With Email Marketing Sometimes You Need to Question the Rules

Marketing podcast with DJ Waldow and Jason Falls (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

There are a handful of generally accepted “best practices” when it comes to email. Some have withstood the test of time and experiment, but others stay in place as hard and fast rules simply because enough people keep saying so.

Rebel's Guide to Email MarketingThe only hard and fast rule you should adhere to in marketing is what works for you. Now, what this means first and foremost is that you must be testing, measuring and analyzing what works for you or you’ll have no choice but to follow industry norms.

Sometimes norms present great opportunities to stand out. If everyone is doing something one way, there’s a pretty good bet that you can get some attention breaking the rules.

Today’s guests on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast are DJ Waldow and Jason Falls, co-authors of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win

In the Rebel’s Guide they take on some of the common best practices and illustrate some great examples of people finding success in email marketing by bending and breaking the rules.

Below are some examples of the types of common practices you need to test and push in your email marketing efforts.

Subject lines

I call the subject line of an email the ad for opening and reading. If you don’t hook someone with it, you stand little chance of getting your email read and no chance of getting someone to click through to an offer.

Common wisdom is 30-40 characters with call to action or benefit right up front. What if you experimented with very short, intriguing subject lines that played to curiosity?

From line

Common wisdom here is that you want the recipient to see that the email is from someone they know. Makes sense, but what if you tested sending email with clever attributes that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else, but also added a little fun and flair – example might be: From: Your Favorite Plumber

Preheader text

This is the second ad and most people waste it. It’s the very first bit of content that shows up after the subject line in a lot of email clients. Most people start with something like “having trouble reading this, blah, blah”

What if you used this to text to urge them to open – “You know you need to open this” “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, open this”

Alt images

The default setting for Gmail is to leave images turned off. This means the recipient must click something to actually make your images show. If you are using HTML email that relies on images to make greater impact you want those images turned on.

Common practice suggests that you use the Alt images attribute to describe your images as the alt text will show in place of images. What if you used this to convince people that they are missing cool stuff by leaving images off. “If you had images on you would see something really awesome here”

HTML and text

Another common spam filter fighting practice is to send your email in multiple formats. Your nice, pretty HTML email should have a text-based only version. It helps assure the ISPs that you are sending useful information.

One of the things that I think you need to experiment with is the use of text only emails or at least mixing the format up from time to time. When people get used to seeing your standard HTML template they get complacent. Send very short, personal emails using text only to make even greater impact.


Another common practice is to add personalization from data fields. You know, Hey John, did you know that John could get a free blah, blah.

I agree there is a place for this, although it gets abused in absurd ways as well. This is something your want to play with. One of the most widely commented emails I ever sent intentionally played on the fill in the blank fields with fake data fields like [put new best friend’s name here] and [say something here that sounds authentic]


This one is not only common practice, it’s the law. You must add a way for people to opt-out of your email and you should make it obvious.

Most people hide this at the end of an email and use the default government language.

What if you put it first and had some fun with it. “I really, really don’t want to see you leave, but if you must break my heart, do it here.”

Every element of your marketing is only as good as your testing tells you it is, so study common best practices in everything you do and then figure out how to interrupt the best practices with testing.

3 Ways to Use Twitter to More Deeply Engage Influential Prospects

Amidst all the talk of Google+ and the new, new Facebook, Twitter has a lost a bit of its glow.

_DaniloRamos via Flickr

But, it’s still a very powerful and useful tool for marketers and in some cases the communications vehicle of choice for your best prospects and customers.

Today I want to talk about a couple of ways you can use your Twitter routine to more deeply engage customers and prospects.

If they are active Twitter users, then the following tips may help you gain insight about them and give you some ideas on how to create the kind of value for them that builds trust and opens doors.

Just to be clear, however, these are not meant to be used to manipulate or create a fake show of interest, these are just practical ways to get the most out of your Twitter use while also focusing on targeted users and creating good content for your followers.

Scan the favorites

Once you’ve identified prospects and customers on Twitter there is a tool that might help you learn a little more about what’s really important to them rather then just monitoring their entire stream. You should have customers and prospects in Twitter lists so you can easily monitor their activity in a tool like TweetDeck, but you’ll also want to scan their favorites.

This tip isn’t 100% foolproof, but many times people will mark favorite tweets because they represent the things they really like and care about. It might be their own tweets about their most important topics or those of their most influential friends – either way it can be great information.

You can find a list of favorites by adding the word favorites after a username – my friend Jason Falls is going to be in Kansas City this week to promote his new book, No Bullshit Social Media, so I’ll use him as an example. You’ll find Jason’s favorites here – http://twitter.com/JasonFalls/favorites

Retweet the best of the best

Another way to provide great content for your followers and also show up in the streams of those you want to get to know better is to Retweet their tweets. I know, duh, but here’s where I add a tip that makes this something more strategic. Don’t simply RT everything they write, it’s not very effective and won’t do a thing for your followers.

Go to Topsy and find the best Tweets from your customers and targeted prospects and RT those. Depending upon who you’re targeting, their best tweets are likely ones that have been RT’d by lots of other folks already.

You can find this on Topsy with the search query – from:twitterusername. So you could find my most popular tweets with this search – http://topsy.com/s?q=from:ducttape (You can also create email alerts for your searches.)

Filter targeted search

I’ve always touted the use of custom filtering and aggregating of content as a great way to add value to the world and, more specifically, customers and prospects. The idea here is that you set up all kinds of searches that automatically feed you information that could be useful to a prospect or even to your own education about a prospect’s world and then package that information in a way that’s useful to your prospect.

RSS technology is a great aid here so you can easily subscribe to or show your prospects how to subscribe to these custom searches. Unfortunately, Twitter decided to make it a little harder for just anyone to subscribe to searches via RSS. (Many services seem to be moving away from RSS in favor of their own custom APIs – so perhaps the Twitter Dev page is a place to start some advanced education.)

In the meantime, I’ve found a query that still produces an RSS feed for custom Twitter searches (no guarantees on how long this will work.) If you want to create an RSS feed, so you can subscribe to the updates via Google Reader for example, for the search phrase “small business marketing” you would create it like this – http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=”small business marketing”+filter:links – the key here is to add search.rss to the URL and then standard query stuff – ?q= – and then your search phrase. I also added +filter:links so that I would only get tweets that contained links to web pages.

Try this yourself and you’ll find that you can create RSS feeds for Twitter searches. Get creative and create some searches that you know will contain great content that your prospects would love and then start sharing bits with them. They’ll thank you for it.

Wednesday Guest Stars

Here are your guest contributors for Wednesday's edition of the Duct Tape Marketing Small Business Week iPad Giveaway. Read each of the five posts that follow and click our entry form link to match the guest star with their post.…

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