Are you having issues with AOL?

I was monitoring sends across all of our clients on Tuesday and noticed in the bounce reports that AOL was having some issues with certain blocks.  As I investigated it further, I found that they were 554 RTR:GE blocks which according to the AOL Postmaster site are “a transient error indicating a technical issue on AOL’s side. Please wait 24 hours and re-try your mail”

Laura Atkins over at Word To Wise confirmed this report today here.  According to her, these blocks have nothing to do with spam, filtering or any other type of malicious email and they apparently work them out over time.

So if you track revenue, pageviews or even engagement by domain and notice that AOL took a dip, now you know why.

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Happy Unbirthday from @brooksrunning

I think it goes without saying that the key to any successful email program is offering something that is unique and interesting to the subscriber.  When programs piggyback creativity with triggered email tied to purchases, interactions and other types of behavior, the likelihood of success grows.  In fact, there has been research that says that the return on such emails is so high ($1 – $15 RPE) that not doing them is like throwing money out of the window.  I have been a part of many programs both client and agency side that the use of triggered email tied to behavior is often a hit, but sometimes a miss.  However one common thing that they all share is timing, content, offer and ability to measure the effectiveness.

Surprise, Delight and Reward

I recently bought a pair of Brooks Running shoes from their site, which is a first for me.  I have never bought a pair of shoes online because I have very flat feet and am a severe overpronator which requires some pretty heavy duty motion control for running and walking.  I am the type of guy that likes to go in and try things on and test them out.  That said, I have had a pair of Brooks before and absolutely love the brand and the quality of the shoe.  Given that I workout almost daily, good shoes are essential.

After going through the usual cast of welcome, order, shipping and a few promotional emails this unbirthday email arrived (below) in my inbox about 20 days after purchase.  It seems as if I did not enter my birthday during checkout and Brooks is wanting me to go back to fill in some preferences (below) so they can better target me. To my knowledge, Brooks never asked for my preferences during the checkout or sign up process and to be honest, I am ok with that.  Most of you who read my writings or have heard me speak  know that I am not a big fan of preference centers for a variety of reasons so you can imagine (cue) my eye roll when I clicked through on the email.

Preference center debate aside, I want to acknowledge and applaud Brooks Running for the Unbirthday email. It was well timed, funny, on-brand and was pretty intuitive on what they wanted me to do and what they are looking to collect.  While I did not fill out my preferences or give them my birthday, I am wondering what I would get in terms of a reward if I did give them what they are looking for.

The email itself serves a good purpose and despite the changes I would make in copy or design, I believe that the email works pretty well for them.


One of the most overused statements in email is “send the right email at the right time” but no matter how many times you hear it, you cannot deny or dispute its truthfulness.  That said, here would be my list of questions to the Brooks Running marketing department:

  1. Have you tested the number of days from purchase to sending this email to gauge its ROI?
  2. Can you tie back revenue to this email?
  3. Is it a one time thing or have you tested this messaging in other parts of your program?
  4. Are you using site abandonment behavior to your advantage in deploying any other triggers as a result of this email?
  5. Have you tested copy and personalization?

And on and on and on.

Key Takeaway

Brooks Running is doing it right. They are sending me emails like this to see if they can profile me to better target my future emails with them and this is good. The email has purpose and got me to open (SL alone) and click (just to see what they want) and this is 65% of the battle. I am wondering if they are missing other revenue opportunities which are linked to this email as well as others.  The key takeaway in all of this is to not stop at just this one email.  Can a little bit of investigation into other sorts of emails give greater revenue and engagement opportunities to a program?  To me, Brooks is not just selling me shoes, they are selling me on a lifestyle. People love it when a brand engages in lifestyle email marketing rather than a discount heavy email program.

I welcome your thoughts..

Happy Unbirthday


Brooks Running Preferences





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November Speaking

At the beginning of 2013, I made a conscious decision to pull back a good portion of my appearances/public speaking at webcasts and conferences.  I made this decision for a few reasons, but at the top was the fact that I wanted to concentrate on growing Trendline as well take a mental break from trying to coming up with original and interesting presentations that crowds have come to expect.  I would spend a tremendous amount of time researching, concepting, outlining, making, prepping and rehearsing for presentations that I became mentally drained and needed a break.

When I was approached several months ago to do 2 engagements in the month of November, I had some trepidation but figured that I had to jump back on the horse at some point in time this year.  So with that in mind, I wanted to alert our readers to two events where I feel honored to be presenting.

All About Email Virtual Conference and Expo – November 14th at 12:30 ET.

