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The past few days have been pretty tumultuous for the email marketing world, and that’s putting it lightly. In a surprising move, Yahoo decided to switch up how it handles email verification, leading to a major headache for brands that use this domain to send out promotional messages to customers. If this is news to you, don’t worry – it is to most of the rest of the industry as well. To help catch you up to speed, here’s a quick rundown of what happened and what you need to do to make sure you stay in contact with every member of your mailing list.

What Happened Exactly?

As part of a new approach to email, Yahoo augmented its Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) reject policy. Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying that emails sent to the people on your list en masse from an @yahoo.com address – or the @yahoo.ca, @ymail.com, and @rocketmail.com variants – might get bounced or rejected under the new authentication policy. The reason why? Because they’re coming from an outside platform and not directly from Yahoo’s servers. Currently, the known providers bouncing these messages include Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, and Comcast.

Why’d Yahoo Do This?

Yahoo did this to break mailing lists and ruin email marketing, right? Not exactly. While it is a bit of a roadblock for brands currently using these addresses, this wasn’t the plan behind the change. Actually, Yahoo’s reason for making the switch centers on spoofing attacks made against its millions of users – the mass amount of bounces is an unfortunate side affect that’s part of a larger plan for enhanced security. From that perspective, it’s pretty hard to blame Yahoo, but it doesn’t make it any easier for companies to deal with the fact that these emails are now running right into an authentication brick wall.

Protecting Your Mailing Lists Moving Forward

Now that you’re all caught up, it’s time to build a rebound plan and get back in touch with your audience. First on the list – stop sending out emails with a Yahoo reply address. These messages never make their way to your mailing list members’, as they will only continue to bounce. Once you’ve got this under control it’s time to make a switch with which domain you use.

If you’re thinking short term, there’s plenty of free options out there that don’t currently set off the Yahoo red alarm, like Hotmail or Gmail. However, there’s no guarantee that Yahoo’s new DMARC configuration isn’t the start of a new trend among all the major email players. To permanently protect your ability to show up in your subscribers inboxes, you’re going to have think a little more long-term. What this means is going with a domain that you own or operate to prevent any future hiccups like the one inadvertently caused by Yahoo’s attempts to cut down on all the real junk mail.

Yahoo

 

We are excited to announce that our CEO Robert Burko has a 30min speaking engagement today at the Dx3 trade show in downtown Toronto.

Explore the ways mobile text message marketing campaigns can be used to drive engagement with customers in new & unique ways as part of a cross-channel communication strategy.

If your at the show you should definitely attend, as some really interesting tidbits regarding mobile marketing will be addressed, and everyone will walk away with some great ideas for 2014!

For more info on the show and when Robert will be speaking, please visit the Dx3 website.

Dx3

 

When it comes to email marketing, a security breach like the one that recently hit Yahoo isn’t just an interesting piece of news — it’s a seismic event that sends ripples throughout the industry and leaves everyone, especially those who use Yahoo’s services, wondering what happens next. The bottom line? These types of cyber-attacks aren’t going away any time soon.

Security attacks are unfortunately becoming a more regular occurrence,” said Jay Rossiter, Yahoo’s senior vice president for platforms and personalization products.

What Happened?

On Jan. 30, 2014, Yahoo announced that hackers, from an undisclosed third-party source, used stolen passwords to break into numerous accounts and steal private information related to recently sent and received emails as well as contact lists. While the execs at Yahoo didn’t give a number for how many accounts faced this issue, it’s probably safe to assume that a significant amount of users were affected, otherwise it wouldn’t have turned into a major news story. (Some estimates put the number of computers affected by the attacks at up to 2 million.)

How Did the Hackers Get User Information?

So how did the hackers break in? It looks like all of this started with breaches on other platforms. Basically, the hackers compromised accounts on other sites, like Netflix and Facebook, and used the login information from these sources to then kick down the doors of users’ private Yahoo inboxes. The worst part about all of this is that if these reports truly outline how the security breach happened, it could have easily been avoided by using one of the most basic Internet security tips in the book – don’t use the same password twice. This concept fits into pretty much every blog or article on basic web security, but the invasion of private Yahoo accounts just drives home the point that some of us simply don’t listen.

