Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How Aptera got big results with e-mail revamp

Story posted: July 23, 2009 - 10:40 am EDT

Victoria Silvstedt

Software and services company Aptera Inc. provides software and database development as well as Web development to its more than 180 customers.
The 6-year-old company has always used e-mail marketing as part of its lead-generation process. However, until about 18 months ago those e-mails, which went out to two separate lists, were sporadic.

The company's main e-mail database, with more than 2,600 subscribers, received e-mail two or three times each year, while its Scorecard database, with more than 15,000 subscribers, received e-mail every three or four months. Results were, as could be expected, said Brooke Francesi, the company's design team leader, “really bad.” Click rates were especially dismal, she said. “Before, we'd send out more than 16,000 e-mails and maybe get only 100 opens,” Francesi said.

It was clear Aptera needed to overhaul its program so, at the beginning of 2008, the company switched ESPs, moving to ExactTarget, and redesigned its e-mail marketing from top to bottom.

The company implemented several changes. First, it put a schedule in place. Scorecard e-mails would go out once a month, while the main database would be touched quarterly. The Scorecard list morphed into an informational vehicle, with plenty of stories and links about project management and the management process. “We wanted to give people information related to our project management software,” Francesi said. “We wanted them to know we understood the industry.”

Aptera also started including offers with a strong call-to-action in e-mails sent to the Scorecard database—a 20% discount, for example, if the prospect made a purchase or signed a contract by the end of the month.

The other list became a straight marketing vehicle that contained information about Aptera as a company, she said, and featured newsy snippets such as profiles of new Aptera employees or recent customer acquisitions. Both newsletters also include “fun articles,” Francesi said. “Since it was straight news about Aptera, we didn't want to inundate people; so we also included information that would help readers.” This included free training or articles related to Aptera's business.

From a design perspective, Aptera started concentrating on creating “beautiful” e-mails. “We really renewed our focus on design,” Francesi said, “and part of that goal was creating brand awareness with our design.”

The company also included a direct link to sales reps in the body of every e-mail, so people could always ask questions or provide feedback on anything they saw.

The results have been “huge,” Francesi said. An Aptera newsletter that went out in December with a 20%-off offer resulted in a 600% increased open rate. In addition, the quarterly issues have enhnaced Web traffic by “30 to 40%,” she said.

“We're not sending out a whole lot of e-mails, but since we're providing them with content that is valuable and doesn't feel the same as information they can find elsewhere, we're gaining our readers' attention,” she said. “Just by doing something simple like providing the link and information for the sales rep, we're seeing sales jump. It's all about building slowly to build response.”

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci...

How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci - Mind map

Leonardo Is My Hero!

Since my childhood, I was utterly fascinated by the figure of the POLYMATH Leonardo da Vinci and his achievements. It never ceased to puzzle and amaze me how a single person could be a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer.

Fast forward many years, it was when visiting Leonardo’s exhibition in the Milan Science and Technology Museum that I decided to have him as a permanent source of inspiration for life. Being able to get in touch with his mastery of both science and arts captivated me for good.

Leonardo is not only probably the greatest genius ever: he’s the one that most fully embodies the ‘Renaissance Man‘ ideal. Pursuing that ideal means being focused not on excelling on a single knowledge domain, but on having a holistic view of excellence in life. It means much more than just intellectual achievement, it means full realization of human potential in every aspect.

Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (detail)

A Framework for Genius

In How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, author Michael Gelb does a superb job of capturing the essence of Leonardo’s genius and laying it out in a practical framework for self-improvement. Here are the 7 key areas that shaped Leonardo’s genius and which you can use as a framework for your own self-improvement:

  1. Curiosità: An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
  2. Dimostrazione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
  3. Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
  4. Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
  5. Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking.
  6. Corporalitá: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
  7. Connessione: A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.

In the book there’s a thorough explanation of how each of these seven key areas applies in Leonardo’s life. More importantly, it’s packed with practical advice and dozens of exercises you can start doing immediately to develop your thinking skills in many unconventional ways. For a reference to the exercises, check the free book summary below.


About a decade later, after having bought it in 1998, I still use How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci regularly as a reference for inspiration and personal growth. This book ended up becoming one of the most influential for me, solidifying my choice of Leonardo as a role model and presenting a very useful framework that I use for self-development up until today.

…Which made me curious.

Do you have one or more role models in life?

Who inspires you the most to reach your full potential?

Share your comments!

