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guest post by Jeff Swift

Email marketing is an incredibly resilient strategy. Despite regular predictions of its demise – often citing the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Google Wave (RIP), and now SnapChat – email simply isn’t going anywhere. People open their emails. They click on links in their email. And they are motivated to donate by high quality emails.

When email is done right, it’s incredibly powerful. When it’s done wrong, it can be a disaster. Three of the most common email mistakes are easy to commit and often difficult to address:

  1. Emailing the wrong people
  2. Sending the wrong content
  3. Ignoring your audience

Emailing the wrong people

Sending an email newsletter out without having accurate data is like walking blindfolded across the street. There’s a chance nothing will happen, but it’s a bad idea.

Not only should you know your recipients’ names and email addresses, but you should ideally know quite a bit more about them. If you know their zip code, for example, you’ll be able to just send them emails about events in their area. If you know basic consumer information – what magazines they subscribe to, for example – you’ll know whether you should reference the outdoors or video games in your next email.

Email inboxes are very personal spaces. People have no problem clicking unsubscribe or marking as spam if they don’t feel the email is sent specifically to them.

The right people will know that a newsletter is meant for them. Don’t send to the wrong people. Email and demographic appends are worth the investment – as long as you use them!

Sending the wrong content

Now that you’ve got your audience sorted out, it’s time for the easy part: writing the actual email.

Nothing is more unnerving to a writer than a blank screen. That blinking curser just taunts you. Fortunately, with accurate data on your audience, you never have to start with a blank screen again. Make a list of what you know about your audience – do they prefer electric cars or NASCAR? Do they mostly live in big cities, or are they spread out across the countryside?

Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to see in your inbox, if you were them?

When you hit that sweet content spot, you’ll know. Your open rates will climb, your click rates will meet your goals, and your list will grow.

The wrong content won’t get anywhere.

Ignoring your audience

Once you’ve got the right audience and the right content, it’s time to click send. But that’s not the end of it.

Your audience will give you invaluable information with every email, as they open, click, forward, unsubscribe, or take action on your website.

When you find something that works well, do it more often. When something flops, make sure you don’t do it again.

This sounds like obvious advice, but the fact is that many email lists are used like billboards – they just broadcast information out there and don’t bother to see how it’s received. Honor your investment in the data you collected about your audience and be willing to accept data directly from them.

Get started

Using data in email campaigns sets you up to succeed. Learn about your audience, target emails accordingly, and make sure to learn as you go.

The Puget Sound is one of the nation’s best areas for sailing. Spanning 100 miles from Deception Pass in the north to Olympia, Washington in the south, and averaging 450 feet in depth, the Sound provides prime sailing conditions.

The Sound is easily accessible through one of the many cities on its coasts, including Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Bremerton, Poulsbo, Port Townsend, and Everett.

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Seattle has become one of the prime launch points for a variety of watersports in the Puget Sound–from swimming and scuba diving to boating and waterskiing. In fact, one experienced sailor described the conditions here:

You can sail in Elliot Bay and explore the Seattle from the water.  There is a great marina conveniently located right near the Pike Place Market. The sound is strewn with islands for exploring, quiet harbors, and services always close at hand. The conditions in the Sound are almost always mild, with some 1 to 2 foot waves building in the longest, open stretches.  It’s almost like exploring a large lake.

Seattle Magazine, in fact, defends the city as a major sailing capital: “nowhere is better than Seattle for beginner sailors to get under way. Around here, there are so many sailboat rental options, it’s easy to hoist a mainsail, heel out and head up into the wind.” Another Seattle-based publication agrees:

The Seattle area boasts some of the best sailing in the US, with stunning scenery and ample wildlife like seals and whales. Combine this with variety of interesting destinations, plus the relatively protected waters of the Puget Sound, and you’ve got a perfect place to get out on the water and learn to navigate your way around a sailboat.

