If you operate more than one brand, it can be tempting to abuse an email opt-in at one of your brands by extending it to your other brands. Because of the dangers of increased spam complaints, the vast majority of brands wisely resist this temptation and many smartly use their email programs to raise awareness of their other brands and secure additional opt-ins.

Gap signup pageThe opportunities start with the email signup form and signup confirmation page. For instance, Gap uses a universal email opt-in page that allows a consumer to sign up for emails from multiple brands at the same time, along with product category preferences as well.

Promoting Sister Brands in Headers and FootersEvery email you send offers an opportunity to raise awareness of your other brands and drive subscribers to the websites of your sister brands. For instance, Toys “R” Us promotes Babies “R” Us in the header of each of their promotional emails. Garnet Hill does the same thing with their Garnet Hill Kids brand.

Because header space is so valuable, it’s more common to promote sister brands in footers. I often refer to these as “sister brand bars,” similar to a social media bar that promotes the social networks where you are active. For instance, Banana Republic, SeaWorld, Neiman Marcus and Crate & Barrel include the logos of all of their sister brands at the bottom of their emails.

Email from Anthropologie sister brand TerrainTaking it up a notch, some brands have included secondary messaging from sister brands, although it’s much more common to send full, dedicated emails from a sister brand. For instance, West Elm periodically sends their subscribers emails from West Elm Market; and Anthropologie recently sent their subscribers an email about their sister brand, Terrain. That email smartly included an opt-in request to get emails from Terrain.

The rule that keeps brands honest when doing this is that these emails should use your usual sender address (preferably your usual sender name as well) and the unsubscribe should cover the brand they opted in to receive messages from, not just the sister brand. If that seems like too big of a risk, then you should stick to the less invasive tactics like sister brand bars.

Whatever your approach, take advantage of the email opt-in you do have to try to secure others, just as you use your email program to build your social following.

The Good, the Bad and the Best: Practices for a Post-Wild West Email Marketing World

Register for this webinarAdopting email marketing best practices isn’t about ticking boxes. It’s about execution. Join me on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. (EDT), as I discuss a variety of best practices and share real-world examples of brands with good, bad and the best executions. Topics to be covered will include signup forms, welcome emails, mobile-friendly emails, preheaders, personalization, unsubscribe pages, and more.


Email Marketing RulesMy book on email marketing best practices, Email Marketing Rules, is now available in paperback with a Foreword by Jay Baer, the President of Convince & Convert, author of Youtility, and co-author of The NOW Revolution. Jay is that rare individual that understands how social media, email marketing and content marketing all work together. I am honored to have him write the foreword, where he discusses the currency of modern marketing.

I am also happy to announce that for every paperback purchased through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace I will donate $1 to the ExactTarget Foundation to support projects and programs that reduce childhood hunger, improve education, and spur entrepreneurship. To learn more about the Foundation’s work, please visit ExactTargetFoundation.org.

Buy Kindle Book on AmazonBUY THE KINDLE BOOK ($4.99) >> available exclusively around the world through Amazon.com. (Download the free Kindle Reader app to read it on any smartphone, tablet or computer.)

Buy Paperback on CreateSpaceBUY THE PAPERBACK ($11.99) >>  $1 is donated to the ExactTarget Foundation for every book purchased through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace

If ever there was a channel where “set it and forget it” thinking doesn’t work, email marketing is that channel. Things are always changing and marketers have to keep up. My favorite indicator that marketers are falling behind is old copyright dates.

CNN signup confirmation request emailWhile some brands now automatically update these dates, you may consider manually updating them as a way to force yourself to go in and actually look at your promotional email template, triggered emails, preference centers, and other landing pages at least once a year. Reviewing these more frequently—like every 3-6 months—is best, but once a year is better than having them slip through and go unchecked for two or more years.