La Scapigliata (detail)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Digging Deeper!

Marketers Looking to Maximize Their e-Mail Campaign Effectiveness Need to Push Beyond Simple Metrics.

By Karen J. Bannan

Story posted: July 20, 2009 - 6:01 am EDT

Marketers talk a lot about return on investment, but when it comes to e-mail marketing, many don't fully understand the very thing that can help them determine it: metrics. Often, they either stick to simple metrics—such as opens and unique clicks—or they don't use them at all. ¶ “E-mail marketers need to not only measure e-mail engagement via metrics such as click-through rate but also use that measure as a segmentation attribute to divide subscribers into two buckets: those that are engaged and those that are not,” said David Daniels, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research. “This will allow marketers to drive more meaningful and relevant conversations with their subscribers.”

Basic e-mail metrics are important but don't measure the complete impact of e-mail on the business, said Loren McDonald, VP-industry relations at Silverpop, a provider of e-mail marketing services. “The fact is, if you make decisions based on e-mail metrics alone, they can be wrong. You could have a lower open rate but more conversions because you engaged with fewer people but those people who did click through were more engaged.”

But once marketers start understanding what e-mail metrics can do and how to couple them with other company or industry data, the results can help shape a company's direction. Everything from research and development to sales to customer service can change for the better, experts said.

Finding the next Big Thing...
One of the most powerful ways a company can use e-mail metrics is to identify its best customers; another is to uncover potential new-product needs.

“One of the key metrics that our client Sony [Corp. of America] uses e-mail metrics for is value per registrant,” said Nicholas Einstein, director of strategic and analytic services at Datran Media, a digital marketing technology company. “We see a lot companies doing this—leveraging e-mail data to make informed business decisions because it's data that can be generated quickly and reacted to quickly.”

Companies can, based on click-throughs, see when interest in a particular product is fading and merge that information with sales data to provide a better picture of future development. If sales are down but people are still clicking through, they may be waiting for the next version or choosing a competitor's offering instead.

E-mail can also be a tool to mitigate supply chain risk, said Yun-Hui Chong, VP-strategic services for Experian CheetahMail, an e-mail service provider. “Companies can offer discounts via e-mail for early product reservations and then use those conversions to project out product sales,” she said. “The idea being that it can also show which products are going to be slow sellers.”

And then there's the art of the upsell, said Dan Forootan, CEO of e-mail marketing solutions provider StreamSend. Click stream data can reveal when salespeople should follow up with a particular customer, he said. “If a client is clicking on five articles about a product they don't own, the interest is definitely there for some reason,” he said.

Still, none of these decisions should be made on the face value of e-mail analytics, he said. “You have to be tracking analytics on the Web, too,” he said.

Marketers also should be careful about making sweeping generalizations, such as lumping all customers and prospects into the same category. You may have only a small cross section of your prospect list subscribed to your e-mail newsletter, and those who do subscribe may be more or less savvy than the average customer or prospect. This means that if you base decisions only on the metrics that you have in front of you, you may be missing broader trends.

Those executives who aren't comfortable letting e-mail metrics shape their R&D or sales efforts may be willing to use them in the customer service realm. Marketers can track what people are clicking on as well as what types of in-bound e-mails they are seeing to help shape online FAQs as well as help direct customer service scripts, said Ben Rothfeld, global director for marketing strategy at marketing services company Acxiom.

For example, if you combine e-mail metrics—such as which terms or subjects are most commonly clicked on in a newsletter—with Web analytics, you can create a flow chart of other issues or questions a customer may have.

Marketers can then use that information to help reduce the number of calls coming in, McDonald said.

“We have one client that found it was getting a significant number of calls into the call center about really basic stuff,” he said. “The marketing team used e-mail to educate those customers by creating an FAQ and using e-mail reminders. That marketing executive's CEO loves him because he is saving the company a lot of money. An e-mail is 1/65 of the cost of a telephone call.”

But none of this is possible, said Ivan Chalif, director of e-mail product marketing for Alterian, a provider of integrated marketing software, unless you've defined what you want to measure. E-mail metrics are the start, but there's much more out there, especially with platforms that let you bridge e-mail, Web and database data, he said.

“If the marketing team is keen on driving and measuring the most revenue from their e-mail campaigns, tracking opens and clicks is not going to mean much to them when they have to validate their efforts,” he said. “You have to have access to metrics that confirm or refute the effectiveness of your program. If it's revenue that's important, it's revenue you have to measure. Imagine going to your VP of marketing's office and she asks how much revenue a campaign generated and all you have are clicks and opens data. That's not going to be a fun conversation.”

