Segmenting Email

Many small business leverage the power of email packages from companies like iContact, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp.  All have robust messages builders, built-in analytics and subscriber feature sets.  If you’re like me, you receive emails from clients, partners, colleagues and vendors.

There is the invariable newsletter, a big sales announcement or notices of upcoming meetings.

But most small businesses don’t leverage the functions in those email systems by creating segments.  Almost every business I speak with has a big list that receives the same email once or twice each month.

Consider segmenting your customers and sending regular email through the system.  For example, one client has a great data product that has a daily update.  By segmenting the email lists into various customer segments, this company can use the analytics to understand more about their customer behavior.

Other clients can create a newsletter for their customers and easily swap out one or two text blocks for prospects versus customers or non-prospects, non-customers versus those who receive product information.

Whether you use Outlook, Gmail or something else, your takeaway as a small business leader is to use your email marketing system’s lists to look at open rates, identify interested prospects and avoid sending that horrible “notify sender when read” message.

Segmenting your email addresses is something anyone can do that provides flexibility and tools far beyond your normal email client.

Google Buzz Privacy – Fast Friday Fact

Yes, you’ve been buzzed.  We all have.

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The way that Facebook’s Beacon project or Amazon’s long ago Buying Circles shredded another layer of privacy.   Using Buzz it’s deceptively simple to share a private email address with a group of people.  Part of that is tied into the use of what is fast becoming an Internet standard:  an @ symbol in front of someone’s name.

Google Buzz includes an email address that you or your correspondent select as part of the reply.  So if I have one regular email address and another super-secret one and you use the @ reply with the super-secret address (maybe because it’s the one you have), you’ll send the email address out into the ether.

Google is rightfully taking lumps because the company didn’t explain this in this beginning.   The folks at Lifehacker have written the perfect primer on Google Buzz privacy.   I encourage everyone to read that work.

But before you go, are you using Google Buzz?  If so, what do you think of it, and did you know about the privacy issues?

Protect Your Name – Make It Easy To Report Fraud

Don't let your customers get this email from your name

Knowing which emails or messages to open taxes most people.   Antivirus and malware software is on every smart person’s computer.  Still, did you send me that link?   This photo from my cousin who I didn’t talk with in a few weeks — is it about his family or am I opening a door wide?

With good, up-to-date software and regular scans, you should keep most issues at bay in your small business, but let’s agree that your employees are going to check their personal email, they’re going to open attachments and they’re going to subject to phishing and fraud scams.

That last issue is the one that can help your online presence a great deal.  You see, whenever someone clicks a “spam” button in an email client, there is the tiniest of black marks against that sender.  Build up enough (and there have to be a lot of them) and the sender will be on a bad emailer list.  But you should also make sure that you help your customers, especially if you deal with a consumer customer.

First, set up some rules about what you will and won’t do in email.  Will you never discuss billing matters in email?  Say that if you’re able to stick by that.  What about asking for personal information like addresses and phone numbers?  Again, if you’re sure that you can always ask for that information in a secure web form, then promise your customer that you’ll never ask for contact information in email.

The big kahuna of the whole privacy issue is to make it easy for anyone receiving an email that is ostensibly from your company to report the email.  Set up a fraud mailbox — either fraud@yourcompany or phishing@yourcompany and publicize that address at the bottom of your emails.   This helps you in avoiding those little tick marks, but more importantly, you give your customers peace of mind because they know that forwarding a questionable email to your special address means a person will look after them.

And in these days where privacy flies out the window and everyone seems reluctant to

Gmail’s Send and Archive Feature – Fast Friday Fact

Gmail users are able to customize their email experience as well as mail for almost any platform.  That and the free or low cost may be one of the reasons for Gmail’s ubiquity.  I even saw Gmail in use on Capitol Hill last year while visiting my Senator’s office.

Gmail send and archive optionWhen I talk with Gmail users, however, few discuss the extended Labs function.  In a few rare instances, I’ve had to restart my email, but almost all of the Labs features I’ve used are time savers, utility enhancements or even solved a problem I didn’t know I had.  The Send and Archive feature falls into all of those categories.

You know that person who spent too much time in the ’90s categorizing their email?  Yep, that was me.  But with virtually unlimited storage, I don’t even mess with tagging or other features any longer.  Instead I make use of the Send & Archive feature.  The feature adds another button next to the boring old SEND button.  Once the mail is sent, Gmail places the thread in the “All Mail” area.

No muss, no fuss, and if you need to find something later, just remember a phrase to narrow your search or look at all the mail you sent during that time or to that person.

If you’re using Gmail and your inbox has more than a few pieces inside, do yourself a favor and check out the SEND & ARCHIVE feature now.  All you need to do is click the LABS icon in the upper right corner that looks like a beaker (labs, get it?) and scroll down.  And a friendly hint:  add only one new labs feature at a time.  You’ll thank me for that advice later.

What is Xoopit And Why Care? – Fast Friday Fact

Image representing Xoopit as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Yahoo! continues pushing good news out as fast as the PR team can get clearance.   When a company misses earnings, continues dissing a Fortune 50 suitor and goes it alone against entrenched competitors on every side, splashing every announcement is critical.

That’s why you may have heard a lot about Xoopit this week and wondered what all the fuss is about.

Xoopit, which was available for Gmail and is now part of Yahoo!, mines your email for photos.  In Gmail, Xoopit would send an email every week with a look back in time.  In its new corporate home, the company is no longer accepting new (free) users with Gmail accounts.   Existing accounts are grandfathered in as the detente in the Google-Yahoo-Microsoft oligopoly continues, but we can all be confident that Xoopit’s new function amounts to a Yahoo mail plugin.

The entire company has been smartly rebranded in hours and is being incorporated into Yahoo! mail.

Xoopit is just one of my companies creating mashed-up features for existing hit products.  Companies like Remember The Milk (tasks in Gmail) and Plaxo (web synchronization of Outlook accounts) are making a name by riding alongside an established brand and large customer base.  RTM got burned when Google unleashed its own task functionality, but in Xoopit’s case, doing well for the company resulted in acquisition.

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Check Email Spam Filters: Gmail Flags Google Edition

An email box folder of spam messages.

Email box of spam. Image via Wikipedia

Many businesses rely on automated spam filters to their detriment. Unwanted contact in any form — regular mail, email or telephone —   can be a nuisance, but email is the device we can use that automatically screens out items we may not want.

Spam filters are imperfect, however, and you use them without verification at your own peril.    Any automatic filter, even ones that forward mail from a specific address to another address or directory, should be regularly tested and checked.    We’ve seen too many incidents where small businesses have used a contact form that was configured years ago, but new spam filtering technology is picking up certain words or the absence of them to filter the results.  That means that a lead with just a phone number or email may end up in a spam filter.

Today’s experience in our office underscored this issue more than any anecdote you might hear.   We wrote Google AdWords this weekend with two questions.  They weren’t complex, but they needed a Googler to respond.  Unfortunately, the response ended up in a spam filter.  That might not be so bad, but the irony is that we use Gmail.

Google’s own mail program flagged mail from the company.  I freely admit that had I written an email client that there would be an exception for my own mail, but it’s smart for Google not to do so, any more than the company should stop showing Yahoo! local information in its own search results.

But your important takeaway is to regularly scan your email spam and other boxes, remembering that most automatically delete mail after a certain amount of time, usually 30 days.

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