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Sailing in the Puget Sound

South Sound Talk recommends five of the best Puget Sound locations to explore by boat:

  • Day Island and Narrows Marina: “Visitors of this island won’t find much in the way of recreation, dining or shopping, but rather a tiny island boasting sweeping views of the Puget Sound, Mount Rainier and the Narrows Bridges. While touring this small island, don’t be surprised if you find your favorite new view or future dream home – the island is lined with charming houses.”
  • Blake Island: “Because Blake Island is only reachable by boat, and because it has been preserved as a Washington State Park, it is a quiet retreat for kicking back and enjoying the great outdoors with friends and family. If the wind is good you can sail from Tacoma to Blake Island and back again in a day. A motor boat will make the trip in no time at all.”
  • Anderson Island: “Anderson Island is the South Puget Sound’s southernmost island and one of the area’s best kept secrets. With a population of just more than 1,000 people, Anderson Island is a sleepy, hidden gem that offers visitors everything from stunning beaches and lake swimming, to a rich local history and more.”
  • Vashon Island: “There is lots to see and do in the “Heart of the Sound,” or what is more commonly known as Vashon Island. An artsy island boasting tasty fare, eclectic shopping and an abundance of outdoor recreation, Vashon Island is reachable to visitors only by boat.”
  • Dead Man’s Island: “If you’ve ever been to Kopachuck State Park in Gig Harbor, Wash., chances are you’ve peered out upon the small, wooded and sandy land mass known as Dead Man’s Island. A favorite summer spot for locals, Dead Man’s Island boasts epic views of the Puget Sound and is surrounded by sandy shores perfect for summer sun bathing.Because the island’s shoreline is so sandy, boaters can anchor right on the beach. Or, if you’d prefer to travel by kayak, Dead Man’s island is just a short paddle away from the mainland.”

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How to get started

As one Seattle-based publication suggests, sailing classes are a must for anyone without experience:

Sailing isn’t difficult, but all of the jargon and equipment on board requires some learning for the uninitiated. One of the best ways to learn to sail is to find a friend or experienced sailors looking for crew. It takes more than one person to navigate a larger boat, and being a crew member is a great way to learn the ropes, or the sheets, as a proper sailor would call them!

The nice thing about sailing in a place like Seattle is the easy access to incredibly high quality of sailing classes within the city. There are charter services and training classes for every level of sailor or power boater, so you’ll be able to find what you need whether you want to strengthen your skills or gain new ones.

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If you want to take out corporate Democrats, look no further than your backyard, San Franciscans. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is the embodiment of a political machine that values winning – and the money that helps folks win regardless of values – above all.

That’s why I’m working with Stephen Jaffe, a 46-year career civil rights attorney and first-time candidate who stands for progressive values:

  • Restrain U.S. military adventures
  • Pass single payer health care
  • Women’s health and right to choose
  • End the school to prison pipeline
  • Protect cities from gentrification
  • Police brutality
  • Fight global warming
  • No more dirty energy subsidies
  • Stop dirty corporate money
  • Campaign finance reform
  • $15 minimum wage
  • End homelessness
  • Decriminalize mental illness
  • Abolish mandatory arbitration
  • Ensure integrity of the courts
  • Protect religious rights, and the right to no religion
  • Protect animal rights
  • End superdelegates
  • Fund the Arts
  • Free and open internet

San Francisco, let’s help this Berniecrat see Adachi/Gonzalez style support in taking on the legacy of the Brown-Burton machine before it gets another generation.

 

Back when I was working at NationBuilder, we all got a laugh out of a video that comedian Jon Lajoie (“Taco” from the hit series, “The League”) made to poke fun at successful producers and actors who use Kickstarter and crowdfunding for their projects.

In the video, Lajoie asks for $500,000,000 just for the hell of it, and offers rewards like, “absolutely nothing” for $20, because “$20 doesn’t mean shit to rich people like me,” and, “If you pledge $50 or more, I will send you a photo of me burning a $50 bill while riding a jetski.”

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Lajoie used NationBuilder to take pledges for his “Kickstarter,” raising billions in satirical cash. The campaign page was Facebook liked 64,000 times and won media coverage in tech pubs like Mashable. Lajoie’s video pitch itself has been viewed more than 2 million times.

