Can you afford to make registration optional?

Couple of months ago I was buying air tickets on a travel portal, and found an interesting feature. It had a link which said, if you are in a hurry, purchase a ticket as a guest user itself. Registration was optional on that site.

I fell in love with that travel portal instantly as they gave me the customer the choice of initiating a relationship with them. I didn't have to register upfront to use their service. I bookmarked the site and made my purchase in a giffy. I did eventually register on the site on my third visit to purchase a ticket.

So what do you think, should resources such as product demos, white papers, webinars etc be hidden behind big Lead capture/Registration forms or should you just trust your customers to come back for more and initiate a dialog with you when they are ready?

3 Ways to make your Auto Responder more Personal

Here are 3 Ways to make your Auto Responder setup in your Marketing Automation System more Personal and Humane.

1)Include original message in the reply inline or as an attachment
2)Prefix your automated reply with 'Re:' and the original incoming email's subject
3)Respond after a short delay (5-10 minutes) instead of instantly.

When we normally reply to an email message, the original message is included in the reply automatically inline or as an attachment, the text 'Re:' is prefixed to the original subject and used in the subject of the email, also there is a time delay involved in reading the original email and framing a reply to it.

Making your automated system mimic a normal user could help in making your corporate email communications more Personal and Humane.

5 Ways to Leverage Search KeyWords

Search keywords tell you what the user is looking for. It could be extracted from referral urls coming from search engines, collected from the search box present on your site. These keywords could be stored in the system as part of the contacts profile information.

It could be used
1)For Search Engine Optimization of your web pages.
2)Dynamically change the page content based on these keywords
3)In the email subject to increase open rates
4)In customizing content to be sent to the user
5)Segmenting contacts based on keywords

Social Networking Potential of your Contact

Social Networking Potential (SNP) is a numeric coefficient, derived through algorithms to represent both the size of an individual's social network and their ability to influence that network.

As a marketer, you could create a potentially successful viral marketing campaign by targeting contacts with high SNP score with content that is relevant and appealing to this segment.

Here are 6 attributes on which you could assign points and score the social networking potential of your contact.
1)Is he/she an active member of social networking sites like facebook, myspace, orkut...?
2)Does he/she blog or post on websites?
3)Does he/she contribute to publications?
4)Does he/she hold any leadership positions?
5)Has he/she provided you with quality referrals in the past?
6)Is he/she a member of a group you might be interested in?

Virtual Business Cards and Calendars

A vCard and vCalendar could be very useful attachments to add in your email especially if you have a lot of customers who use mail clients like Microsoft Outlook which support them.

1)Attaching a vCard in your emails would make it easier for your email recepient to add your complete information to their Address Book. A vCard could hold your name, address information, phone numbers,URL's, logos, photographs, and even audio clips.

2)A vCalendar/iCalendar could be attached to your email to send out meeting requests, event announcement and tasks which would get added to your customer's calendar.

I'm sure most of you might already be attaching it on your outbound emails too, but do you scan your inbox for vCards? Could it be parsed to update the profile of your contact? There could be customers who have configured their mail clients to attach their vCard in all outbound emails.


"Tarpitting" also known as 'Teergrubing' is a way of reducing spam or spam-related attacks (such as directory harvesting). It involves delaying SMTP communications with remote servers suspected of sending unsolicited e-mail. This slows down the the automated email sender threads of spammers as they are forced to spend more time to send out the email and in some cases give up all together as their session timesout.

There are a lot of variants of this, some servers might tarpit based on sender reputation, while others look out for number of concurrent connections made, number of recepients addressed in the RCPT TO field of the same connection etc.

Metrics which show the average smtp session time and number of time smtp session timeouts per email domain might be a good way to find out if you are being tarpitted by a particular domain.

Integrated Push Pull Strategy

Imagine you had a travel portal and you sent out the following email to your mailing list

Dear Mr. Smith,
Find out fast when you can save on flights to your favorite destinations! It's easy and it's free, thanks to our new RSS feed. Just choose the destinations you'd like us to watch, and we'll keep you informed through My Yahoo!, My MSN, Pluck or another RSS news reader of your choice.

You have actually sent out an email encouraging people to pull content even though they had already permitted you to push content to them!!

Does this mean you no longer push content via Email? Nope, that's where your Integrated Push Pull Strategy should help you decide what and when to push and pull. Here's a sample strategy below.

Integrated Push Pull Strategy:
1)Push important messages that need to be acted upon quickly
2)Encourage users to create custom feeds and pull it
3)Push if user no longer pulling your feeds.
4)Ensure same content doesnot get pulled and pushed

So what's your Push Pull strategy going to be?

Applying Tag Cloud Previews in Segmenting Contacts

Tag Cloud preview could be a great visual tool to identify common patterns in your contact list and target them better by segmenting based on these attribute values.

Here's an example of a tag cloud preview based on 'Contact Work City' generated from my contact database.

Whois this after all?

Curious about those anonymous visitors who seem to be active on your site but never seems to register?

If your a B2B company, here's a nifty little trick you could employ to find out the company profile of the anonymous visitor. Write a script to grab the IP addresses of the anonymous visitors from your web logs or table in which all visitor info is stored and do a whois search on it to resolve the IP address to a company.

This way you could identify the companies interested in you and the competitors who have been checking you out too.

Curious about an IP address? Try finding out which company it belongs to here

Enter IP Address:

Need Help?

Customer Driven Email Templates and Color Themes

Is the choice of email templates/color themes used in your mailers customer driven?