Yahoo’s Response to the Breach

Considering that the breach might not have even come from a security lapse or breakdown of Yahoo’s technology, there wasn’t actually much that the Internet giant could do for those who were compromised, outside of ask them politely to change their passwords. Aside from that, the company has also discussed implementing additional layers of verification to the login process. Unfortunately, for the Yahoo execs and administrators, this probably won’t do much to deter the remaining portion of the user base that still thinks having a single-step login is a good idea.

Are You at Risk?

The short answer to this question is yes – if you use Yahoo for your email services. If your account was one of the many that was compromised, then you’ve probably already heard from Yahoo. However, simply interacting with others who fall into this category could lead to an indirect association with the attack. Essentially, by being on the contact list or recently having an email chat with an affected user, your email address and any other personal info stored in the contact list could be compromised. However, you should be okay as long as you avoid opening any suspicious emails and incorporate strong, and different, passwords across your various web accounts.

Yahoo’s Image Moving Forward

Now, Yahoo’s brand is left with a little mud on its face. If the claims of a third-party network intrusion are true, then the focus could shift to the security habits of this undisclosed company, or companies, and how they let user information fall into the hands of hackers and malicious programs.

Lasting Effects for the Email Industry

For those who work in the email marketing industry, as well as people who simply enjoy using email to connect with others, these types of events can really create some serious backlash. Consumers never want to lose control of their private information, and when it happens, you can expect them to tighten up on whom they communicate with and how these communications occur. That being said, if you already have an established contact list that knows and trusts your brand, you should be good to go. It’s the new customers who might be a little hesitant, but that’s only to be expected. With a little time, patience, and a continued focus on high quality email marketing content, your campaign can weather this storm and keep right on moving past any potential pitfalls along the way.

Yahoo

 

These days the Super Bowl might only be half about actual football with the other half being about the crazy high-production value amazingly costly commercials that air during the game.

Super Bowl XLVIII was no different, except that with the huge lead the Seahawks had out of the gates, by the 3rd and 4th quarter it might have only been the ads that people were still really paying attention to… except for the Broncos fans who had tear filled eyes and the Seahawks fans probably to drunk in celebration to pay attention to anything!

This year’s ads really showcase a lot of creativity from marketers who know the stakes are high to break through the clutter and generate the amount of buzz to warrant the price tag of a 30 second spot.

According to Paul Farhi of the Washington Post, the average cost per ad is around $4 million. Certainly the biggest advertisers get substantial discounts for running multiple ads or longer ads, but no matter what it is a steep price to pay, plus they have to produce the commercial.

Below are all the ads from the 2014 Super Bowl so you can decide for yourself which ones were great, which ones fell short, and which ones will have people talking.

Bud Light – Epic Night (Extended)

During the game this ran as a multi-part commercial. But, since it was probably my favorite commercial of this year’s Super Bowl, I have included the full-length extended version here.

Cheerios – Gracie

Great job General Mills for sending a clear message to all the haters from last year’s ad! I personally loved last year’s ad, and I’m glad to see the interracial family brought back for 2014.
According to AdWeek, the 2013 spot boosted Cheerios’ exposure by 77 percent… will it have the same impact this year?