For instance, CNN requires that people register with their site in order to receive emails and participate in the CNN community and part of that process includes an opt-in confirmation request email. That email carries a copyright of 2007—which means that it hasn’t been updated in five or so years. That’s a lifetime in the world of email marketing and it shows in this email, which doesn’t have the current CNN logo and could benefit from sharper copy.

Crutchfield welcome Carrying a 2009 copyright, Crutchfield’s welcome email has also been forgotten for too long. Its logo and navigation bar are both out of date. And while the copy was really good for 2009, it could be doing more, especially considering all the excellent new content and social efforts Crutchfield now has at their disposal.

LifeWay’s email signup confirmation page carries a 2011 copyright and could also benefit from some updating. The page squanders the opportunity to further engage new subscribers by not offering even a single call-to-action or doing any additional expectation setting for their email program. Suffering from a bad case of Back Alley Syndrome, this lonely page doesn’t even have Lifeway’s standard website navigation bar or footer.

LifeWay email signup confirmation pageMake sure you’re reviewing your email templates, triggered emails, and landing pages on a regular basis by first taking an inventory of all your different assets and then creating a schedule for regular reviews of each one.

Creating Friendly Year-of-Birth Dropdown MenusBrands spend a lot of time scrutinizing their checkout process, whether they’re retailers or nonprofits accepting donations. They know that unnecessary friction in the process means frustration for their visitors, lower conversions and fewer repeat purchases. That same scrutiny should be applied to email signup processes since an email subscription is worth a lot of money.

ExactTarget examined email subscription processes of more than 160 B2C brands—including retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, travel and hospitality, and nonprofits—and found plenty of unnecessary friction. One area that is emblematic of the kinds of opportunities that brands have to make their signup process smoother is the dropdown menus used to collect year of birth.

For example, Boden’s email opt-in form starts with the current year. Clearly they don’t want 1-year-olds on their email list, so it makes sense to start with an earlier date so that older would-be subscribers have to scroll less. As it currently stands, anyone over 18 (born before 1995) would have to scroll to select their birth year—and for J. Jill that likely means that the vast, vast majority of their subscribers had to scroll.

Similarly, AutoZone’s dropdown menu started with the year 2011 and J. Jill’s with the year 2009, as if 2- and 4-year-old subscribers are acceptable.

At the other end of the spectrum, Applebee’s and Tide’s opt-in forms were deferential to the oldest living people on the planet, starting their dropdown menu with the year 1900 and making those born in 1929 and later scroll. For someone in their 30s or 40s that meant a lot of scrolling.

While those brands make would-be subscribers work a little harder to sign up for promotional emails, Wine.com is clearly paying attention to the details. Their dropdown menu starts with the year 1993, the earliest year that you could be of legal drinking age. That’s smart.

And although many brands like Wine.com ask for their subscribers’ date of birth for legal and compliance reasons, it’s wise to couch the request as an opportunity for the subscriber to get something in exchange for this data. DailyCandy does a good job on their opt-in form of explaining why they need your birth date while answering the question every subscriber is asking themselves: “What’s in it for me?”

While this may all seem a little picky to some, consumers get hung up on the details, so you should sweat the details. Less friction in your signup process means more visitors convert into subscribers, which means a more successful email marketing program.

To determine the current state of welcome email programs, ExactTarget examined the welcome emails of more than 160 B2C brands, including retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, travel and hospitality, and nonprofits. The infographic below summarizes our findings.

For more on this research, including examples of welcome emails, check out More Brands Sending Welcome Emails, But Opportunities Remain and Quarter of B2C Marketers Send a Welcome Email Series.

social media marketing

This infographic is brought to you by ExactTarget, a leader in social media marketing.


