com

deagot.com

dealja.com

despam.it

despammed.com

devnullmail.com

dfgh.net

dharmatel.net

digitalsanctuary.com

dingbone.com

discardmail.com

discardmail.de

disposableaddress.com

disposableinbox.com

dispose.it

disposeamail.com

disposemail.com

dispostable.com

dm.w3internet.co.uk

dm.w3internet.co.ukexample.com

docmail.com

dodgeit.com

dodgit.com

dodgit.org

domozmail.com

donemail.ru

dontreg.com

dontsendmespam.de

dotmsg.com

drdrb.com

drdrb.net

dropcake.de

droplister.com

dudmail.com

dumpandjunk.com

dump-email.info

dumpmail.de

dumpyemail.com

duskmail.com

e4ward.com

easytrashmail.com

einrot.de

e-mail.com

e-mail.org

email60.com

emaildienst.de

emailgo.de

emailias.com

emailigo.de

emailinfive.com

emaillime.com

emailmiser.com

emailmiser.com

emailsensei.com

emailtemporar.ro

emailtemporario.com.br

emailthe.net

emailtmp.com

emailto.de

emailwarden.com

emailx.at.hm

emailxfer.com

emeil.in

emeil.ir

emz.net

enterto.com

ephemail.net

e-postkasten.com

e-postkasten.de

e-postkasten.eu

e-postkasten.info

etranquil.com

etranquil.net

etranquil.org

example.com

explodemail.com

eyepaste.com

faecesmail.me

fakedemail.com

fakeinbox.com

fakeinformation.com

fakemail.fr

fakemailgenerator.com

fakemailz.com

fantasymail.de

fastacura.com

fastchevy.com

fastchrysler.com

fastermail.com

fastkawasaki.com

fastmazda.com

fastmitsubishi.com

fastnissan.com

fastsubaru.com

fastsuzuki.com

fasttoyota.com

fastyamaha.com

fatflap.com

fdfdsfds.com

fightallspam.com

filzmail.com

fizmail.com

flyspam.com

fly-ts.de

footard.com

forgetmail.com

fornow.eu

fr33mail.info

frapmail.com

freecoolemail.com

freemail.ms

friendlymail.co.uk

front14.org

fuckingduh.com

fudgerub.com

fux0ringduh.com

garliclife.com

gawab.com

get1mail.com

get2mail.fr

getairmail.com

getmails.eu

getonemail.com

getonemail.net

ghosttexter.de

girlsundertheinfluence.com

gishpuppy.com

goemailgo.com

gorillaswithdirtyarmpits.com

gotmail.com

gotmail.net

gotmail.org

gotti.otherinbox.com

gowikibooks.com

gowikicampus.com

gowikicars.com

gowikifilms.com

gowikigames.com

gowikimusic.com

gowikinetwork.com

gowikitravel.com

gowikitv.com

great-host.in

greensloth.com

gsrv.co.uk

guerillamail.biz

guerillamail.com

guerillamail.net

guerillamail.org

guerrillamail.biz

guerrillamail.com

guerrillamail.de

guerrillamail.net

guerrillamail.org

guerrillamailblock.com

h.mintemail.com

h8s.org

hacccc.com

haltospam.com

hatespam.org

herp.in

hidemail.de

hidzz.com

hmamail.com

hochsitze.com

hooohush.ai

hotpop.com

huajiachem.cn

hulapla.de

hushmail.com

i2pmail.org

ieatspam.eu

ieatspam.info

ihateyoualot.info

iheartspam.org

imails.info

imstations.com

inbax.tk

inboxalias.com

inboxclean.com

inboxclean.org

incognitomail.com

incognitomail.net

incognitomail.org

insorg-mail.info

instantemailaddress.com

instant-mail.de

ipoo.org

irish2me.com

iroid.com

iwantmyname.com

iwi.net

jetable.com

jetable.fr.nf

jetable.net

jetable.org

jnxjn.com

jsrsolutions.com

junk1e.com

k2-herbal-incenses.com

kasmail.com

kaspop.com

keepmymail.com

killmail.com

killmail.net

kir.ch.tc

klassmaster.com

klassmaster.net

klzlk.com

koszmail.pl

kulturbetrieb.info

kurzepost.de

lags.us

lavabit.com

lawlita.com

letthemeatspam.com

lhsdv.com

lifebyfood.com

link2mail.net

litedrop.com

lol.ovpn.to

lookugly.com

lopl.co.cc

lortemail.dk

lovebitco.in

lovemeleaveme.com

lr7.us

lr78.com

lroid.com

luv2.us

m4ilweb.info

maboard.com

mail.by

mail.me

mail.mezimages.net

