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Feedback to a B2B email marketer

A few weeks ago I was tasked with the evaluation of a service for a business.  The service is a fairly recent kind of technical service that my client needed. The specific service I am writing about is provided by a large, public corporation.  I will keep the kind of service and the specific tool being evaluated anonymous because I don’t want to offend specific sensibilities and because the following advice is general for all B2B marketers.  As is often the case with B2B services, the corporation’s website offered a limited free trial in exchange for contact information.  I filled in my contact details (well, my email address. I don’t like to be interrupted so I do not volunteer phone or physical addresses at this point), and went about the free trial.  The trial proved conclusive and in my report to my client contrasting the different competing services I specifically recommended this one.  My assignment was over and I went back to my current full time occupation as a law student.

Today I received a promotional email from that corporation.  It was obviously related to the service I have test-driven and as such I expected this marketing email as part of the bargain: test drive the service in exchange for the contact information and the permission to send promotional emails.  However, when I saw this specific email, I immediately went for the jugular and hit the unsubscribe link, effectively withdrawing that permission.  The corporation has killed what could have become an ongoing conversation.  Here is why, an excerpt from my email to the responsible marketing manager:

(1) Give me an option to subscribe to plain TEXT messages.  HTML is not welcome here.  If the choice is between HTML mail or no mail, I will rather choose no mail.

(2) There are many reasons for my preference not to receive HTML mails.  The most important is that I do not like my every step to be tracked.  It is even more horrifying to me how the tracking is implemented in this specific email message.  Why do you put my name, email, company, phone, and title in the tracking URL?  If I wanted this obscure third-party outfit hiding behind the domain name [REDACTED] to know my contact information, I would have volunteered it myself.  I find the way tracking is implemented in this email inconsiderate and leading to spam.

(3) Another reason to prefer TEXT over HTML is bandwidth.  You can’t know, when sending out the email, if I am reading it on cheap wired bandwidth or on extremely expensive roaming cellular bandwidth or anything in between.  Please be respectful of my bandwidth and limit your messages’ weight — trim away the fat that is HTML and deliver substance only.

(4) And another reason to prefer TEXT over HTML is speed-reading.  It is scientifically measured that a user reading all emails in the same font and on the same background reads faster and absorbs more substance than a user faced with formatting choices of the sender.  There is a certain degree of personal preference here, but it is also scientifically measured that some fonts are more readable than others, specifically fixed width fonts.  Save the cost of having your email styled, it is a waste of your resources as well as of reader’s time.

(5) Last but not least, with a count of over 30 URLs and zero sentences, what you have dumped on me is information overload.  Don’t expect any response to that.  The more quantity is crammed into a single message, the less relevant it becomes.  At some point the threshold of spam is reached.  This is what happened in this case, both technically (my email service provider’s spam filter was triggered) and humanly: there was no value to me in an email that is only a list of badly obfuscated links. Hence I unsubscribed.

I hope this feedback is helpful to you in structuring your future marketing activities.  As far as I am concerned, I am unsubscribed from this particular B2B marketer’s emails.  He has killed the conversation.  I am still of the opinion that the corporation’s service is competitive, and I will still recommend it to other clients with similar needs.  But there was no value added whatsoever by the B2B marketer and he or she should be worried if the CEO finds out.  Add value or be trimmed!

Another Good Reason

Say no to the data miners, reclaim your independent judgement.

http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

Free Lunch

If a product or service is free, think whether you are the product being sold. It does not need to be so obvious as the instagram blunder.  There is no such thing as a free lunch, not even on the Internet.  

Happy Chanukah

This video has been shared with me and I’d like to share it on.

One Week Can Feel Like an Eternity

I’ve been without internet service for a week. It made me realize how dependent I am on the internet.  I’ll blog later about this blackout, which I fully blame on Rogers, my ex-provider.

Life went on also without the internet.

For telephone services, my VoIP line falls back on the cell phone and I am still connected, albeit at a much higher price (a pre-paid by the minute plan).

For news I can do without the internet for a week or so. The fallback is aerial signals. Good that I have not thrown out that old radio, and the LCD TV I use as a computer display also has a tuner.

