Profile Email Summit

I was at the Bigfoot Interactive Profile Email Summit this morning. I am an investor in Bigfoot Interactive, which is one of the leading email service providers. They provide email sending and related services to over 100 large enterprises. This summit brought together leading marketers and analysts who focus on email marketing.

Jim Nail, who is the email analyst from Forrester Research, had some very interesting things to say about building email lists. I asked him how large corporations who have huge postal files (postal addresses for their customers) can quickly build their email files.

He said it that those who “forced it” with purchase of lists, append files, etc were getting in trouble with their customers who had no context for why or how they were suddenly getting email from these companies. The customer often views that kind of email as spam even though the mail is coming from their bank, cable company, utlity, etc.

Jim recommends using tools that marketers have at their disposal such as registration, purchase, or renewal processes (whether online or offline via a call center) as the best way to collect email addresses. He said that it takes a lot longer to build the file that way, but the result is that customers get only the mail they want and understand why they are getting it.

Al DiGuido, CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, presented the results of a several consumer surveys that were done in late October.

Some interesting data:
88% of consumers want ISPs and email software providers to provide “unsubscribe” button for certain emails they don’t want to get anymore

36% of consumers would pay money for a “guaranteed” delivery button for certain emails that they absolutely need to get

28% of consumers have had essential email from a trusted source was placed in a junk mail folder

14% of consumers plan to switch email addresses in the next six months

11% of consumers did switch email addresses in the last six months

74% of consumers want porn emails filtered out of their inboxes

40% of consumers who get critical communications from credit card issues (ie – credit card statements) are concerned about these messages being blocked

47% of consumers would consider switching ISPs/email providers if they did not receive a critical communication from their primary credit card issuer

Probably the most interesting discussion was a panel on email delivery. The panelists were:

Margot Koschier, Manager of Anti-Spam Initiatives at AOL
Roy Ben-Yoseph, Product Manager, AOL Mail
David Daniels of Jupiter
Jim Nail of Forrester
Markus Mullarkey, Manager of CNet’s newsletter business
Kevin Noonan, Executive Director of AIM
Michael Della Penna of Bigfoot Interactive

Both Margot and Roy described AOL’s anti-spam efforts as being “member centric”. That means AOL’s primary goal is to protect its members. Helping legitimate marketers get through is important, but takes a back seat to the members concerns.

Margot suggested that marketers put their brand prominently in the “from” and “reply to” addresses and in the subject line. She asked them not to put random numbers or odd looking addresses in the “from” or “reply to” addresses because that is often seen as spam by members.

Margot said that spam volumes are going up exponentially right now because broadband and wifi users have unwittingly opened up their networks to spammers who use them for relaying spam, spoofing, etc.

It came out in the discussion that AOL is working on an “enhanced white list” system. Though the details on this system were pretty cryptic, it sounds like an “EZ Pass” system to allow legitimate marketers go straight through into users mail boxes. In order to get into this enhanced white list, marketers must have the following:
Authenticated themselves to AOL
Have 30 days of good behavior with AOL
Instant unsubscribe for any AOL member who requests an unsubscribe
Strong feedback loop on member complaints

A question was asked about AOL providing an unsubscribe button vs. the current “report spam” button. AOL wants the marketer to do the unsubscribe. Many marketers would like AOL to process unsubscribes for them. At this time, AOL does not want to do this.

Although I didn’t stay for the whole summit, I was glad to see that the industry is talking about the important issues facing email marketers and that the large ISPs in particular are beginning to get interested in solving both the spam and deliverability issues facing legitimate marketers.