The WhatCounts Blog

Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.

Social: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Social Media: The Good, the Bad and the UglyAlthough email comes first in our book, we know social media is the icing on the cake of any digital marketing strategy. That’s why we raised our eyebrows when we saw this social news. Some is good and some is bad and some of it we just don’t know what to think of. But it’s all worth reading about and taking into consideration! Dig in:

4 Ways to Prevent a Full-Blown Social Media Crisis

The key to responding well to a social media blow-out is preparation. Shoutlet published this stellar article showing you exactly how to prepare for a messy social situation so you’re ready to handle it head-on when it comes.

Pinterest Launches a New Shopping Feed

It’s only in beta phase, but this feature will be a big deal for eCommerce once it goes live. Product pins were great for brands, and the Gifts tab gives companies even more leverage to get the right product to the right person.

Facebook’s Hidden Trouble

If you’ve spent countless hours building your company page following on Facebook, you’re going to be disappointed. According to new research, only a fraction of your followers are seeing your updates in their newsfeeds. And it might get worse. At the very least, it means a shift in social strategy for digital marketers.

New Social Media Research That Could Change Your Strategy

Get a breakdown of recent updates and changes about social media sites, as well as how they apply to your digital marketing. Full of helpful stats and practical tips, you can start putting this information into practice today.

Heard any social news lately: good, bad or ugly? Share the link in the comments section below!

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


Feature Friday: Link Keywords in Publicaster Edition

In our newest release to Publicaster Edition this week, we’ve given you the ability to associate one or more keywords with a link. Not only does the link keywords feature works in emails, but it also works for landing pages created in our platform.

Why would you want to apply keywords to links? Say you want to update someone’s profile with a value when they click on a certain link. It’s simple when you only have a few links in your message, and they’re all different. However, when there are many links throughout the body of your email, and many of them are the same, it’s cumbersome to set up all the different profile actions for each link.

We’re all about saving you time and energy. So instead of setting up multiple profile update actions for all the links in your email, we’ve made the process simpler with the link keywords feature. Instead of associating a profile update action with a link click, you can now associate the action with your chosen keyword. The click on the links associated with that keyword would then trigger the profile updates to occur.

The link keywords feature isn’t only a powerful tool for profile update actions. It can be used for segmentation and reporting, as well. It’s essential to understand how to set up link keywords in Publicaster, and use them, too.

Creating Link Keywords

Let’s dive into setting up this feature in Publicaster Edition so you can start getting the most out of it. Once your email has gone out or your landing page has been viewed, you can assign a keyword to a link using the Manage Links Report under Reporting. A column has been added to the end of the report called Keywords.

Look for the column called "keywords."

Click Update in this column next to the link to which you’re adding a keyword. A box will pop up, allowing you to enter up to 10 keywords. Keywords can be any words that make sense for the content to which the link points.

Enter your link keywords.

Although this process is straightforward, we’re all about automation. When an email is deployed or a landing page is viewed, you can automatically associate a link with a keyword without having to go into Manage Links Report and update keywords every time you send an email. This is especially time-saving for those with metered sends or auto-response campaigns.

To set up automated link keywords, open your email creative (Creative Manager>Email Creatives). Click to edit the HTML. All you’re going to do is add an attribute to your links called keywords – go figure. Next, enter a comma-separated list of an unlimited amount of keywords you want associated with this link. For example, we updated this link with the keywords “tips” and “eBook.”

Manually enter link keywords in your code.

Click Save to make sure your changes are permanent. You’ll be able to verify the keywords are associate with the appropriate links with the Click-Through Report. But we’re going to talk about reporting at the end of the post. For now, let’s get into the beneficial use cases for link keywords.

Using Link Keywords in Segmentations

Now that you have keywords associated with your link, you can start using them. A significant place link keywords can be used is in segmentation. Depending if you updated link keywords in a landing page or email, your conditions will be found in different places in the segmentation dropdown menu. Find landing page conditions under Behavioral Conditions>Landing Page Behavioral Conditions and email conditions right before that. The same seven conditions are available for both landing pages and emails.

There are seven link keywords segmentation conditions from which to choose.

Using Link Keywords in Profile Update Actions

New conditions for link keywords have also been added to the Profile Update Manager in the right hand column.

Two link keywords conditions have been added to the Profile Update Manager.

When you click either of these options, you’ll be asked to specify one or more keywords at the bottom of the page. Separate multiple keywords with a semicolon and no spaces.

Enter link keywords associated with the profile update action.

When someone clicks a link in your email, Publicaster will automatically verify if it matches an existing profile update action. If the click does, Publicaster checks if the link is associated with any keywords. If it is, the platform runs an update to that subscriber.