GoDaddy – Body Builder

Doritos – Cowboy Kid

Budweiser – Puppy Love

T-Mobile – We Killed the Long Term Contract

Butterfinger Cups

Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt – The Spill

Jaguar – Good To Be Bad

Microsoft – Empowering

Hyundai – Nice

Coca-Cola – Going All The Way

Chrysler – Bob Dylan

Budweiser – A Hero’s Welcome

Honda – Hugfest

Heinz Ketchup

Kia – The Truth

Chobani – Ransacked

Axe – Peace

Intuit – GoldieBlox

T-Mobile – Still No Contract

Audi – Doberhuahua

Pepsi (Halftime Spot) – Soundcheck NYC

Jeep – Restless

Sonos – Face Off

Toyota – Muppets Mos Wanted

Coca-Cola – It’s Beautiful

H & M – David Beckham

Wonderful Pistachios – Part 1

Wonderful Pistachios – Part 2

Carmax – Slow Clap

Volkswagen – Wings

T-Mobile – No Contract, No Worries

Bank of America – U2 “Invisible”

Chevrolet – Life

Radio Shack – The Phone Call

Bud Light – Cool Twist

Squarespace – A Better Web Awaits

GoDaddy – Puppet Master

Hyundai – Dad’s Sixth Sense

Chevrolet – Romance

Doritos – Time Machine

Maserati – Ghibli

Ford – Nearly Double

Banned Ad:

SodaStream – Sorry, Coke and Pepsi

And that’s the round-up of the 2014 Super Bowl commercials. It’s clear that big brands put big money behind some of these spots.

It’s also noteworthy to see how many commercials were leaked before the game and had already wracked up millions of views even before anything hit the airwaves. There is basically an entire secondary market to Super Bowl ads that can draw in big numbers for advertisers and get the chatter going before the big game.

As always, it will be interesting to see what marketers take away from the 2014 ads, as they prepare for 2015.

Super Bowl 2014 Commercials

 

Now that you’ve read the first blog detailing the faux pas of Facebook in regards to how the company mishandled private consumer messages, it is a great time to look at how you can avoid similar mistakes when initiating an email or mobile marketing campaign of your own. The importance of brushing up on compliance concerns as you start to reach out to consumers goes without saying – especially if you don’t have the massive legal backing that companies like Facebook enjoy when dealing with lawsuits and other damaging occurrences.

Avoid the Obvious

The first place to start this discussion is right where it left off in the previous blog post regarding Facebook’s violations of consumer privacy. The easiest lesson to learn, and the best way to stay in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and other regulatory governance, is to avoid illicitly obtaining consumer information, as well as working with agencies that partake in such practices when it comes to setting up an email marketing campaign. If you need more reasons to say no to this type of conduct when engaging in marketing of any type, just know that Facebook isn’t the only organization that has gone a step, or more like a mile, over the line. In 2013, Google also found itself on the wrong side of privacy laws and regulations, leading to backlash and penalties as well.

Ask for Permission

According to the Mobile Marketer, a key part of the SMS or email interaction is to ask for permission. By having a written agreement on record, you can ensure that you avoid penalization under the CAN-SPAM Act, the TCPA, and CASL laws in Canada. In fact, failing to incorporate this step into the marketing process can net fines of up to $1,500 from the government. While $1,500 might not like seem like much of a cost for the ability to spam countless consumers with your message, keep in mind that the little detail that this penalty is per message. That paints the price in an entirely different light.

Give the Consumer a Little Notice Before You Start

Taking it a step further to help expound upon the rules and regulations is this post from Experian. As the title would suggest, what you don’t know when it comes to compliance can definitely hurt you. With that in mind, the next primary regulation centers on offering the consumer a little notice about what the email program entails. This means a clearly defined explanation that entering into such a program comes with messages sent directly to the user via a short-code application. Often, explaining this detail when asking for permission from the user is an effective way to mark off both concerns from your compliance checklist.

On and Off Toggles Are Also Important

Additionally, the other key point from the Experian discussion covers what kind of choices you must give to those who enter into your program. Essentially, having a way for members to opt-in and out of the messaging service must stand as a central part of your operation. For email services specifically, having an unsubscribe link in the footer is a great example of a required opt-out tool. Users must also have access to these toggles at any point in the process, regardless of how you are connecting with them. Otherwise, you can expect penalties and fines from falling out of compliance with the various regulations in the email and SMS marketing world.