mail.ru

mail114.net

mail2rss.org

mail333.com

mail4trash.com

mailbidon.com

mailblocks.com

mailbucket.org

mailcatch.com

maildrop.cc

maileater.com

mailexpire.com

mailfa.tk

mail-filter.com

mailforspam.com

mailfreeonline.com

mailguard.me

mailin8r.com

mailinater.com

mailinator.com

mailinator.net

mailinator.org

mailinator.us

mailinator2.com

mailincubator.com

mailme.ir

mailme.lv

mailme24.com

mailmetrash.com

mailmoat.com

mailnator.com

mailnesia.com

mailnull.com

mailquack.com

mailscrap.com

mailshell.com

mailsiphon.com

mailslapping.com

mailslite.com

mail-temporaire.fr

mailzilla.com

mailzilla.org

makemetheking.com

malahov.de

manybrain.com

mbx.cc

mega.zik.dj

meinspamschutz.de

meltmail.com

messagebeamer.de

mezimages.net

mierdamail.com

migumail.com

mintemail.com

mmmmail.com

mobi.web.id

mobileninja.co.uk

moburl.com

moncourrier.fr.nf

monemail.fr.nf

monmail.fr.nf

ms9.mailslite.com

msa.minsmail.com

msg.mailslite.com

mt2009.com

mt2014.com

mx0.wwwnew.eu

mycleaninbox.net

myemailboxy.com

mymail-in.net

mypacks.net

mypartyclip.de

myphantomemail.com

myspaceinc.com

myspaceinc.net

myspaceinc.org

myspacepimpedup.com

myspamless.com

mytempemail.com

mythrashmail.net

mytrashmail.com

neomailbox.com

nepwk.com

nervmich.net

nervtmich.net

netmails.com

netmails.net

netzidiot.de

neverbox.com

nice-4u.com

nobulk.com

noclickemail.com

nogmailspam.info

nomail.xl.cx

nomail2me.com

nomorespamemails.com

nospam.wins.com.br

no-spam.ws

nospam.ze.tc

nospam4.us

nospamfor.us

nospamthanks.info

notmailinator.com

notsharingmy.info

nowhere.org

nowmymail.com

nurfuerspam.de

nus.edu.sg

nwldx.com

objectmail.com

obobbo.com

odnorazovoe.ru

oneoffemail.com

oneoffmail.com

onewaymail.com

online.ms

oopi.org

opayq.com

ordinaryamerican.net

otherinbox.com

ourklips.com

outlawspam.com

ovpn.to

owlpic.com

pancakemail.com

pcusers.otherinbox.com

pepbot.com

phentermine-mortgages-texas-holdem.biz

pimpedupmyspace.com

pjjkp.com

poczta.onet.pl

politikerclub.de

poofy.org

pookmail.com

privacy.net

privy-mail.com

proxymail.eu

prtnx.com

punkass.com

putthisinyourspamdatabase.com

qq.com

quickinbox.com

rcpt.at

recode.me

recursor.net

recyclemail.dk

regbypass.com

regbypass.comsafe-mail.net

rejectmail.com

rklips.com

rmqkr.net

royal.net

rppkn.com

rtrtr.com

s0ny.net

safe-mail.net

safersignup.de

safetymail.info

safetypost.de

sandelf.de

saynotospams.com

scatmail.com

schafmail.de

secure-mail.biz

selfdestructingmail.com

sendspamhere.com

sharklasers.com

shiftmail.com

shitmail.me

shitmail.org

shitware.nl

shortmail.net

sibmail.com

sinnlos-mail.de

siteposter.net

skeefmail.com

sky-ts.de

slaskpost.se

slave-auctions.net

slopsbox.com

smellfear.com

snakemail.com

sneakemail.com

snkmail.com

sofimail.com

sofort-mail.de

sogetthis.com

soodomail.com

soodonims.com

spam.la

spam.su

spam4.me

spamarrest.com

spamavert.com

spam-be-gone.com

spambob.com

spambob.net

spambob.org

spambog.com

spambog.de

spambog.ru

spambox.info

spambox.irishspringrealty.com

spambox.us

spamcannon.com

spamcannon.net

spamcero.com

spamcon.org

spamcorptastic.com

spamcowboy.com

spamcowboy.net

spamcowboy.org

spamday.com

spamdecoy.net

spamex.com

spamfree.eu

spamfree24.com

spamfree24.de

spamfree24.eu

spamfree24.info

spamfree24.net

spamfree24.org

spamgourmet.com

spamgourmet.net

spamgourmet.org

spamherelots.com

spamhereplease.com

spamhole.com

spamify.com

spaminator.de

spamkill.info

spaml.com

spaml.de

