March 9th, 1999
Responsible Email Marketing

03/09/99 RMIUG Meeting Minutes - Responsible Email Marketing ... and Fifth Year Anniversary Meeting

Alek Komarnitsky, from the RMIUG Executive committee, called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. There were about 70 people in attendance. As is the tradition Alek asked for a show of hands on various topics. About 15-20% were attending for the first time, and 15-20% had attended more than 10 RMIUG meetings. Alek then opened the floor for announcements.

- Suzanne Lainson (slainson@sportstrust.com) requested that the audience respond to a survey on High Tech Events which she was conducting and which were available prior to the meeting.

- Ellen Glover, (ellen.glover@colorado.edu) is looking for work as a web content specialist.

- Jean Hampton (Jean_Hampton@compusa.com) announced that CompUSA will begin offering Internet Certification Tracks the week of 15 March. Certification classes to be offered include Site Designer, Application Developer, Enterprise Developer, Server Administrator, Internetworking Professional, Security Professional and E-Commerce Professional. Contact Doug Kingman at 303-584- 2417 for information and mention RMIUG.

At the conclusion of the announcements, Alek awarded a plaque to Dan Murray for his 5 year effort in starting and guiding the RMIUG. Alek noted that the RMIUG is one of the earliest Internet user groups and is apparently the earliest Internet user group that has recorded minutes of its existence!

Alek then queried the audience about their email usage, relating to the evening's topic, "Responsible Email Marketing". Unlike earlier meetings, everyone said they had an email address. Many had more than one and about 10% had more than 10 alternate email addresses. Most people received less than 50 email messages each day, but quite a few indicated they received more than 200 per day. Not surprisingly, quite a few received more than 10 spam emails daily.

As first speaker, Alek welcomed back a guest speaker making his third speaking appearance, Andrew Currie (andrew.currie@messagemedia.com), vice president of client services from MessageMedia. Andrew spoke about building customer relationships using email. He began with industry trends detailing the rapid growth of email, pointing out that nearly 50% of the US population (135 million people) will be using email by 2001 and that currently there are more than 200 million email mailboxes in the US and 326 million worldwide. Andrew emphasized the importance of using email for business contacts responsibly and focused on opt-in customer email applications as opposed to unwanted intrusive spam. He listed the email marketing benefits as cheaper (not free), faster and better at targeting commercial audiences, and used a real example of an email marketing effort ($18K) versus a traditional direct mail marketing campaign($52K). To indicate response rates Andrew showed a chart where new software downloads had between a 20- 70% response, new web site announcements had 15-45% response, and a newsletter product/service click-through had a 2- 15% response. Andrew introduced the "Value Chain" elements of an email campaign, covered in detail by a later speaker. In response to a question of list brokers, Andrew mentioned several responsible groups, available by searching the web, as PostMasters Direct, Net Creations and ALC Interactive.

The second speaker was Greg Schneider (greg@infobeat.com), vice president of marketing for Exactis.com. Greg picked up from Andrew and spoke about the "Value Chain": create, distribute, support and optimize. He emphasized the importance of doing the homework up front and targeting the market and readers. For the Creation block Greg commented on the strategy, address collection and content creation effort. He suggested avoiding the use of harvested email addresses, but get email addresses from print, online and phone call center approaches, requesting permission for a clearly defined communication purpose. Message delivery can be done by outsourcing, building your own tools or using off-the-shelf packages. If you build your own e-mail engine in-house, Greg noted it is not a one time event - it's an ongoing effort. Support includes subscription management, reporting and customer service. Greg said it is important to make it easy for people to unsubscribe, don't take them hostage, and noted that reply handling normally requires some human intervention. Greg ended with the comment that implementing an email marketing program requires a complex set of functionality and resources.