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The Last Word on April 2013

The Last WordA roundup of articles, posts, tweets and emails you might have missed last month…

Must-read articles, posts & whitepapers

Nine email marketing tricks that earn eBags $14 a head on email subscribers (Smart Company)

Subscribers, Fans, & Followers: 2013 Global Executive Summary (ExactTarget)

66% of marketers say email delivers ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ ROI (econsultancy)

Just how engaging are birthday emails? (Return Path)

SaleCycle Look Book (SaleCycle)

An apparel retailer converts 33% of one-time buyers into repeat shoppers (Internet Retailer)

Remailing: It’s Like Printing Money! (Bronto Software)

Updating Email Acquisitions? Focus Further Down The Funnel (MediaPost)

Insightful & entertaining tweets

@andrewkordek: just got done prioritizing taguchi test factors for a client. Love it that we can test over 18,000 things in email #emailmarketing

@EmailSeinfeld: Kramer invents Scent-in-Email: “It’s like having the beach, right in your inbox.” Elaine’s bf (@chadswhite) says her subject lines are weak.

@EmailStatCenter: 50% felt getting their name wrong in an email was a reason to think less of the brand. – @Emailvision http://t.co/LgBHuwVkJ9

@aliverson: Hey “email expert,” your email’s going to spam because you messed up your DMARC record.

@JustinBridegan: Don’t be afraid of long subject lines, be afriad of words without meaning. Clarity is the key #ETcafe #emailmarketing

Great additions to the Email Swipe File pinboard

Litmus email sent on 4/23/13 >>View the pin

Tumblr email sent on 3/6/13 >>View the pin

Jack Spade email sent on 3/21/13 >>View the pin

Sephora email sent during 3/2013 >>View the pin

Noteworthy subject lines

Karmaloop, 4/30 — What? We Are Not F’n around 40% Off Footwear- 48 Hours‏
Etsy, 4/27 — Watch Your Language!
Gap, 4/29 — 1 dress, 4 ways to wear it‏
Crate & Barrel, 4/29 — Chop chop. Up to 45% off Wusthof Gourmet knives.
Restoration Hardware, 4/27 — Introducing RH Small Spaces. 116 Pages of Inspired Design.
ThinkGeek, 4/25 — ThinkGeek: F5, F5, F5!
The North Face, 4/22 — Opt for Recycled Gear this Earth Day‏
Uncommon Goods, 4/22 — Re-Make a Difference‏
Boston Market, 4/11 — The Big Rib-bate: Two Rib Meals for $10.40!
Brooks Brothers, 4/11 — An Interview with Wynton Marsalis‏
Threadless, 4/10 — These new Iron Man tees will not give you super hero powers… or will they?
The Container Store, 4/8 — Ever wonder why we have so many hangers?
Clinique, 4/4 — BB or CC? Find your skin perfector and we’ll ship it free.
Home Depot, 4/4 — Black Friday Is Back! Savings Start Today!
Zappos.com, 4/4 — Puddles Beware!
ModCloth, 4/3 — Retro looks you can wear during your next time warp.
Ninety Nine Restaurants, 4/3 — Our New Menu is Here!
Ann Taylor, 4/3 — NEED. WANT. MUST-HAVE.
West Elm Market, 4/1 — No green thumbs needed…

Most popular posts on EmailMarketingRules.com

1. Yahoo Mail Hacking Reveals Do-Not-Reply Failures

2. Email Signup Failures at Crisis Levels

3. The Many Gradations of Mobile Email Design

4. The One-Two Punch of Subject Lines and Preheaders

5. Quarter of B2C Marketers Send a Welcome Email Series

#ETcafeThe ExactTarget team invites you to participate in our #ETCafe Twitter chat every Thursday from 11am-12pm ET, where we discuss emerging topics and trends from across the interactive marketing world. The virtual coffee chat is held directly on Twitter, hosted by @ExactTarget.

This week I’ll be a guest on the chat and we’ll be discussing measuring email marketing success. Here’s a preview of the discussion questions for our chat this Thursday:

1. Do you know the return on investment (ROI) of your email program?
2. How do you measure your email program’s influence on offline behavior and online sharing?
3. Do you measure subscriber lifetime value in addition to measuring campaign success?
4. Which email metrics do you find most valuable to running your email program?
5. How much weight do you give to negative metrics like spam complaints and opt-outs when measuring success?
6. Which key performance indicators does your CMO/CEO judge your email program by? Do you think they are the right KPIs?
7. What resources would you recommend to help email marketers better measure their success and set the right goals?

