AniBlurbs (Column)

Anibal's thoughts on Online Marketing Strategy, Service Design, Tech, Innovation, Business and more…

Archive for September, 2008

Means to an End

“Please understand that I have no problem at all with precision. Precision is great, it’s essential to engineering and to the function of many elements of society. It’s almost impossible to be on time without precision, and quality depends on it. But when we reward people for senseless precision (and punish them randomly for not guessing what we actually meant when we asked a question) then all we’re doing is muddying the waters about what matters and what doesn’t. Is there a difference between the Dow falling 107.4 points and it falling nearly 1%? If not, don’t try to wow me with needless precision please.”

And once again, Seth Godin is hitting the nail on the head again, read the whole post here.

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Study: High Online Video Ads Rates May Drop has released a study on Online Video Advertising and pricing, more on “High Online Video Ads Rates May Drop”.

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E-mailing Brand Equity or Inversed Strategy?

There’s an interesting e-mailing debate on the Signal vs. Noise blog. Now I mostly agree with some of the business philosophy of mister Fried and co., and I’ve got a deep respect for what they’ve achieved and the way they did it, but the idea of trying out new e-mail designs First before applying a design overhaul to the website based thereon is inane.

Though I can sympathize with the “Process-Breaking-Possible-Mind-Freeing” idea behind the post, there are two obvious pitfalls Jamie (the author) is unaware of, both stemming from a misguided thought pattern.

1. Conversion and Marketing Strategy
The author is putting Form over Function, Tactic above Strategy and Outcome before Process.

There’s a good reason why

“…emails have their conceptual birth in another medium altogether: a Catalog, an Advertisement, or the Website.”

And why

“The concept and strategy was already finalized before it goes to (the web designer). At that point it was all about production.”

Please read the whole 37Signals post and the discussion here for some more context.

Strategy ultimately leads to Production and not the other way around, for all the obvious reasons.

That being said, let’s try to break down the raison d’être of E-mail Marketing once more, starting off with a fundamental question: Strategy and communication plan aside,

Why send out an e-mailing in the first place?

Your sending out an e-mailing to stimulate your reader base to take action (on your website)
, be it either:

  • Reading the latest news (gaining you the required eyeballs for advertising revenue);
  • Signing up for a service;
  • Filling in a survey;
  • Updating their profile (both offering more accurate targeting = opportunity to add more relevancy);
  • Buying a product;
  • Booking a ticket or
  • Simply just showing your appreciation for them being such loyal customers…

Whatever your primary motives may be, you’re mainly sending out that mail to communicate to your (potential) customers in order to generate higher conversion rates.

Make them click! That’s your core Sub-Goal*.

Your sole priority lies there, design details such as shadow and rounded corners are superfluous and should be geared towards supporting you in reaching that goal, not detract from it. Your main objective is not to go against all logical and proven processes by designing a fancy e-mail template as a way of alpha-testing a possible future website redesign.

It’s the message and the call-to-actions therein that count, and though it doesn’t hurt to have a neatly designed mailing, it’s a waste of your efforts if you spend too much time on art instead of investing it in sensible e-Copywriting. In other words: “Substance Over Style, please m’am”.

The only exception here is when you’re Crowdsourcing your website re-design and have a dedicated address list of people that are aching to be part of the drive testing(process) or if your regular subscribers have given you Permission to do so. If such is the case, don’t forget to add a feedback button in there as well…

This approach allows you to obtain valuable feedback because people are consciously paying attention to the careful alterations you make to your template, whereas in all other cases some people are bound to take notice of the gradual changes somewhere down the line and probably think you don’t have a clue about what your doing…

[* Note that I said “sub goal” deliberately, because an e-mailing is a part of your communication plan and thus should support your overall Marketing Strategy. Seeing a pattern here?]

2. Consistent Authentic Branding
The second pitfall was correctly pointed out by a comment in the thread from none other than Seth Godin himself. 37Signals has a reputation of having a very unique and dare I say intimate bond with their customers/users.

Part of their reputation, appeal and charm lies in the passionate and practical way they look at how to improve a business process and how to get rid of excess weight, so to speak. And more often than not, the sluggish corporate way of doing business is at the receiving end of their rants and riffs.

Unless your target audience is expecting it from you, suddenly adding a standard Corporate styled e-mailing in the communication mix isn’t going to strengthen that relationship. On the contrary; you’re actually running a huge risk of erecting an invisible wall between yourself and your clientele.

Other than that, this operation could turn out to be a “me-too” approach for 37Signals: Since they’d be stopping with communicating in a personal (and their very own Getting Real) way, the receivers might unconsciously end up getting a change of attitude towards them; leading to a loss of sympathy over time, which ultimately leads to less loyalty and brand connection. Stay authentic, be consistent.

Have I already mentioned that the suggested Inversed Strategy approach isn’t conversion centred?

When I’m subscribing to a newsletter I expect (nay, want!) a clean and simple, (mobile device friendly!) swiftly-loading mail in my inbox, communicating a focused, relevant and -in this particular case- personal message. That’s the way I got charmed by & connected with your brand in the first place.

It’d be a waste to ruin the expectations and experience of your target audience and clients by giving in to a (misguided) personal desire for creative freedom.

If it’s more creative freedom you want, it’d be much wiser to start thinking about rearranging your career, instead of rearranging a proven process or something as fragile as your E-mailing Brand Equity.

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Measures – Objectives (or Web Analytics: 8 Rules for Defining KPI’s)

Avinash Kaushik (GOOG) giving 8 usefull tips on website analytics.

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Project 10^100

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