For email I can quickly go into a coffe shop. Many of them have free wireless for customers and quite frankly those who don’t will not get my business.

Where I missed the internet most was as a reference.  The internet has become integral part of my library.  Need to look up a word?  Want to render a series of images into a single PDF document using ImageMagick?  I’ve done it in the past, but how was it again?  The first reflex is to Google for it.  I am rediscovering man pages, but they are so much less convenient and appealing than a search on the web.  Preparing a financial statement, what was the USD to CAD exchange rate last month? now this is a difficult one to answer without internet access, and so is the weather forecast.

But now that I am up and running with TekSavvy, I get better bandwidth, more transfer, saved 25% and my Vonage phone no longer stutters.

I won’t miss you, Rogers.

Isolated from the Outside World

I love my Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T

Last months I needed urgently a laptop.  I did not have time to shop properly.  One evening I went through what was available at the local stores and in the end settled for an Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-3337 from Costco.  Costco’s 90-days no question asked full refund guarantee is unbeatable and gave me the assurance that if the device was incompatible with Kubuntu or otherwise did not fit my needs I could bring it back.

I feared compatibility issues.  And I feared the Intel Core i3 UM to be underpowered for my needs.  But in the end loved the laptop and kept it.

I love the small form factor (11″6 display).  The ergonomics of the keyboard and trackpad is far from optimal but I adapted quickly to it.  The only two real problems with the hardware were the glossy display and the lack of bluetooth in this specific model, both of which could be solved with a detour via eBay.

Kubuntu Rules

The netbook came with Windows 7 Home pre-installed and the first thing I did was to shrink that Windows partition to a minimum and install Kubuntu.  Installation went smooth like butter.  Faster than trying to get productive past the bloatware that requires registration and acceptance of convoluted usage terms on Windows.

Because support for its WiFi chip Broadcom BCM43225 has been added only recently, I had to install an alpha version of Natty Narwahl, the next iteration of Ubuntu 11.04 that is not due to reach maturity before April.

Despite not being recommended for production, Natty has been a solid performer for the past two months.  There are small cosmetic issues (such as the brightness level of the display not being preserved when resuming from sleep) but overall the experience is great.

The netbook does not have an optical drive so the only connections to the outside world are a USB key or the internet.  Preparing a USB stick for installation was easy following these instructions.  On top of that I only had to install the Wicd network manager because the network manager that comes by default with Kubuntu could not manage this netbook’s WiFi.  That was very simple:  connect to the wired internet, start a console and type:

sudo apt-get install wicd

And the machine was fully functional ever since.

The Joys of Alpha / Beta Software

Because Natty is work in progress, there are continuously new updates.  In critical times when I could not afford downtime I simply stopped getting / installing them.  On weekends however I got the latest update to see Natty progress.  I am aware of two instances when this broke my system temporarily, and I could recover twice from them.  Of course it is nicer when situations like this one do not happen, but they are almost inevitable.

The switch from GLIBC to EGLIBC affected functionality of some software like Skype for a few hours, but I still had my 10.4 LTS workstation for my son to chat with his grandparents overseas.

The one that affected me most happened today, and it is the bug in the DHCP client that left me without connection to the outside world.  Neither wired nor wireless.

No Net and no Optical Drive

A Google search revealed that the issue had been already identified and solved; but how to update it on a machine that has no connection to the outside world and no optical drive?  Simple.  Download a newer ISO snapshot of the Kubuntu alternate installer and issue the following commands:

sudo mount -t iso9660 natty-alternate-amd64.iso /cdrom -o loop
sudo mv /etc/apt/sources.list /etc/apt/backup.sources
sudo echo " deb file:///cdrom natty main restricted" > /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo mv /etc/apt/backup.sources /etc/apt/sources.list

And the system is functional again.

On the Windows 7 side, all tools to generate the install media depend on the availability of an optical drive.  Window’s own back up as well as Acer’s tool.  Since the system does not have an optical drive, I am left without backup.  I might lose Windows 7.  Not that I care so much.  What I do care about is that in the price I paid there is a Microsoft tax.  For software that I do not need and will never use.  That’s unfair.  Kubuntu rocks!

Inspiring Leadership