Finding Your TWITTER Voice

Combine self-discovery with branding and you will find ways to join the online conversation.

Story posted: July 20, 2009 - 6:01 am EDT

I have yet to meet a marketing professional I didn't think could benefit from using Twitter, as I've found it to be such an incredible resource for marketing information, insights and connections. Still, many marketers tell me, “But I don't know what to Tweet,” Figuring that out is a process I refer to as “finding your Twitter voice.” For me, it involved combining a little self-discovery with what I know best—branding

Finding your voice on Twitter often requires blending your personal and professional brand. I knew even before I registered that although my Twitter presence would be for personal use, I needed to be conscious of how it would reflect on my company. If your company has social media guidelines, they may help you set some parameters.

Next, I suggest asking yourself, “What conversations do I want to be part of?” By combining my interests in marketing with my passion for small business, I was able to create a voice I felt represented me both personally and professionally.

Also ask yourself, “What value will I bring to that conversation?” Think about what you want to say and how it fits with your brand. I've found that a few guiding principles can help you determine how you join the conversation:

Provide a unique voice. While you could continually send links to other content, it is important to offer your own perspective. I try to maintain at least one-third original content.

Be professional in your tone and content. I tend to keep personal (family) content to less than 10%, and I refrain from making negative comments.

Be considerate. Try to provide enough information with URLs to tell what the content is about. Also consider the frequency of your tweets; too many too often may dominate conversation.

Following the right people can also inform your voice. I looked to people producing great content within my areas of interest, starting with the contributors on OPEN Forum and eventually adding people they follow. I then added marketers I admire, as well as people with interesting cultural views.

By following the right people and creating the right guidelines for your voice, you may find joining the conversation to be easier (and more valuable) than you thought.

Marcy Shinder is VP-brand management at American Express OPEN. She can be reached by e-mail at marcy@openforum.com and on twitter @marcyshinder.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Balloon Buddies will rule the world... someday, and with lots of hard work!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

11 Ways to Cure 'Someday' Syndrome

Photo courtesy of the half-blood prince

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Alex Fayle of the Someday Syndrome blog.
  • Someday Syndrome: not doing what you want to because you don’t know what it is, because you’re procrastinating about it, or because you have too much stuff getting in your way.

Everyone suffers from Someday Syndrome at some point in their lives, often catching it repeatedly. For me, most recently, I’d been saying that I really should give running a try without doing anything about it.

You probably have something similar going on in your life – a project, a task, a goal - that you just haven’t got around to doing yet. Right?

I could quote Nike and say: Just Do It, but if it were that simple Someday Syndrome wouldn’t exist. In my own case, it wasn’t until my body rebelled and refused to sleep from lack of exercise that I finally got started.

I decided that here had to be an easier way than waiting for pain to push me into getting over myself and getting on with my goals. So I came up with this: 11 ways to cure Someday Syndrome so that others don’t need to suffer through a cure.

1. Be you. This is The Happiness Project’s number one Happiness Commandment. I hate team sports, so there’s no way I’d play football (soccer). Running allows me to exercise when I want and I can do it on my own or with a friend. Perfectly me.

Maybe you’re not doing something because in reality, it doesn’t fit with who you are. If so, dump the idea and the expectations that likely came along with it, and go find something that suits you better.

2. Clear out the junk. If you don’t know what would suit you better, it could be because your mind and emotions are all cluttered up. I mean, seriously, if your mind’s in chaos, how could you possibly make a clear decision on getting rid of your somedays? The clutter I’m talking about includes the negative thoughts (like me thinking that I’d never be able to run more than 30 seconds without dying), or negative attitudes (I’m too lazy to run).

There are some great tools available in the Simplicity category of ZenHabits. Use them.

3. Know what you want. And why you want it. If you are going cure Someday Syndrome, you’ll need to know details about that desire and the reasons behind it.

And if you don’t know what that is, the blogosphere is full of blogs ready to help you figure out your dreams - Someday Syndrome and ZenHabits are two examples, but you can find others on the PluginID website on Glen’s Personal Development page.

4. Make a grand plan. I say “grand” because this is the big picture plan. Don’t get carried away. Planning can feel like action, but really it’s no different than talking. Until you actually do something, you’re still procrastinating.