Understanding the Legality of a Message

For compliance issues that transcend this type of marketing strategy, like the accusations that stand before Facebook, Performance Marketing Insider suggests simply learning about the legality of messages in general. According to this post, which centers on an interview with Internet legal experts Michael Becker and Richard Newman, there are two key points to take away from this concept. First, text messages share the same legal standing as a phone call, so the same rules apply to both. The second part builds on this and explains that consumers have a personal bubble. Invading this space can occur via unwanted emails, messages and messaging, either by call or text, which occurs far too frequently.

Know the Penalties

All of this information is a lot to process, even for those who are familiar with digital marketing of many forms. To keep everything straight, don’t be afraid to go straight to the source. By reviewing the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL laws, and TCPA rules whenever you have a question, you can ensure the compliance of your marketing plan and avoid the issues other companies, like Google and Facebook, dealt with in the past.

Staying in compliance, especially in the face of the lessons learned from the lawsuit standing against Facebook, is more important now than ever before. To ensure you stick to the rules as you reach out to consumers, remember a couple key regulations that apply to an email campaign. Asking for permission, having the ability to opt-in or out, and giving consumers fair notice over what to expect all start the process. From here, understanding the legality of a message of any kind, as well as knowing the penalties from the source, keeps your campaign safeguarded from serious repercussions.

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Social media giant Facebook finds itself in some hot water with privacy rights groups and activists after reports emerged detailing a potentially major breach of user privacy and practices. While your organization’s messaging operations and marketing initiatives might not operate on the same scale as Facebook, you can be sure that there are plenty of lessons you can learn from how the social network got itself into this predicament. To start, take a moment to review the particulars of the lawsuit and what exactly Facebook did with user messages to draw the ire of plaintiffs Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley.

Allegations of Snooping and Privacy Intrusions

According to an article on the subject from PC World, Facebook faces allegations of sifting through private messages exchanged between users to search out links and other information related to consumer habits and trends. The benefits of such a move are clear to anyone who understands how difficult it is to target and connect with customers via message marketing, or any sort of marketing in general.

By having this window of insight into the lives of the masses, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who claim to speak on behalf of the millions of Facebook faithful, propose that the leading social network then turned your information, as well as the information of the countless others, into a valuable commodity. Such a resource would then help optimize on-site ads and other marketing initiatives for advertising partners in a highly unethical, but potentially effective, manner.

A Fundamental Mistake

Unfortunately for Facebook, if these claims turn out to be true, the company faces some serious backlash from users and privacy rights organizations alike. While every marketing firm or agency wants to have a pulse on its targeted audience, stepping over the boundary and invading personal space is a prime offense that many see as unforgivable. Such a move not only violates the agreement of a company to respect the rights of its users, it also tramples over information privacy laws in the United States and other countries around the world.

The Facebook Rebuttal

While the evidence presented doesn’t paint a pretty picture, Facebook isn’t backing down from the fight. In an effort to defend itself, Facebook representatives released a statement, covered in a report from the Brock Press, that the allegations against the social network have no merit and that the company plans to defend itself vigorously. While this legal response is simply par for the course, it at least shows that Facebook has some sort of plan to push back against the privacy invasion claims. Should legal proceedings come underway, you can bet that the substantial legal team surrounding the interests of the company will need to unveil considerable evidence to the contrary to dismantle such damning claims.

Additionally, the article quotes Internet security expert Graham Cluley, who defends Facebook on this particular issue. Essentially, Mr. Cluley claims that having Facebook scan private messages helps protect the millions of users from spam, illicit links, and destructive malware. However, this doesn’t address the real problem of Facebook taking this content and potentially selling off the information gleaned from these messages to the highest bidder.

Prior Legal Issues and Controversies

Of course, a great legal defense doesn’t cover up the fact that Facebook has been in this position before. Reading an article from the Huffington Post highlights this point in great detail. Over the course of the past several years, the social network has had to defend itself constantly regarding legal concerns. 2011 saw Facebook lose a suit covering the issue of taking and using user information without explicit permission from members of the social network. Additionally, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, settled a case for $65 million that centered on the claim that he stole the idea for this network from his Harvard classmates.