In 2012 I participated in this virtual event and found it to be extremely rewarding,so when they asked me to do again this, I was tickled.  This year, I am the midday keynote and will be discussing new technologies in email that could help you increase revenue.  While there is nothing in this presentation that will be earth shattering, I will discuss some new ways to think about old problems and might even introduce to some companies doing some exciting things that can truly benefit their bottom line.  This is a virtual conference so it runs all day. If you can’t make it to hear me speak, you should stop by the conference at some point in time during the day to check it out since there is something for everyone.

You can register for the event here and see the agenda here.

Dreamforce ’13 – November 19th at 12:30 PT in Ralston Room at the Palace Hotel

Jon Miller from Marketo invited me to speak with my long time colleague and friend D.J. Waldow and I could not be more excited. D.J. and I have done plenty of webcasts and podcasts together, but this will be the first live event and stage that we are sharing.  We have great chemistry and while we tend to agree to disagree on stuff, I am looking forward to participating in this event as I am sure it will be rather entertaining.  If any of our readers are going to be at Dreamforce, drop me a line and lets grab a coffee while I am in town.

Dreamforce is massive and I believe sold out at this time.

The presentations are nearly done and I am looking forward to speaking publicly again.  Lets hope you guys are as excited as I am.  See you on the other side.





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Approaches For Gmail Tabsapalooza

Gmail’s new Tabbed Inbox, and what it means for marketers, has been the hot topic in email/digital these past several months.  There have been many blog posts, webcasts, whitepapers and at least one site put up as a result of hack-a-thon to determine if your brand has been affected by this change.  Most email strategists have concluded that the Tabbed Inbox’s effect is still too esoteric to quantify and have advised against brands sending out dedicated emails asking subscribers to move the email from the promotions tab to the primary tab.  However, this has not stopped some brands from doing so anyway and–in some cases–doing it creatively. Below, please find 19 different ways that brands have encouraged recipients to move such emails from the promotions tab to the primary.

The “sly preheader” ask.


 The “sentence incorporated into the preheader” route.

Preheader 2

The “we know we are in there, but don’t want you to do anything about it”.

The We know we are in there, but don't want you to do anything bout it

 The “dedicated paragraph” version.

The Text Version

 The “put it in red and everyone will see it in the preheader” version.

The put it red and everyone will see it preheader

The “creatively offset yet sassy” version.

The offset yet sassy reminder

The “stock photo completely dedicated including subject line” version.

The entire message including SL dedicated email The “add an extra line into an already crowded preheader” gambit.

The add an extra line into a crowded preheader afterthought

The secondary CTA

Secondary CTA

The “put it in multiple places so everyone can see it” approach.

Multiple Places

The “instructional email with a social angle” angle.

Instructions with social angle

The “instructional email with a mixed message” version.

Instructional with mixed messaging

The “instructional email with animation.” (The hands were moving to show the subscriber what to do)

Instructional Level 2 with Animation

The “plain and simple instruction/dedication” email.

Instructional Level 1

The “coupon-driven, thank-you-for-your-preferences-update” angle.

Coupon driven

The casual preheader with “we are making it easier on you” version.

Casual Preheader

The casual, dedicated, “committed to gmail” version.

Casual Dedicated

The “slice a banner into the promotion” email.


The “assumption of immediate gratification by doing this” version.

Assumption Of Immediacy

While I have my opinion about some of these methodologies, I am not one to judge just by what I see since I have no idea how these performed or are performing.  It would be awesome to know if these ideas are adding incremental lift in either engagement or–better yet–to ROI for these organizations, and only the numbers would tell us that.  However, having said all of this, I did have a chance to go to all of the brands highlighted in this post and sign up for their program using a seed address. I was surprised to find that NONE incorporated any messaging about gmail tabs in either their welcome or on-site experience.  I would think that if the brands are dedicated to having their gmail subscribers move their emails to primary, that they would want to start them off early in the lifecycle, especially since they have the subscriber’s attention.  To me, this boils down to what I have been saying for years, which is sometimes you have to concentrate on the small stuff in addition to the big stuff, as well as focus on messaging early.

If your brand is thinking about incorporating messaging to your subscribers around Gmail Tabbed Inbox, my recommendation would be to look at not only one-off tactics, but also the entire messaging and content strategy that goes along with this change.  One-off tactics might be great for short-term wins, but the tortoise beat the rabbit because he thought through the race and looked at every conceivable angle to win it.

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Even Google Offers Goes To The Promotional Tab.