Using Link Keywords in Reporting

The final way you can use link keywords is through reporting filters. In Reports, use the gear icon to find Manage Report Filters.

Choose the Manager Report Filters options from the dropdown.

You’ll notice the report filters set up is almost identical to segmentation set up. Click Add Condition and scroll through the conditions until you find the same ones for keywords that are available in the Segmentation Manager. If you navigate to the Click-Through Report, as well, you’ll see a column where any keywords associated with the email campaign are listed.

Start Using Link Keywords Today

These are the many ways to use link keywords, our newest Publicaster feature. We hope it will save you time and energy, as well as send more personalized messages. Have questions about this feature or need help using it? Reach out to us at

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


Your Questions Answered: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Updates

What does CASL mean for you? Find out in this Q & A!Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is getting a refresher on July 1, 2014. If your business sends emails, these updates most likely apply to you. Don’t wait until the last minute to make sure your email marketing complies with the law. Learn to whom the law applies, how to apply the changes to your email marketing, exceptions and exemptions and more by listening to the recording of our most recent webinar.

You submitted questions to our Director of Deliverability Brad Gurley about CASL. It’s our hope the answers below will help you prepare for the coming changes.

Please be advised these answers are our informed interpretation of the Canadian Anti-Spam Law and its applications. This content is for informational purposes only and is designed to help you, as marketers, better understand the law and how it might affect you. We are not lawyers, and nothing presented here is, or should be construed as, legal advice. It may be necessary to consult your legal or compliance department for specific guidance in regards to adherence with the law.

Q: Can I send out an unsolicited email survey for market info, product usage, etc?
A: Whether this is legal under CASL would depend on whether the message can be deemed as “commercial.” Unsolicited commercial email is prohibited by CASL. However, most ESPs and bulk mail providers won’t allow you to send unsolicited mail, regardless of its commercial designation.

Q: Can we send an email to everyone in our Canadian database now requesting they subscribe to continue receiving future correspondence, and will that be considered valid?
Q: If you received express consent prior to July 1, 2014, but do not have proof, do you need to obtain consent again to comply with CASL?
A: As long as express consent is received prior to July 1, 2014 and the method of consent gathering is compliant with applicable laws at that time (PIPEDA in Canada, specifically), those opt-ins would be considered valid under CASL.

Q: Is there an exception for higher educational institutions?
A: There is no exception specifically relating to educational institutions. There are some “non-business relationship” clauses that may apply in some cases, but nothing specific to education.

Q: If signing up for email on paper (such as at trade shows) do you still need to have a ‘checkbox’ to request email? Our current document only asks for name, email, phone and city.
A: Anytime you use a paper signup, you want to make it’s as clear as possible the recipient is signing up for promotional emails. Including a check box to receive promotional emails would be a good option. You could also include a prominent note they are signing up for promotional emails. The most important thing to remember is if there are any complaints, you as the sender will be required to provide proof of a valid, CASL-compliant opt-in. So you’re only helping yourself by making the opt-in process as clear as possible.

Q: Does express consent have to be in writing or can it be verbal (e.g.over the phone) or in person?
A: Express consent can be obtained verbally. However, it will be harder to prove verbal consent if there are any challenges.

Q: Can we leave our opt-in forms uncompliant if we just omit all known Canadian addresses from our sends?
A: You can, but you may be opening yourself up to CASL violations. If you collect any data that might indicate a user is in Canada (physical or billing address, email domain name, credit card issuer, etc.), that might constitute a “reasonable expectation” that the user would be accessing the message in Canada. I’d strongly advise consulting legal counsel as to the proper course of action.

Q: How can we prove consent if the signup form they used is now gone from the web?
A: Thorough record-keeping. Log the IP address, date, and time the opt-in was captured, as well as the specific URL of the page. If you have all that information, and the opt-in was obtained before CASL came into effect, you are likely to be in a good position in the event of a complaint. If a sign-up form goes offline after CASL’s effective date, you should still keep the same information. In addition, though, it might be a good idea to keep a cached copy or screenshot of the form on file if that’s feasible.

Q: How do you recommend dealing with customers who reside in the United States, but work for Canadian-headquartered companies?
A: If a subscriber’s employer is based in Canada, and the employer is providing the email address used to access the message, any mail sent to that address would likely be subject to CASL.

Q: We have approximately 20,000 email customers, but no ability to track the data history of their opt-ins. Would we need to obtain express consent for all?
A: If you don’t know the opt-in status or history of your subscribers, then you should send a new opt-in request prior to July 1, 2014 to ensure compliance with CASL.