spammotel.com

spamobox.com

spamoff.de

spamsalad.in

spamslicer.com

spamspot.com

spamthis.co.uk

spamthisplease.com

spamtrail.com

spamtroll.net

speed.1s.fr

spoofmail.de

squizzy.de

stinkefinger.net

stuffmail.de

supergreatmail.com

supermailer.jp

superstachel.de

suremail.info

tagyourself.com

talkinator.com

tapchicuoihoi.com

teewars.org

teleworm.com

teleworm.us

temp.emeraldwebmail.com

tempail.com

tempalias.com

tempemail.biz

tempemail.co.za

tempemail.com

tempe-mail.com

tempemail.net

tempimbox.com

tempinbox.co.uk

tempinbox.com

tempmail.it

tempmail2.com

tempmaildemo.com

tempomail.fr

temporarily.de

temporarioemail.com.br

temporaryemail.net

temporaryemail.us

temporaryforwarding.com

temporaryinbox.com

tempthe.net

thanksnospam.info

thankyou2010.com

thisisnotmyrealemail.com

throwawayemailaddress.com

throwawaymail.com

tilien.com

tittbit.in

tmailinator.com

topcoolemail.com

topfreeemail.com

tormail.net

tormail.org

tradermail.info

trash2009.com

trash2010.com

trash2011.com

trash-amil.com

trashdevil.com

trashdevil.de

trashemail.de

trashmail.at

trash-mail.at

trashmail.com

trash-mail.com

trashmail.de

trash-mail.de

trashmail.me

trashmail.net

trashmail.org

trashmail.ws

trashmailer.com

trashymail.com

trashymail.net

trayna.com

trillianpro.com

turual.com

twinmail.de

tyldd.com

uggsrock.com

umail.net

upliftnow.com

uplipht.com

uroid.com

venompen.com

veryrealemail.com

veryrealmail.com

vidchart.com

viditag.com

viewcastmedia.com

viewcastmedia.net

viewcastmedia.org

vistomail.com

vubby.com

walala.org

webemail.me

webm4il.info

wegwerfadresse.de

wegwerfemail.de

weg-werf-email.de

wegwerf-email-addressen.de

wegwerf-emails.de

wegwerfmail.de

wegwerfmail.info

wegwerfmail.net

wegwerfmail.org

wetrainbayarea.com

wetrainbayarea.org

wh4f.org

whatiaas.com

whatpaas.com

whatsaas.com

whopy.com

whyspam.me

wilemail.com

willhackforfood.biz

willselfdestruct.com

winemaven.info

wronghead.com

wuzup.net

wuzupmail.net

http://www.e4ward.com

http://www.gishpuppy.com

http://www.mailinator.com

wwwnew.eu

xagloo.com

xemaps.com

xents.com

xmaily.com

xoxox.cc

xoxy.net

xxtreamcam.com

xyzfree.net

yahoo.com.ph

yahoo.com.vn

yeah.net

yep.it

yogamaven.com

yopmail.com

yopmail.fr

yopmail.net

yourdomain.com

ypmail.webarnak.fr.eu.org

yuurok.com

z1p.biz

za.com

zehnminutenmail.de

zippymail.info

zoaxe.com

zoemail.net

zoemail.org

zomg.info

Take the Quiz: Is Your Data Quality Good Enough?

The value of high-quality data cannot be lost on any marketer.  It’s our job after all, to know the market – what customers need, what they expect – fully and completely.  Top-quality data enables that knowledge.  As a marketer armed with perfect data, I can engage large numbers of prospects with pinpoint accuracy.  No prospect is left behind.  When people respond, my error-free information is instantly relayed to Sales so they can immediately act on the opportunity.  When they reply, I get timely and structured feedback – the impact can be measured immediately.   Look ma, no hands!

As tempting as it may be to pursue “perfection” in data quality, the practical limitations make it an impossible dream.   Vicki Raeburn describes the pitfalls in her blog post, Understanding the Cost-Benefit Quality Curve.  Every “just-noticeable improvement” in data quality involves an exponentially higher cost.  Given the unavoidable tradeoffs of cost and quality, Raeburn recommends that marketers seek to yield “useful knowledge, not perfect data.”