If you are freaking out over Gmail Tabs, imagine what it would be like to be the Director Of Email Marketing at Google Offers?  Google Offers’ email goes to the promotion tab where it belongs, but you wonder if they are considering sending out a dedicated email to have users move it to their primary tab?

Google OFfers

Gmail Tabs has provided plenty of fodder for blogs, articles and sessions at email conferences for a long time.  If you are brand side, sit back and be patient and focus on stuff like ROI and testing when it comes to changes like this.  I seem to remember that it wasn’t too long ago (cough..cough…4 years) that everyone was freaking out about social taking over email and what “integration” looks like.   Everyone needs to chill out and let data and ROI be the driving force behind trying to potentially fix a problem that may not exist.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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Like Email Marketing? We’re Hiring.

Trendline is growing and we want you.  If you are passionate about life, email marketing and working with great clients, head on over to our careers section to check out if there is a position that fits with your goals.  If you want to know a little bit about working here, check out our culture deck.

Trendline Interactive was founded on the basis of demand for real innovation in the email marketing channel. We are obsessed with that challenge. As our company has grown, one thing we have realized is that the key to driving real results and bringing new ideas to the space is passion – passion for email marketing and passion for seeing how much room there is to make it better for both senders and subscribers.

We operate a little bit differently than your run-of-the-mill creative agency. Though we do hire for specific roles, based on specific criteria, we have a multi-disciplinary team that truly works as one unit. Everyone has the chance to grow, learn and work on the areas of email that they are passionate about – as a team. No one sees the underside of a bus here. You would have the opportunity to work on all aspects of big-leagues email marketing: from strategy to creative to technology.

If that sounds good, contact us and convince us why we’d be crazy not to hire you.

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Content Is King. Now What?

If you’ve read anything about social media, permission-based marketing and/or Web 2.0, you’ve doubtless heard the maxim “Content is king.”

Content Flow Chart Blackboard

And, if you work in any field other than marketing or publishing, your reaction to that adage is probably some variation of, “Great. What does that have to do with me and my business?”

Content is king because, by providing customers (current or potential) with relevant and useful information, you establish a relationship that positions yourself as “someone who knows what he/she’s talking about” rather than merely “someone who’s trying to sell something.”

From whom would you rather buy?

Ever patronized a local hardware store because you know you can get expert advice about whatever project you’re working on rather than because they have the best prices? That, in essence, is the underpinning of content marketing. (And it’s also the key to competing on value rather than price, but that’s a topic for another post.)

Content marketing not only helps distinguish you and your business from the rest of the field, it can also do wonders for your Google search rankings.

What kind of content should you provide? What should you create? Great question. Such a great question, in fact, that it’s one that’s been pondered by writers, sculptors, artisans, painters, philosophers, craftsmen and builders on all stripes for millennia. And the answer is the same for you as it’s been for all of them: Write (or, create) what you know.

Do you paint houses? Write about choosing the right finish and sheen. Write about color selection.

Do you do IT consulting? Write about how to create strong passwords.

Dentist? Write about helping people overcome their fears of dental pain.

Don’t have a knack or the time for writing? Whip out your smartphone and make a short how-to or product demonstration video. You don’t need a high-dollar production budget—many modern mobile phones and even point-and-shoot digital cameras take great video. The image quality just needs to be sufficient to get your point across (and, more importantly, you need to have intelligible audio).

Do you make high-powered blenders? Show off their capabilities.

Plumbing your trade? Demonstrate how to seal a toilet bowl flange.

The point is to demonstrate your expertise, not to come up with some earth-shattering idea that no one has ever expressed before. Position yourself as the expert, and people will come to you when they’re looking for the type of product or service you provide.

Need help determining what’s relevant to your target audience? Or need help determining who your target audience is? That’s where research comes in. We can help you determine not only what your audience wants to know, but also how to say it.

Let us know if you’d like some help.

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Follow Me On Twitter…So Say You In That Email

If your brand is looking for new ways to promote your twitter presence in email, look no further than @CallawayGolf ‘s email and what they do towards the footer of their email.


 The key takeaways here:

  1. Make it more than just about your main twitter handle.
  2. Make it human by including the avatars of those that are featured.
  3. Lead the subscriber with a clear and conspicuous “follow” button.
  4. Carve out some significant email real estate for something that you are good at and are passionate about.  If anything, it could increase revenue.
  5. Make sure you can track where your followers are coming from and ensure that you welcome them appropriately.

Congrats to @CallawayGolf for making something different in their emails, rather than just the same old social icon push.

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