And a campaign like this isn’t just funny – it’s a great way to grow an email list. Unless, like the campaign, the emails are fake. There’s nothing that will get you on the bad side of your bulk email provider faster than trying to send to tens of thousands of made up emails. So what do you do?

The easiest way to verify your emails is with a real-time lookup that screens out profanity, obviously malformed emails, and may even check them against databases of known emails. One such API-based lookup comes from email and data append provider Accurate Append, through its real-time lead validation service.

Real-time validation of email leads isn’t just important for funny men gone viral – anyone doing paid lead acquisition needs to know that the names coming in are accurate.

Some examples:

  • Political fundraising
  • Credit card and financing offers
  • Home repair and remodeling services
  • Legal assistance

The list continues. Whether you’re going viral, or just paying a few cents per lead, make sure you’re getting the results you think you’re getting and consider real-time lead verification.

Last week in Politico, Dave Gold, founding partner of the mail firm Bouchard Gold Communications, wrote that over-reliance on data models since Obama’s 2008 campaign has contributed to the epic fails of the Democratic Party: loss of 63 seats and control of the House, loss of 11 seats and control of the Senate, loss of 13 governorships, loss of over 900 state legislative seats and control of 27 state legislative chambers.

“We Democrats have allowed microtargeting to become microthinking. Each cycle, we speak to fewer and fewer people and have less and less to say,” Gold writes.

While you can expect that a mail consultant would argue for a larger contact universe, Gold’s argument for storytelling and focus on emotion is compelling, and Gold’s piece is worth a close read (it was shared heavily among my political Facebook friends, so there’s some agreement here). Gold also backs up his points with results from the difficult-for-Democrats Harris County, Texas, where an independent expenditure he advised “helped Democrats win every contested race in Harris County for the first time in a generation, including the district attorney, sheriff and 30 judicial races.”

I tend to agree with Gold that microtargeting efforts can cause more harm than good if they lead to contacting smaller universes. Micro-messaging – telling different voters different stories, can take the benefits of data and use them to drive increased turnout.

When it comes to voter outreach efforts, it’s accurate and complete data that really makes a difference. When you can only robo dial landlines, you need complete landline coverage. When you can text cell phones with apps like Hustle, Relay and Handstack, you need more cell phone numbers. And when you’re using Facebook ads or email to reach voters, you need phone numbers and emails for accurate custom audience matching.

And despite advancements in campaign tech, accurate data isn’t the easiest to come by. That’s where Accurate Append, one of my longest-running partners from NationBuilder and The Adriel Hampton Group, comes in. They provide data append services for campaign vendors and directly to campaigns, and their email append and verify products improve both ad targeting and delivery rates. If big data is killing campaigns, perhaps better data can help save them.

Guest post from Roger Buehler

The two things that I absolutely HATE to do more than anything else is landscaping and sales, and it’s all due to what was the worst job I ever had:  selling lawn aeration.

For those of you not up on their horticulture, lawn aeration involves taking a machine with a big steel drum on the front of it and rolling it over your lawn.  The drum is covered in short hollow tubes, which stick out like spines.  As the drum rolls over your lawn, the tubes press into the soil and pull out hundreds of little “plugs”, or as I call them, “goose poop” (since that’s what they look like), and leave your lawn filled with hundreds of little holes. By punching the holes in the lawn, oxygen is supposed to make it to the plant’s root system, and your lawn is supposed to get greener.

At one time or another, you’ve probably had someone like me knock on your door.  If you answered, I’d give you a spiel about how I and my co-workers would be in your neighborhood in a few day’s time, aerating your neighbor’s lawn, and since we were already here, we’d be willing to swing by and aerate your lawn at the fantastically low price of…(Insert made-up price here).