Let’s explore this through a familiar example from B2B marketing.  A company sells its wares to other companies operating in a variety of different industries.  In their database, only 50% of contacts are tagged to an Industry.  How much would it be worth to tag more of these contacts by Industry, say 60%?  The improvement yields a noticeable increase in list size, providing better market coverage for their vertical campaigns.  What does it really cost to realize such an increase?  They discover they can tag more contacts by simply rearranging the Industry data they already have on file, using some clever techniques that run on a fully automatic basis.  Presto, they say, let’s get it done!

Having a taste for this initial success, they take it up a notch.  They set a new goal to tag even more contacts by Industry, from 60% to 70%.  This gain might represent an equally noticeable improvement:  bigger list size, better market coverage.

To reach this new goal, they now need to start thinking about how to consistently capture or derive Industry for every contact in their database.  Every web form used for lead generation must capture Industry from now on.  They scrutinize every upload to the database, to make sure the Industry values are included.   This is not enough to get them to their goal, though.  To get their existing contacts updated need to append missing Industry values from an outside vendor, such as Hoover’s.  The numbers are getting closer now, but the costs are adding up fast too.   Is the improvement worth it?  Given the exponential effort level, they might decide the project will take a backseat to other priorities.

For the perfectionists out there, “good enough” is no cop-out.  It’s the best way to rationalize data quality projects.   The economic benefits of better data may be hard to quantify, but projects aimed at improving data quality must be both feasible and worthwhile to be successful.  The excellence comes in executing well against goals that have been carefully considered for their impact on the business.

Reflect on this last idea for a moment.  Data quality begins well before any change is made to your software.   Does everyone in your company — marketing managers, sales managers, and senior managers alike — agree on the priorities for data quality?   Are these priorities feasible?   What are they doing to help you with these priorities (not just cheering you on from the sidelines, but specifically)?

One way to set worthwhile and feasible goals for data quality is to start by hosting a workshop for your data end-users. I personally like to use a survey to structure the feedback.   When done diligently, a survey fosters an amazing discussion that lets you quickly spot the pain points and set goals that will be relevant and impactful.

Try it!  Take the quiz below.

Please rate your level of agreement with the following statements
(strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree, etc.)

1. When I use our house list for my campaigns, I feel I am getting good coverage of my entire target market(s).

2. I can use our house list to accurately target our known customers.

3. I can use our house list to accurately target our target accounts.

4. Our house list allows us to target contacts who are involved in active sales opportunities.

5. Our house list allows us to target contacts who were involved in discontinued (lost/no-decision) sales opportunities.

6. When I add in my targeting criteria (Industry, Product, Job Function, etc.), the list gets so small that it is practically unusable.

7. My campaigns generate complaints from unintended recipients, but I have no way to suppress these types of contacts.

8. I tend to rent lists (or use an outside agency for my list) because our house list does not provide enough coverage for my specific needs.

9. If I had to choose ONLY three fields to segment our customers and prospects for my campaigns, these would be:
a.
b.
c.

How did you fare?  Which force-ranked priorities did you list for question 9?  Depending on the culture in your marketing team you may have your peers openly share and discuss the answers, or keep it anonymous.

Does your company formally prioritize its data quality projects, or is it more reactive/ad-hoc?

The Shift into Downstream Lead Nurturing

What happens to your “net new” leads after their first inquiry?   A closer look at your lead flow might reveal that the majority of leads receive inadequate follow-on communications once they are passed to Sales.

In one company where I was hired to study the severity of this problem, we confirmed that only 10-20% of the marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) passed to Sales were estimated to receive any follow-up activity.  The balance were discarded for seemingly legitimate reasons:  The organization was deemed a poor fit; the individual works for a known customer account, the individual is in a role without buying authority, and so on.  Most commonly though, sales reps were simply unable to connect by phone or email.  We concluded that people are generally unwilling to take cold calls from a sales rep and company they have not yet come to know or trust.  All of these factors contribute significantly to reduced lead conversion, and ultimately reduce the revenue potential from these leads.

Nurture programs can be used to extend the dialog with prospects well after the initial inquiry, creating a positive experience for sales-accepted leads (SALs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).  Many of my clients are currently aiming their efforts at expanding the array of nurture programs which target “downstream” audiences.