Alek welcomed the third speaker, John Funk (jfunk@emailknowledge.com) founder of the consulting firm E-mail Knowledge Group. John started by stating the importance of integrating email into business strategy. To the question of why use email he suggested three answers: drive customer behavior and traffic, replace paper and save costs, and create new ways to access customers and products. John emphasized the customer experience - if they have a bad experience you are "toast". Like Greg, he said you could use three approaches: "Hobbyist: do it yourself", off-the-shelf, or outsource. He discouraged the hobbyist approach unless it was a core part of your business and noted that as volume combines with customization the outsourcing approach becomes attractive. John listed the pros of outsourcing as minimal staffing, best of class, low up front costs, solid systems and email not your competency. Cons were it was tough to stay cheap, a new link in the chain, little knowledge transfer, need to understand the consultant's operating world-view (box) and the non-recurring engineering. John emphasized that email has a tendency to build customer expectations. In responding to an audience question John thought the life expectancy of an email address depends on whether it is a primary or secondary address. He noted that in some sets of secondary addresses, e.g. free email from Hotmail, about 1/2 are dead in a week, 1/4 are dead in a month and the rest seem to stick around. John ended by emphasizing not to think it's easy.

The final speaker was Mark Glasco (mglasco@matchlogic.com) director of MatchLogic's Email marketing service. Mark started by noting he came from a print media, direct marketing background and commented about MatchLogic, recently purchased by Excite and now by @Home. Mark noted that the requirements for a responsible email marketing campaign include sending only to opt- in addresses, to fully disclose where the email is being sent from, the allow the user off the list at any time and to permit the user access to update the email/demographic information, all done with a concern about protecting the consumer's privacy. Mark mentioned several email advocacy groups: truste.org, w3.org, the-dma.org and iab.net. On the email content Mark recommended you have an accurate from address, never use a distribution list, use a "real" subject line and have some feedback method in the message content. Comparing email marketing to traditional direct marketing Mark noted the difficulty of determining if the consumer even got the mail, let alone opened it, read it and purchased a product. With email you can determine if it was delivered and you can measure if links were followed. Commenting on email pointing to web sites Mark emphasized the need for the site to be fast, reduce first time purchase risk, increase checkout speed, and encourage customer loyalty.

URL's of interest by order of speakers above: MessageMedia, http://www.messagemedia.com/ Exactis, http://www.exactis.com/ E-Mail Knowledge Group, http://www.emailknowledge.com/ MatchLogic, http://www.matchlogic.com/

Alek then welcomed the group to respond to questions from the audience. To the question about use of high functionality in email (HTML, graphics, Java, etc) the response was "a better experience with HTML mail than text only". It was conjectured that 30% of email clients are now capable of HTML email and suggested that text-only email was for interpersonal communications and HTML email was for business communications. To the question of the ethical constraints on harvesting email addresses all expressed concern, particularly about the potentials for stealth information gathering. On a question about the libel/slander by email, particularly when done through lists, John Funk, a lawyer commented that email stands the same tests as standard as oral and written communications. He noted that "it can be an ugly onion to un-peel". On a question about lobbying and regulations, the four all supported the opt-in method for email marketing and specifically were against spam. Questioned about encrypted email the consensus was that it is still to hard to use and needs to get easier. On regulations Andrew Currie noted that prostitution and gambling are legal in Nevada, but spam is illegal - to which an audience wit responded that you have to draw the line somewhere!

Alek thanked the speakers and the audience and called the meeting to a close at 9:15 and noted the May meeting topic will be "Financing Net Startups: VC's, angels and platinum cards".

Respectfully submitted, Art Smoot

Note: Steve Outing, steve@planetarynews.com, a columnist and editor who attended the meeting covered it in his web column, http://www.mediainfo.com/ephome/news/newshtm/stop/st031299.htm

The other tentative schedule of future 1999 RMIUG meetings includes: May: Financing Net Startups: VC's, angels and platinum cards July: Coming Changes to Top Level Domains Sept: Tips and Tools for Web Site Development Nov: Y2K Armageddon, The Coming Internet/World Meltdown

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