Why not let your customers pick an email template and color theme from a set of available themes when they register/optin to your marketing campaign? It could be something similar to how blogger lets you choose a template and color theme for your blog. Your mailer program could then leverage this to send out visually personalized email.

A customer driven email template/color theme should bump up your open rates too, especially since your visually personalized email has a higher chance of recognition during a preview pane scan of emails.

List Poisoning

What if Mr. Smith your competitor, goes to your opt in page and signs up as Mr. Idiot by entering one/some of your potential prospects email addresses and your automated mailer program send's out a highly personalized unsolicited email addressing them as 'Dear Mr. Idiot'?

Welcome to the murky world of 'List Poisoning'. Not only do you get flagged as a spammer, but your company would have earned a set of die hard enemies, who'd do anything and everything to tell everyone who the real idiot is.

Another ploy of list poisoners is to optin using mulitple spam trap email addresses to get you flagged as a spammer. Often the optin's originate from the same ip address in quick succession.

Preventing List Poisoning: Unfortunately you might not be able to prevent someone entering incorrect data in your opt in page, but you could always quarantine the opt-in list, review/validate it for data accuracy, and then send out a confirmation email before actually adding them to your mail list.

This would affect your opt in rate adversely, but sacrificing on a few not too eager prospects might be worth it if you can prevent making a set of seriously annoyed prospects. It's all about choice.

Optimal Send Time of Your Email

When is the best time to send out your promotional email?

I'm sure you would have done your research and know the latest recommended weekly optimal email send time slots, but so does every other e-marketer and SPAMMER. Infact your email could end up competing with scores of other commerical email's send at the same time slot.

So why not make this process customer driven and give your customer the choice of 'opting their preferred email send time'? You could find their preferred time in the following ways
  1. Ask your customer when they subscribe (Direct)
  2. Conduct an email/web survey to find out (Direct)
  3. Find previous mail open time from email open metrics (InDirect)

So you'd have to add another segment criteria based on 'preferred send time' to ensure your emails reach your customers at their preferred time.

Marketing through Customer Blogs

As an eMarketer, have you tried to reach out to blogs written by your customers/prospects as a fellow blogger? Bloggers just love, adore and connect with people who take an active interest in their blogs. And I'm sure as a marketer it's your constant endeavour to get customers to love, adore and listen to you.

Here are 5 tips to engage with your customers/prospects who blog

  1. Setup a corporate blog yourself
  2. Read/Subscribe to your customer blogs
  3. Post constructive comments on your customer blogs
  4. Vote their blogs as one of your favourites
  5. Provide useful blogger widgets, templates and tips

Customer blogs provide you the marketer a great opportunity to undestand/target your customer better. With the number of bloggers increasing by the day, maybe it's time for you to leverage this and add another dimension to your customer driven internet marketing campagin.

Reputation Filtering

Ever wondered why your carefuly crafted email devoid
of any 'spammy phrases' still fails to reach it's recipients?

According to a report published by ReturnPath 

"83% of the time Sender Reputation is the root cause for Email non Delivery"

       ISP's use eMail firewall/gateway servers like
BrightMailand IronPort to do reputation filtering
upfront before content filtering. The table below 
indicates the amount of reputation versus content
filtering done by ISP's

The results of the study indicate that reputation is the most
valuable asset
of an eMarketer and needs to be safegaurded at all costs. So please think twice beforeyou buy a list or SPAM someone.

Worried about your reputation?
Find out if you have been black listed at

Previewing your Subject and From Lines

So why is previewing the Subject and From Lines so important?

  • The From line is what recipients use to determine whether to delete an email.
  • The Subject line is what motivates people to actually open the email
All mail clients donot render the from and subject lines in the same way. The table below illustrates the differences in major mail clients.

So you could significantly improve your mail open rates, if you were to preview/test your mail in different email clients before sending it out. This handy tool could be a life saver.

Lead generation equation

The folks at have distilled the factors that influence generating a lead from your landing page down to a mathematical formula

C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) – 2(a)

C = probability of conversion
m = external motivation
v = clarity of value proposition
i = incentive to continue
f = friction element
a = anxiety

 In simple words, you have more chance of success if you
                     generate quality traffic to your site, 
                     explain clearly what you have to offer,
                     provide ample incentives
                     have a quick and easy registration process, 
                     have reassuring feedback comments, ratings 
                     and security credentials to reduce customer anxiety

Agile Customer Driven Marketing Program

As an accomplished eMarketer, you probably already have a sophisticated Marketing and SalesForce Automation system in place, an analytics module providing you indepth stats by the minute, a set of Automated Marketing Programs setup to qualify/score/funnel Leads to your Sales system, a steady set of prospects flowing through your system, a lead conversion rate on par with industry average.

However to add the 'Customer Driven' dimension to your automated marketing programs, one must design programs that illicit targeted actionable feedback from your prospects, leads, customers and then are 'Agile' enough to adapt itself based on the feedback.

The key here is to ask the right questions to the right person. If you already have a lead/prospect/customer scoring mechanism built into your marketing programs, you could use the score to determine whom to ask what.

For Ex: When you lose a lead after he was assigned to a sales rep, you could send a satisfaction survey email asking to rate the sales rep, and this feedback could be used by your agile marketing program to route your hotest(highest scoring) leads to one of your top sales rep's only.

If one of your existing key customers gives you a very high overall rating, your agile marketing program would take note of this and send out an email asking for references or to try and crosssell/upsell more products.

So maybe it's time to have a hard look at those automated marketing programs and see how agile and customer driven they truly are.