With the availability of increasingly sophisticated technology at their disposal, marketers can expect to see an increase in the use of carefully-crafted, selective emails that target downstream audiences with relevant, carefully personalized email — all working in close coordination with Sales.  The typical goals of these nurture programs are to increase buyer awareness and consideration, position sales reps as trusted advisors, encourage referrals and cross-promote social media.

Are you using these tactics?

“Triple-touch” welcome emails.  Engage newly added prospects with follow-on information and offers that reinforce your position in the marketplace.  Offer them industry insight and content with third-party objectivity such as syndicated sources where available.  Rather than assigning a rigid schedule to the next email in the series, consider delaying your timing to “speed up” or “slow down” email schedule based on responsiveness.

Progressively verify member status.  Configure your nurture workflow to routinely check the status of each member in progress for any recent changes before sending follow-on emails. If the person’s account becomes a customer, stop sending them prospecting emails.

Personalize by sales rep. Companies with a direct selling model benefit from sending their nurture emails with sales reps as the sender using signature personalization. The emails should be crafted with relevant content and ideas that help position the sales rep as a trusted source. Authenticity is key.

Message from the “CEO”. A single, timely, handwritten message from a top executive can have a powerful effect on buyers involved in early- to mid-stage sales opportunities.  Automate the message using a combination of carefully crafted CRM integration, program workflow and signature personalization. Replies must be handled promptly!

Leverage sales opportunity and customer data to improve the personalization.  Pulling in relevant data tied to these individuals can open up excellent new applications for nurturing. For example targeting new product owners, customers in the renewal cycle, or buyers involved in recently won/lost sales opportunities.

What types of nurturing tactics have you seen for targeting downstream audiences?

Ideas for Nurturing “Sales-Accepted Leads” without Breaking Your Neck

Back in my days at Eloqua I remember the sparkle in people’s eyes when we used to describe the concept of “lead nurturing.” A lot of time has passed since then, and today it’s clear that lead nurturing programs have moved into the mainstream.  Marketers everywhere are using automation to send out a series of targeted “triple touch” (or similar) emails to prospects after their first inquiry.  It’s also common to find marketers using lead scoring and other methods to qualify their leads prior to sending them over to sales for follow-up.

Getting this far is a terrific accomplishment for most businesses, given the state of sales-and-marketing alignment in most companies.  But if you’ve just realized this milestone yourself, you may want to hold off on popping champagne until you have a chance to check your lead flow results.

A common problem arises when the bulk of incoming leads continue to receive inadequate follow-on communications beyond the initial nurture program.  In one situation we studied, only 10-20% of the marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) passed to sales received any follow-up activity.

Some further investigation revealed that the balance of inquiries were discarded for various reasons:  The organization was deemed a poor fit by the sales rep; the individual was employed in a target account, but in a role deemed to be outside the buying center, or the individuals were simply unable to connect by phone, or unreceptive to taking cold calls from a sales rep they had not yet come to trust.  All of these factors contribute to reduced conversion from our lead pool and ultimately, lower revenue potential.

One simple option is to add more emails to your nurture program, but then you end up dealing with new trade-offs:  Is the next email in the series still going to be as relevant to that person, after so much time has passed?  What if their buying situation has changed?  This is especially important when you consider the consequences of sending “stock” nurture emails to sales-accepted leads (SALs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).  Marketers can make better use of the sophisticated software features at their disposal to make their communications more relevant to this key “downstream” audience.

There are some clues in your data to help you identify the subset of leads who are downstream within the overall nurture audience.  Companies operating their marketing database with CRM integration can enhance their integration beyond contacts and companies, to pull back information on sales opportunities. This allows marketers to identify customers and active prospects among the new leads.  The linkage opens up better possibilities for downstream nurturing, for example nurturing to product owners, nurturing to customers who are in renewal cycles, or targeted messages to prospects who are in open sales opportunities. Figure 1: Downstream Nurture in Lead Flow Pipeline illustrates the emerging practice within nurture as a visual workflow.

Figure 1: Downstream Nurture in Lead Flow Pipeline (click to expand)

Once you have the audience identified and tagged, you can enhance your nurture programming to put the downstream nurture tactics in place.

Some ideas to consider for effective downstream nurturing:

Progressively check to see if the buyer situation has changed. Configure nurture workflow with safeguards to continuously check the status of each nurture member before sending follow-on emails. Also, consider the benefits of adjusting the program to suppress or “hold” emails so they do not “collide” with other campaigns that may be in play. Another popular technique is to adjust the program to send the next email based on responsiveness to the previous email.

