Problem: I know I need a new Web site. What do I need to consider to make the process of a changeover smooth and timely?
Solution: Consider the following steps in launching a new Web site:
1) Identify and engage all core decision-makers at the beginning. By having a small core team, you alleviate long approval processes. Likewise, determine who will be part of the investigative process. Focus groups are important to determine who you are and what messages you're trying to relay to your constituencies. Who do you want involved in those focus groups? Consider everyone from your customers, to your board of directors, to prospects.
2) Identify internal and external resources that will aid in your relaunch. Do you have someone in-house who is capable of writing and editing content? If not, explore external resources. The same goes for photography and imagery, both initial and ongoing. Do you have a library of images to use for the site? Do you need additional graphics? Consider hiring a professional photographer to shoot some photos on-site.
3) Understand your technology. Do you have a Web server already (on-site or off) and is it up to the job? You may need to consider an alternative, so meet with the appropriate people to gain a clear understanding of your technology and its capacity.
4) Determine milestones. Is the anticipated launch of your site tied to an event? You may need to consider a phased launch.
5) Do not underestimate content. Identify what you have, what you can keep and what you need. Estimate word counts and be certain they're as accurate as possible. Set clear milestones for content development to make sure it doesn't throw off your schedule.
6) What is your budget? Is it flexible? It is often worth a larger upfront investment to make sure the site will have a long shelf life and be easily maintainable. Also, address any opportunities to save by doing work in-house. You may have the means to build your site in-house while only working with an outside firm on strategy and design.
7) Does your new site need to be integrated into an existing set of materials, either print, digital or both?
8) Have all the necessary information prepared and ready to share with the communication firm you choose to engage.
Siobhan Kelleher is director of client services and digital media at Sametz Blackstone Associates (www.sametz.com), a Boston-based strategic communications consulting firm.
Problem: How can I act on bounce data when the ISPs and other domains don't always provide accurate information?
Solution: The reliability of bounce data is a legitimate concern that was raised by both mailers and ESPs in a recent Email Experience Council (EEC) survey.
However, this concern cannot become an excuse for email marketers not making good use of the data that are provided, leveraging bounce management systems that allow them to "see" the data, and agreeing on common definitions for the actions to be taken. The EEC survey found these to be significant problems as well.
There are initiatives under way at the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), an industry trade group principally comprising ISPs and other receivers, to address the consistency of email delivery notices and policies. Sender organizations, such as the Email Sender & Provider Coalition (ESPC), as well as many individual companies, are engaged with ISPs on this issue as well. While improved ISP transparency is crucial, it's important to recognize that it will take time to adopt and implement the appropriate changes.
In the meantime, email marketers must make the best use of the bounce data they get from ISPs today. This means you need a bounce management capability that enables you to distinguish failures due to undeliverable records, such as bad address, from those due to practices ISPs find unacceptable, such as spam blocks. Visibility is the key to diagnosing deliverability problems and to driving corrective actions. The last thing you want to do is retain bad records while dropping good ones, or to remail into an ISP without rectifying the practice problem that may have precipitated a block.
In terms of invalidating bad records, a good bounce management system will assign confidence codes to the bounce data received from different ISPs. You should use these data in building your retry and invalidation rules. Applying a universal three- or five-bounce rule is not the best strategy; doing nothing is a recipe for disaster.
Dave Lewis is an email marketing consultant. He was most recently VP-market and product strategy at StrongMail Systems.
Problem: I know how many Web site visitors I get from my Google AdWords campaign, but I don't know how many convert and which keywords led to sales.
Solution: Google AdWords can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, companies see an immediate impact from the uptick in Web traffic. Unfortunately for many marketers, it's difficult to connect that visit with a sale. What you need is intelligent, trackable forms to give you insight into the customer.
To insert some intelligence into your Google AdWords campaign, you need to create a way to track the click-throughs to your Web site. The best way to do this is to create a form on your landing page to capture the prospect's information, including the specific keyword. These forms should provide a clear call to action and a related offer to entice prospects to submit their information.
Automated services can further help you by sending the information you get from the forms directly to your CRM system. This way, you can include these prospects in your marketing programs and build a relationship with them, extending beyond the one click. These services also let you assign a tracking code to each prospect so you can track each and every touch you have with that person.
Once that prospect converts to a paying customer, you'll not only know that the person came in through Google AdWords, but you'll also know which keywords were most profitable. Then you can go back and refine your Google AdWords campaign to make the most of your marketing dollars.
Jeff Pedowitz is VP-professional services at Eloqua (www.eloqua.com), a provider of marketing automation software.