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The Net Takeaway: Worlddata very confused...

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Worlddata very confused... · 07/07/2005 10:52 AM, Marketing

The very personable Jay Schwedelson and his team of FUDmeisters at Worlddata have been pumping out lots of aggressive press about their misunderstanding of how email works. This is somewhat strange, because they advertise themselves as “The leader in postal and email marketing.”

What kinds of things are they getting wrong? Well, let’s see. Here’s a recent press release entitled Move to text hurts email marketers. Take a moment, read it, then come back.

Ok, sounds scary! Oooh! Except that most legitimate mailers aren’t sending just an image; they are smart enough to use a mix of text and imagery to work around a variety of issues, including slow connections, variety of resolutions, some users are readers while others are “viewers”, some products require more than just images to sell, some mail is newsletter focused, etc., ad nauseum.

In addition, they confound “delivery” with “display”. As far as they are concerned, if your message didn’t get displayed, it didn’t get delivered. And for the mail they send (mostly image laden ads), that might be somewhat true. It is, of course, not true for most of the rest of market.

Here’s a quote:

Consumers increasingly cannot view part or all of their messages because images will not display. In the case of Google’s GMail, only relevant text ads from advertisers in its AdSense program will display. So graphics and information within e-mails — even if the recipient has opted in for the message — may not display.

Ok, what’s wrong here? The message is that nothing will display. But of course, the text portions will display, along with the option for users to choose to show images. And if your message is (say it with me) relevant, provides value or entertainment, and is permission based, users will choose to show those images in many cases. And if you’ve missed any of these 3, then you shouldn’t be sending the mail, so worrying about whether it’s viewed is somewhat cart-before-the-horse thinking.

Another one in DMNews today (meaning it won’t be available past 7/7/2005, but try the link anyway) makes this astonishing leap in illogic:

Worldata Predicts E-Mail List Price Plunge
July 07, 2005
By: Scott Hovanyetz, Senior Reporter, scotth at dmnews.com
E-mail list pricing could drop as much as 25 percent in the next three to six months because of changes in the way service providers handle HTML e-mails that will cut into deliverability rates, Worldata Inc. said yesterday.
Consumer Internet service providers already have begun filtering out graphics associated with HTML e-mails, creating a situation in which users must affirmatively decide whether they wish to view graphics in an e-mail, said Ray Tesi, senior vice president at Worldata. In the next 12 months, Microsoft will release a new version of Outlook that filters out HTML graphics by default, cutting into delivery rates to corporate addresses.
Worldata, Boca Raton, FL, made the prediction in its Summer 2005 Worldata Price Index. Switching to text e-mails may provide relief, but consumers soon could associate commercial text e-mails they receive with spam that evaded filtering, Tesi said.
“We’ve got to look at more text messaging, at least in the short term, to make sure our mail is deliverable and read,” he said.

Let’s see if I have this. More and more people blocking images by default. Therefore, advertisers will switch to text only messages? How about giving people reasons and value to actually display the images? Ok, sorry, back on track. Now, the text messages will look like spam and they will be blocked. Why, because they are text? My company sends text messages out and they perform quite well. Their deliverablity is no higher nor lower than the HTML version (i.e., real deliv meaning inbox tracking at major ISPs across the US and Europe, not just mail transfer deliverability). In fact, it sounds like users could be confused because so many believe that 3rd party list rental is spam. I can see how they might come to that conclusion, if the mails are not (again, all together now) relevant, providing value or entertainment, and are permission based. Again, if users don’t see value in what they are receiving, they will call it spam.

So, what to make of this? Well, Jay and his team thrive on press, as do many list rental companies. And the mail they send is probably different than the mail you send for your organization, or the mail high end email marketing agencies send for their clients.

So, as I always say, don’t just blindly believe the junk others (or even I!) put out… but let it guide you to test. If you think that you should try text, but are are scared… pull a sample and try text. If you think that image blocking is a problem for a segment of your list, try to be creative about giving users reasons to show images… or design your mail so that users don’t need to show images, by repeating image based info in copy. Don’t rely on Alt tags; they don’t get shown by image blocking email clients.

Focus on relevant and interesting content, and whether its text or images, if its good, users will find it, read it, and react to it. And if its not relevant, providing value or entertainment, and permission based, then no matter how cheap it seems to be, don’t waste your or your recipient’s time. It really is that easy… well, and it really is that hard, which is why full service email marketing companies are doing so well these days.

Short version: don’t believe what you read, ask around and then test on your own data to see if what appears to be true for one is really true for you. If you aren’t sure how to do this, there are a collection of really good email houses which can help.

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