Downstream messages should reflect your evolving relationship.  Newly welcomed audiences generally receive follow-on content and offers that reinforce your unique capabilities and expertise in the market. You can also provide third-party perspective with industry reports and syndicated sources where these are available.  Other popular goals include encouraging referrals and merchandising social media channels.  The content for downstream nurture emails does not need to change that much from generic nurture, but the opening sentence can certainly reflect the buying stage of that prospect and how the content can help them in that context.

Personalize by sales rep. Companies with a direct selling model can benefit from sending their nurture emails using signature personalization, with sales reps appearing as the sender. Well-crafted emails with relevant content help position the sales rep as trusted advisors (just make sure that sales reps are being responsive to those replies!).

Thank you from the CEO.  A single, timely, handwritten text message from a top executive can have a powerful effect on buyers.  I’ve personally seen it work best on prospects in mid-stage opportunities.  This type of email can be fully autuomated using a careful recipe of CRM integration, program workflow and signature personalization.

Have you had success with these tactics?  Are there any others you would like to share?

Using Eloqua for Crisis Communications

“This is critical. This email must go out in the next 7 minutes.”

That is how much time a client of mine was recently given to send an important email announcement to their entire customer base. The company she worked for (which will remain anonymous) is a software security vendor. The email was intended to direct customers to a new patch release which eliminated a vulnerability in their product to thwart a recent cyber-attack.

Sometimes we face an important choice: When it comes to really important emails, should we use Eloqua to send the email – or should we send it using our company mail server?

For customer email announcements that involve just a handful of people at a time, it might be best left to the account manager to send the email on behalf of the company. But for companywide announcements, it makes sense to stick with Eloqua.

Using Eloqua to send crisis email instead of Outlook/Exchange offers several compelling advantages:

  • You can deploy large-scale emails to customer lists very quickly, within minutes.
  • Your email send volume is not limited by company mail server policies (you are not limited to 200 contacts per email in Outlook/Exchange Server).
  • Customers are (presumably) already receiving email from you with Eloqua, so your sender policy framework (SPF) and IP reputation within these accounts should guarantee that your crisis emails are received as well.

Using Eloqua offers you for detailed information on receipt and responsiveness to these critically important emails – opens, clicks, bouncebacks, all of which can direct further follow-up action with specific customers (did they download the patch?).

Getting an Emergency Customer List is the Hard Part
If you can imagine how things unfold in a crisis situation, minute by minute, the most challenging aspect of crisis management is not the email content itself. It’s getting the list right. Take a close look at your database and ask yourself: If you had to pull a list of our active customer contacts right now, in the next few minutes, could you be sure you could pull in 100% of your active customers? Could you get the entire list ready in 7 minutes?

The way to make your customer list available in a crisis starts with good practices in your CRM database. These include:

Having an “Account Type” field in CRM that identifies active customers and is centrally controlled, ideally by a single individual or team inside the company who can “own” the accuracy of this field.

  1. Following an established process to add primary customer contacts to CRM under these accounts.
  2. Creating integration linkage between Eloqua and CRM for account-level data.
    Having ready-made contact filters and distribution lists in Eloqua for active customer contacts.
  3. An appreciation shared between account managers, sales reps and professional services employees of the importance of CRM data (for times like this!)

In a crisis, the marketing manager should be able to prepare an email, load the active customer list with confidence that everyone who matters is included, and send the email within minutes. All without the need to upload separate spreadsheets, or deal with one-off entries.

Lead Scoring: Start the Conversation

So you’ve decided to embark on building a state-of-the-art lead scoring program.

Most marketers seem to agree that scoring leads prior to sending over to Sales for follow-up is a good idea.   If nothing else, the score attached to each lead creates a useful data point to reflect the expected value of that individual’s inquiry to the business, one to which both parties can relate and compare.   If Sales is onside with the idea, it may be time to dig in and start building a new program (or re-building an existing one, as the case may be).

How to begin the conversation?   The general consensus between Sales and Marketing that “we really should score our leads” is where the similarities with other companies end.   While on the front lines of dozens of lead scoring projects I have yet to find two companies with identical scoring programs.  And then again not only are the models often totally different, but people tend to disagree on the design process itself:  Should we invest heavily in quantitative analysis of our historical lead conversion rates, to uncover statistics that we can then use to design the program?  Or just rely on gut feel?