Please join us this Thursday for an exciting discussion with dynamic interactive marketing professionals! Follow the #ETCafe hashtag in your favorite Twitter application and be sure and add the hashtag to your tweet to participate.

While the growth of mobile email has more radically affected email design, it’s also affected subject lines by displaying fewer characters. As a consequence, subject lines have been steadily trending shorter over the past few years. While we used to recommend that subject lines be no longer than around 60 characters, now the recommendation is no more than about 40 characters. So subject lines are working harder on a per character basis.

The good news is that subject lines have backup in the form of preheader text, which is HTML text that’s placed at the very top of your email. Preheaders play a more prominent on mobile devices—and that’s in addition to the extra attention that preheaders get from Gmail and Outlook, which display a portion of your preheader text as snippet text after your subject line.

Gmail displays preheader text as snippet text in the inbox
Many brands are wisely using their preheaders to elaborate on, continue or otherwise support the subject line, including hyperlinking some or all of their preheader text to enable subscribers to take action without reading further. Here are some great examples from recent emails:

West Elm, 2/18/13
Subject line: Today only: free shipping (plus a Presidents Day surprise)‏
Preheader: Use promo code FREE4PRES at checkout, some exclusions apply

LeapFrog, 2/18/13
Subject line: Be First to Love Our New, Exclusive LeapPad2 Bundles!
Preheader: Featuring Hello Kitty + Jake & the Never Land Pirates. Shop Now

The North Face, 2/22/13
Subject line: Win a $100 Gift Card – only 6 Days Left‏
Preheader: Download the app and submit a photo for your chance to win a $100 TNF eGift Card – don’t miss out on The North Face Never Stop Exploring App Photo Contest

Barneys, welcome series
Subject line: Fashion at Your Fingertips: Stay in the Know!‏
Preheader: Follow Barneys New York on The Window, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest & YouTube.

Expedia, 3/4/13
Subject line: Save up to 50%: ASAP hotels‏
Preheader: ASAP: A Sudden Amazing Price

Wayfair, 3/19/13
Subject line: ★Convertible sofas under $499, go crazy for chevron, colorful accents & decor, get an elegant master bedroom ★
Preheader: Get framed art $55 and under. Kids love outdoor playhouses. Travel with carry-ons $100 and under.

Threadless, 4/24/13
Subject Line: Aerosoiled and 9 more new goofy designs by MADE artist Aaron Jay!
Preheader: Plus, hang out while we interview Aaron Jay at 11:30AM CST.

Gap, 4/24/13
Subject Line: Last day for 30% off! The clock’s ticking…
Preheader: Offer ends today, 4/24. Online only. Can’t see images? Click here.

Sephora, 4/25/13
Subject Line: Pick your gift!
Preheader: Choose from five of our favorite fragrances.*

Preheader text can be a significant source of clicks and spur deeper interactive with an email, so if you’re not using it you should probably reconsider and do some testing. And if you’re using your preheader text for whitelisting requests, “View this email with images” links or unsubscribe links, consider placing those calls-to-actions after preheader text that supports the subject line.

MediaPostThe beginning of an email marketing relationship is the most important. Not only are subscribers more engaged and more likely to convert, but optimizing the experience of a subscriber’s first month or so on your list can extend the overall time they remain engaged with your brand via email.

The welcome email has been a key tool in getting that relationship off on the right foot. In recent years, more brands are sending welcome emails. At the same time, the welcome email that simply confirmed a subscriber’s subscription has largely disappeared to be replaced by a welcome that seeks to immediately engage new subscribers with deals, progressive profiling and cross-channel opt-ins.

Nearly 81% of B2C marketers send welcome emails to their new subscribers, according to new ExactTarget research involving… Read my entire Email Insider column >>