Looking to the Future

While such a move could create major backlash and a potential deterioration of the user base for most organizations, the Brock Press report on the subject closes with a very real statement regarding Facebook’s continued viability. After weathering similar storms and continuing to grow, Facebook just may be one of the few companies that can withstand this issue should it be found guilty of this type of invasion of privacy. However, the potential monetary damages, as well as the damage done to the brand image of the company, should be strong enough to dissuade other organizations from engaging in similarly illicit activities.

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In today’s fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to catch your customers’ attention – this is the hook that reels in potential customers. In digital marketing, they prompt newsletter subscribers or visitors to take advantage of an offer, subscribe to a mailing list or even just learn more about your business. However, in the process of creating a good call to action (or CTA), it’s absolutely imperative not to be overbearing. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being yelled at, so how can you say what you need to say in a way that’s appealing, aesthetic and effective?

Terminology in a Hurry

Whether you’re working with email or text messaging, word choice is important. A good call to action says everything you want it to in as few words as possible while still being clear. When Shoestring Marketing University assembled a list of 50 highly effective phrases for use in CTAs, the old standard of “buy now” didn’t even make it to the bottom of the list – it’s not necessarily a surprise, nobody wants to be told to spend money in this economy.

However, the phrases that did make the cut might be a bit different from you would expect:

  • Click here!
  • Offer expires March 1st
  • Act quickly
  • Reply
  • Your free trial is just a click away!

The one thing that all these phrases have in common is the creation of a sense of urgency, which is a must for any effective call to action. You want this to drive traffic now, not two weeks down the road! Also important is voice used for your CTA. A call to action should read like you’re speaking directly to a real person, so make it part of the bigger picture and integrate the phrasing you choose into the campaign naturally.

Aesthetics

When it comes to looks, a CTA can be just about anything. With SMS marketing it’s all about the word choice – you can’t decide what it looks like when it gets to the other end, only how it reads – but with email marketing, there’s significantly more opportunity to work in some great aesthetics. It could be as simple as a contrasting hyperlink color or as complex as a metallic banner with the texture of brushed steel; just make sure it matches or compliments the look and feel of your campaign as a whole. If you work entirely in blues, add a splash of orange or yellow to your body text and make your call to action gold; if it’s earth tones, throw in a little green or blue and really make that hook pop.

The most important thing about the look is that your call to action catches attention without being overly distracting. Avoid animations, “unique” oversized fonts, and, if you really don’t know what to do, then don’t be afraid to pass the project over to a professional. The better the craftsmanship on your hook, the better response you’ll get.

Always Take Notes

A little research goes a long way. Whether you’re a digital marketing veteran or you’re just starting out, trying multiple calls to action to segmented portions of your list can provide much-needed data on how to proceed with future campaigns. One particular style could generate more traffic and conversions than even subtle variations, but you won’t know how effective your CTA really is without a point of reference.

Just remember, the best campaign in the history of marketing can fail with a poor call to action. You’re trying to appeal to people, so make it something that a person will want to see, and do everything you can to learn from the experience.call-to-action

 

If you’re sitting at the train station, do you let the express train go by to wait to see if the local gets there first?

That seems to be the approximation of marketers’ attitudes about mobile marketing.

In an article at Forbes.com, a BDO Survey revealed that 25% fewer CMOs will be using mobile marketing during the holiday season this year.

The Other Side of the Tablet

Yet, there are numerous other surveys that dispute this strategy – or lack thereof.

In the same Forbes article, Emarketer estimated there would be a 15% increase in mobile shopping during this holiday season.

The Forbes story also mentioned a USA Today article about the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark survey that showed the official beginning of the shopping period, Thanksgiving weekend, set records for mobile shopping and traffic, accounting for 40% of online traffic on Black Friday, and nearly a third on Cyber Monday. Just three years ago, the figure was 4% on Cyber Monday.