There is no cookie-cutter formula, but whatever approach you decide to take your lead scoring should ultimately allow Sales to automatically score the leads based on their net potential business opportunity.  The program must also fit your lead flow process (whether it be “waterfall” or other methodology) and also be compatible with your specific Eloqua-to-CRM integration.

When I am invited to help companies broker the early stages of a lead scoring project, I like to ask a few qualifying questions which precede the formal requirements definition.  If you are at this stage in your project yourself, here is a quick list of questions you can use to prepare for the first planning meeting with your counterparts in Sales.

These questions typically generate a good conversation and set the stage for a successful project:

1. Why is lead scoring important to Sales?  What is their vision?  If nothing else this is a sanity check to make sure there is shared vision for what scoring will achieve for both parties.

2. Which leads represent examples of the most important ones for follow-up?   Define these in terms of data: Customer status, company type, demographic (job titles, functions, etc), sales cycle, affinity for certain product interest.

3. Should all leads be scored using the same model regardless of source and type?  Should any leads be scored as automatic “A” leads?

4. Does “behavioral scoring” matter to Sales?  What type of measurable activity (email opens, clicks, trade show visits etc.) should “bump up” the score for a “B” lead to an “A” lead, if any?

5. Which leads are least important?  It’s a very good idea to discuss what’s at the barrel-bottom and will receive the lowest rating.  Or should we even pass these over?

6. Will Sales agree to provide feedback on the lead quality?  Are they willing to save each
lead with feedback, such as “You said this was an (A, B, or C) lead, but it really turned out to be an (A, B, or C) lead.”)?

7. Are there any special routing or notification requirements for “A” leads (or B leads, C leads)?

This is just a sample but illustrates effective ways to shed light on the priorities and emergent features of the new program.

Once you have a chance to document the answers, typically this is where formal requirements are defined.   At this point your technical experts should be involved (if not already) to review the proposed model and assess the state of Eloqua data, whether it’s feasible to score leads the way you intend and provide some alternatives that get close to the “ideal” scoring model that will serve both parties well.

Armed with your Eloqua-ready lead scoring model or “matrix”, time to circle back with Sales and review the whole program again to pressure-test it for any problems.  When everyone approves the revised model, we get to work building out the program, get the CRM integration adjusted, test and review, and continue to make adjustments heading up to the launch.

Are Marketers Doing Enough to Prevent Data Breach?

Finally, at long last, you have reached your marketing automation nirvana. Your web site visitors are being tracked, inquiries are scored and sent over to sales, you are getting great feedback from sales on lead quality. Your teammates in marketing are also seeing good results from their campaign efforts. Time to kick back and relax knowing the business is enjoying the benefits of marketing automation.

Or is it?

If there was ever a topic to raise the ire of marketers, it’s software security. It’s got to be the “un-sexiest” area of marketing effectiveness and in my travels I find that virtually no marketing executive will ever make this an active priority (beyond vague platitudes); some would seemingly rather take a head-in-the-sand approach. Since companies tend to fund and configure their marketing automation platform without any direct involvement from IT, these systems are typically not held to the same level of scrutiny as CRM, SCM, ERP and other mission-critical systems.

Yet in the news headlines we bear witness to data thefts and other security breaches among the world’s most prominent companies and the ensuing negative publicity and loss of goodwill from customers.

Lately it seems the shift in thinking is finally underway in marketing departments and among marketing automation vendors alike, to take system security more seriously. These innovators are using the same project and security management approaches used by IT to keep their marketing platforms running safely.

Consider for a moment the kinds of actions that everyday users of your marketing software can perform right now. You would never suspect any nefarious behavior from Mary down the hall, but she might have the ability to download the entire worldwide database of personal information to her hard drive. Bill, our latest hire, couldn’t hurt a fly, but he could certainly email everyone in the database tonight if he wanted to. Imagine the consequences of either of these actions on your brand, reputation and legal liability. Imagine the drama for you personally, as you deliver testimony to senior officials on the question: “Did you take reasonable measures to secure this data?” It’s certainly in everyone’s best interests to secure your systems.

Okay, so you’ve heard the idea before. How well does your operation stack up on these four initiatives below?

Tighten up end-user access. This starts with centralizing control over end-user permissions, and making critical areas of the software off-limits to everyone except the administrators themselves. Take advantage of the native security features in your software and create custom security groups if the default options don’t provide enough control.

Disable access for terminated employees. Simple as it sounds, most administrators I meet do not have a formal provision in place to disable access to the marketing databases upon employee termination. Adding this simple checkpoint to the HR off-boarding process can go a long way to curb the risk of data theft or other breach.