In truth, I and 5 other guys would squeeze into a Toyota extended-cab pickup belonging to the owner of the company, and he would drop us off at a random Bay Area neighborhood.  We would disperse, and spend the rest of the day going door to door haranguing all those unlucky enough to answer their doors with our sales pitch.  We would get any number of responses (I was threatened with an “ass-whoopin'” on more than one occasion), but a surprisingly large number of times (surprising to me anyway) we would get a “yes.”

At the end of the week, the owner paid us a percentage on the sales we made, and then he went to the customers’ houses with the aerator and punched holes in their lawns.  What he never shared with the customers was his “trade secret”; he secretly applied an industrial strength lawn fertilizer that would, as he called it, “make asphalt grow,” to pretty much guarantee a greener lawn in about a week.  Of course, without continually being “juiced,” the lush green lawns turned brown a few weeks later, and then he’d be back with a new crew, trying to sell the same customers on getting their lawns aerated yet again!

I kicked ass at that job (yes, it surprised even me), but I hated the job so much that it turned me off sales and yard work to this day.

The biggest problem was that we had no information regarding our potential customers.  We just knocked on door after door.  I would have to knock on anywhere between 2 and 25 doors before I even got to talk to someone.  

The job would have been so much easier with some key customer information: What hours is the homeowner at home? Do we have their work number and home number? How much money do they make? Do they take care of the lawn themselves or do they hire a gardener? How much money do they spend on lawn care annually?

Any of this information would have allowed us to just focus on the customers who were potentially interested in our product, and skip the houses with no one home, and who had their own gardener doing this work for them already.

So clearly, our marketing and sales process was inefficient, but I wonder, how many companies’ sales processes and marketing campaigns are just as inefficient, and consist of just emailing as many potential customers as possible, making sales where they can, while pissing off a whole lot more?

If you want to be successful in sales without alienating potential customers, you need accurate, timely, customer data. Luckily, lawn aerators of today across the country can rejoice in the fact that they have access to infinitely better data than I ever did.

Accurate Append provides companies with complete data append, phone append, mobile phone append, email append data and cell phone append.  They can also integrate data processing capabilities into your business processes, so you know that your data is always current.  Their team has more than 45 years’ data processing experience, so they’re uniquely qualified to provide their clients with the timely, accurate and complete contact data they need to profitably grow their customer base.

So, don’t just electronically knock on every door out there, call a data append company like Accurate Append, and see how they can help your business grow (even without special fertilizers).

Uncle Sam Calling

American consumers really hate robocalls. The FCC says automated calls are the number one source of their complaints.

However, that doesn’t change that it’s now legal for U.S. government agencies – including Congress – to use automated dialers to hit up your cell phone for official business. In fact, one of the groups that recently got a favorable ruling from the FCC on this issue provides tele-town hall services to Congress.

From Consumerist’s report on the robocall ruling:

“We emphasize that … a call placed by a third-party agent will be immune from TCPA liability only where the call was placed pursuant to authority that was ‘validly conferred’ by the federal government, and the third party complied with the government’s instructions and otherwise acted within the scope of his or her agency, in accord with federal common-law principles of agency,” reads the ruling.

That means that while survey contractors and town hall vendors can now broadly use cell phone numbers on behalf of the federal government without fear, they’re still off-limits for, say, political campaign robocalls.

Town halls and accurate government surveys depend on reaching Americans by phone – and more than half have abandoned their landlines for cell-only, according to CDC research on mobile phone trends released last year.

Robocalls to cell phones aren’t just annoying, they are often grossly inefficient at reaching the right party. New laws allow creditors to call people who own a number even if they’re not the right party, which protects the vendors but not you and I from unwanted calls. Unlike the Verizon directory for landline directory assistance, there’s no official source for ownership changes to cell phones. And the richest data source – consumer credit card application data – is off-limits to the federal government for town hall and survey purposes (while it is available for debt collection).

That leaves agencies and vendors still scrambling to assemble the best possible phone lists from data append specialists that rely on consumer opt-in information.

It’s been just a few months since the FCC opened cell numbers to increased access by robo dialing. How long before there’s a more reliable way to reach the right parties?