Reassessment of the Mobile Marketing Message

Despite these surveys, others show that while consumers are more favorable to mobile marketing, it is the message that’s the problem. The same Forbes article above noted Responsys’ survey results showing that while 28% of consumers subscribe to mobile marketing, 35% say what they receive is not relevant

Approximately 64% of subscribers have purchased a product if the mobile message was relevant. The three areas people were most interested receiving information about were pricing (66%), time-sensitive sales (52%) and location based (50%).

Across the pond, there is similar research. Mobile solutions specialist Oxygen8 Group’s survey in the United Kingdom showed that 42% of consumers feel the mobile marketing they receive is not relevant or useful.

It would seem that rather than “discounting” mobile marketing, tweaking the messages or deals could spike sales. People may save coupons, but tend to forget them when it’s time to shop. The knowledge that they are always carrying the coupons with them on a mobile device could help them remember and use the offers.

The Impact of Online Search

A study by Frost & Sullivan in Australia revealed that online searching is surpassing other online advertising, including sponsorships, integrated site content, e-newsletters; online classifieds and online directories. It is expected to rise from 83% this year to 91% in 2018. Click to call from a mobile device is becoming more popular. This trend is due to the increased use of mobile devices and many of these searches are local. With a recent emphasis on buying local and the surveys indicating consumers being receptive to localized mobile marketing, small businesses, which are usually the local ones, should take advantage of the opportunity.

Combining Brick and Mortar with Mobile

A good marketing plan integrates different platforms. The recommendation of another survey suggests a different way of adapting to the mobile method.

BIA/Kelsey studied the development of shopping, commerce and payments in the mobile age. A shocking result was that combined, e-commerce and m-commerce accounted for only 7% of American retail spending! People still like going to a store and looking at a product or trying on clothes. Their suggestion is incorporating into the brick and mortar store “mobile-assisted offline shopping.” For example, a Vietnamese food truck in Arlington, VA uses a mobile card reader in combination with an iPad to accept credit card payments, which account for 65%-70% of its sales.

With the increase of mobile shopping, advertising and usage in general,  the time is now to start focusing on making sure all of your marketing efforts are mobile friendly, and geared towards this demographic moving forward.

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I have been consulting about social media since it was brand new. I remember when people moved from MySpace to this thing called Facebook…. and, at that time, Facebook was really easy to use with limited options. :)

When social media was just emerging, CBC created a documentary called “The Selling Game” that profiled some of the groundbreaking work we were doing with Sauza Tequila & Facebook. It was new, different, and hadn’t been done before.

Since that time, I have probably had a thousand conversations with organizations and brands of all sizes from all over the world about how to properly use social media, develop a good content calendar, measuring social ROI, and more.

Throughout all those conversations, I have always seen the different stages the leadership teams go through, especially when it’s their first time dipping their tool into the social media ecosystem.

So, when I saw this graphic from one of my favorite bloggers, Tom Fishburne, I had to post it here. He just captures each phase so perfectly!

Stages of Social Network Adoption

 

Halloween is easily one of our favorite holidays here at Elite Email. It’s just so much fun to see the tremendous amount of emails going out with ghosts, goblins, witches and werewolves.

Everyone seems to jump on the Halloween bandwagon (…obviously!) and yet again we have set another record this year. Our email volume on the morning of October 31 is up 29% over last year. That represents a ton of outbound emails.

One thing I love seeing is how people tie in Halloween to their promotions. I always say that an email is most effective when it’s relevant, and tying back to something as top of mind as Halloween immediately boosts relevancy.

Another thing I noticed this year that I like a lot is an increase in the number of emails that include “Safety Tips” when trick-or-treating. I saw a bunch of retailers sending out promotional emails that had a section devoted to these tips. It’s great to see that businesses are including content like this because if these safety tips are repeated enough, then we can all have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.

On behalf of the entire Elite Email Team, I want to wish everyone a Happy  Halloween!

Happy Halloween

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