Date-stamp leads when they are sent to sales. A less evident but still critical factor for compliance, you must have a clear understanding when personal information passes from one system to another. If you have not done so already, consider amending your CRM integration program to date-stamp all leads as they enter and exit the sync program. Along with improving your information compliance, this simple enhancement comes in very handy to troubleshoot “missing” leads or correcting other sync errors.

Document the main data model. Marketing automation in most companies is a distributed system that involves several software applications sharing the same data, and therefore the entire system has many fail points. The “openness” of these applications makes it far too easy for mystery fields, custom objects and bogus data to creep in, diluting the marketing team’s ability to develop effective targeting. While documenting the entire system may be “overkill,” certainly every company should maintain a list of its primary data fields, pick-list values, integration field mappings, and other core objects and compile these into a Data Definitions (DD) document for internal circulation. This living document becomes the go-to reference guide for control over any future system-level changes.

If you have only 1 or 2 of these items covered, consider performing a formal security audit with some outside help from your software vendor or partner. If you scored 3 or 4, you can get back to relaxing.

If you have other tips to share with readers on how to improve their marketing automation security, feel free to leave comments below.

Eloqua Expert Services – What’s your take?

At the Eloqua Experience conference last October, Eloqua Corp announced its new “Eloqua Expert Services” – offering up their internal specialists on a for-hire basis to do everything and anything their clients need done with Eloqua.

The announcement was greeted with mixed reactions by the Eloqua community.  At least a few Eloqua customers seem to have signed up for this service, while others are taking a “wait and see” approach.

The new service marks a considerable change in strategy for Eloqua Corp around service delivery. They have long operated an in-house professional services department, but in the past sought to promote their Eloqua Partner community for any service work.  The in-house team would limit their engagements to fixed-price projects such as deployment, lead scoring programs or “best practices consulting” audits.  Customers who needed on-going campaign and development work would be referred to their partner ecosystem.  By referring the bulk of service work to partners, Eloqua Corp could focus their staff on what they do best – building a solid product.

This new service now seems to indicate a reversal in policy.  Eloqua Corp is now positioning to offer “one-stop shopping” for clients who need a complete array of services – deployment, training, development, integration, campaign admin, ad-hoc tech support, best practice consulting.

Curious to hear from Eloqua community members who have actually hired their services or otherwise have an opinion to share.

– Where do they pitch in?  Tech support only, or do you delegate entire campaigns or programs?
– Do you only task to them on overflow, when you are “overloaded” or do they have steady work from you?
– How many hours?
– Pros and cons?
– Do you think the service will change the way you staff Eloqua in your company?

B2B Multi-channel Done Right

At the Eloqua Experience conference last month I briefly met an interesting new Eloqua technology partner, Advanced Image Direct, based in Fullerton, CA and their Cloud2You solution for automated Eloqua direct mail programs.

Simply put, you can use their solution to trigger individualized, personalized mailers to contacts as they are added to a Program Builder step.   While automated variable data printing has been attempted before by Eloqua with lukewarm results (remember PrintMail?), this time around end-users can better control the process through AppCloud and the familiar Program Builder interface.

The combined solution opens up some promising new capabilities for multi-channel campaigns.  But what impressed me the most about this vendor was not what they sell, but HOW they sell.   I have to hand it to these guys,  their mix of follow-up tactics for leads from the conference is a shining example of B2B multi-channel done right.

Returning from a consulting gig in Boston this week, I found several items waiting for me:

Courier package. An oversize Fedex package was sticking out of my mailbox. Inside was a thank-you letter and four-color 8×11 foldout glossy brochure.  In an world that can’t seem to get enough of online marketing, nothing stands out like well-crafted oversize direct mail.  And for Advanced Image Direct, the medium is the message, so it’s encouraging to see them eating their own dog food.

Introductory email with availability for demos.  A no-frills, text email coming directly from the sales rep. Rather than being a re-hash of the information I saw in the glossy package, this was a list of open times in the next 3 weeks when they could demonstrate their solution and upcoming projects.

Thoughtful voicemail.   I received a nice recap of their own experience at the conference and drawing some quick comparisons between Eloqua Experience and another conference that competes for my attention, DreamForce.    I won’t gush over a voicemail but let me say that it was a carefully worded story and told in an interesting enough way for me to listen to it in full.

Each medium was used to deliver a different message but provide an impactful and mutually reinforcing approach that probably only cost a few dollars per new lead. Nice work!