I have a goal of running 20K next November. That’s enough for now. Starting is more important than getting into detailed plans.

5. Take one step at a time. The only details you need to choose at this point is first steps. I get overwhelmed by details. When I look past the big picture I don’t just see a few details – I see all of them, therefore I focus on just the next two or three things that I’m going to do.

I know what I need to do to get started (the first two months of training). That’s enough.

6. Ignore the rest. That’s right. Ignore everything else in the goal except what you’re working on. We often use comparisons of where we are now to where we want to be as a form of procrastination. While checking in is always a good thing, we can do it when each small task is completed, and not in the middle of a task.

On my running days, when I’m in the middle of my current workout, I don’t think about what’s coming up next week. Why would I want to freak myself out?

7. Get help. Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness, says that the best route to figuring out if our goals will actually make us happy is to talk to others who have done it.

I also try to be lazy when I can be, so if someone else has done the work (like this Couch-to-5K Running Plan), then there’s no need to waste my time coming up with something new, now is there?

8. Don’t compare. Be careful when you get help, because the dream-shattering tendency to compare lurks nearby. Leo talks about the bad side to comparisons in his post: Life’s Enough. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.

Enough said. (Yes, I’m taking my own advice about Getting Help and moving on.)

9. Be uncomfortable. Judith Sills in her book The Comfort Trap, or What If You’re Riding a Dead Horse? talks about how we might be terribly unhappy, but we’re comfortable so we don’t do anything about the unhappiness. Happiness is a risk, but the current situation even if it’s painful is safe.

Which would you prefer? Comfortably in pain and unhappy or uncomfortably blissful? I live my life the second way and would recommend that you always choose the uncomfortable option.

10. Celebrate the process as well as the end. I don’t mean celebrations like Dash’s Grade 3 “graduation ceremony” from The Incredibles. I mean acknowledge your progress. I Tweet my runs and mention them on my Facebook status. I also talk with other runners and we talk progress and tips.

And in turn this sharing inspires others and helps them move past their own Somedays and toward achieving their goals.

11. Don’t stop at the easy point. Wait a second. Most lists are only ten points. Why does this one have eleven?

Because it’s important to push yourself just a little bit further than you think you can go. Although my big goal is running 20K within a year, I’ve committed to running 7K on December 31st.

So, while you’re celebrating and taking it one step at a time, come up with one unexpected action you can take that’ll add energy, excitement and a bit of fear to your goal.

Believe me, that bit of fear will probably be the best motivator you’ve ever found.

For more from Alex Fayle, check out his blog, Someday Syndrome (or subscribe to his feed).

If you liked this article, please share it on del.icio.us, StumbleUpon or Digg. I’d appreciate it. :)

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Saturday, July 18, 2009



So you say you’re ready to start going green in your home. Let’s begin by reviewing the prerequisites. Awareness of global warming? Check. Concern for your children’s future on this planet? Check. Appreciation of wind power, bamboo and right-size homes. Check.

Countless Americans like you grasp the basics of the green movement and want to begin going green. (Victory garden, anyone?) But when it comes to owning a home, it’s often hard to do the “right” green thing because, well, often no one knows precisely what the “right” green thing is. The rules of the road are still being formulated in the brave new green world. And let’s get real: Swapping out our incandescent lightbulbs for fluorescents was the easy part.

So that’s where this special report comes in. It’s jammed full of tips and resources to help homeowners like you get in sync with the environment. If you don’t know which windows have the smallest carbon footprint, which detergent has the lowest impact on the watershed and which bedding created the least waste when it was produced, you’re not alone. There’s no shame here.

We’ll start with the basics to get you rolling toward green. We’re not asking you to install ultra-expensive solar panels or a geo-thermal heat pump. (Yet.) But when you understand how everyone’s savings add up to help the globe, you may find some extra ambition to green even more.

This special report covers six topic areas — home improvement, appliances, furniture, energy, cleaning, and yard and garden — via text and videos. By exploring the six topics, you’ll gain the fundamental knowledge and approach to make solid green decisions about your home. From repainting a bedroom to installing drip irrigation, you’ll feel more confident next time you start a project or choose a product from the many needed to run the modern home.

Your guide toward green is self-described cul-de-sactivist James Glave, author of Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet. Glave offers practical tips and a wide array of resources to put you at ease.

We hope you enjoy and learn from our green report. Planet Earth thanks you.

Monday, July 13, 2009


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