Q: For an agency that uses an ESP, does our agency name need to appear on the email as well as the ESP and the company we are sending on behalf of?
A: If your agency determines either who to send the mail to, or the content of the message, then your agency should be identified in the message. Most ESPs do not perform either of these functions, so it is unlikely the ESP would need to be identified there.

Q: If you include an unsubscribe link in a transactional email (such as an order confirmation), is that unsubscribe effective for any future transactional emails, or only from commercial emails?
A: That depends on the options you provide. If there’s only one unsubscribe option, then that user should be unsubscribed from all mailings from your organization, commercial or transactional. It’s probably a better idea to include options allowing them to unsubscribe from either transactional or commercial mail, or both. That way, you can honor the specific wishes of the subscriber as to what emails he or she wants to receive.

Q: According to CASL, confirmation emails should include the ID of the sender and an unsubscribe method. Does this include follow-up emails regarding a purchase?
A: We would recommend including the ID of the sender and an unsubscribe method in every email if possible. The law certainly leaves room for interpretation, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.A couple of examples were provided in our webinar (hotel confirmation and refund/cancellation emails), so we’ll give some thoughts on those. A hotel stay confirmation is part of a commercial transaction, so we believe it could be considered a CEM. In that case, it should include the ID of the sender and an unsubscribe method. The same would be true for the refund/cancellation email. However, there could be an exception if notice of the refund or cancellation is fulfilling a legal obligation or is informing the recipient of their legal rights.

Q: If an ESP or organization is based in the United States, but has a satellite office in Canada, are they subject to CANSPAM, CASL, or both?
A: All mail sent from, or accessed by, a mail server housed in Canada is subject to CASL. Does the organization have mail servers in Canada? Do any of the recipients access mail through a server located in Canada? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then the mail is subject to CASL. As for CAN-SPAM, the requirements of that law are actually less stringent than CASL. So if you are CASL compliant, you are likely CAN-SPAM compliant, as well.

Q: Does the three-year transition period apply to contacts who have given express consent?
A: No. Express consent is permanent and doesn’t expire. It can only be revoked by the address owner requesting to be unsubscribed.

Q: What do we have to do with existing lists?
A: That will depend on the status of your lists. If you have received express consent from all your existing contacts and you have at least basic records of when and how that was acquired, you likely won’t need to take any action with those contacts. However, if you are unsure of the opt-in status of your users, or have no records of them opting in, it may be necessary to run an opt-in campaign prior to the July 1 effective date.

Q: What is a recommended method for obtaining express content after implied consent has been obtained?
When a guest stays at our hotel, we note in their confirmation letter that we will include them in future promotional emails and give them a link with an option to unsubscribe, but I don’t think that qualifies as getting express consent.
A: You’re correct about your current model: It doesn’t constitute express consent. Express consent requires the subscriber take action to subscribe. The current method only requires the user not take the action of opting out. The best method of obtaining express consent will vary depending on your situation, but in most cases a website opt-in form is recommended. The form should be compliant with the CASL requirements, and you’ll want to keep records of the source IP address as well as the date and time of the opt-in.

Q: What would be an example of proof of consent?
A: That will depend on the CRTC’s judgment. However, in the case of a web opt-in, having the source IP address used along with date and time of the sign-up and the URL of the page would likely be a good starting point. Any sign-ups not received via the web may be more difficult to contest. For verbal opt-ins, a recording of the exchange would probably be ideal. For paper sign-ups, keeping the paper form on file is likely the best method of record-keeping.

Q: For loyalty clubs, would monthly statements be included in the exemptions?
A: Most likely, if the statement doesn’t include advertisements. If it does include any solicitations or links to purchase, we strongly recommend it follows CASL’s provisions.

Q: For transactional emails, can replying to the email count as an unsubscribe method? Or could people send an email to to unsubscribe (as an example)?
A: CASL mandates the unsubscribe link be valid and working, and be specifically called out within the email. Either an email address or a link to an unsubscribe form should be included, with wording instructing the user how to unsubscribe (i.e. “email to unsubscribe from all mailings,” etc.)

One thing to note here is  if you only provide one unsubscribe method, you must assume that user wants to unsubscribe from all mailings. So the best practice would be to use a link or links that provide options on what messages to stop receiving.

Q: Would filling out a “Request for Information” form that includes entering an email address count as an opt-in, or would a check box also have to exist?
A: No check box is required, but the form has to be CASL-compliant. It must inform the user he or she is requesting promotional emails and he or she can unsubscribe at any time. If the form is simply a request for information or a quote for a particular product or service, it isn’t considered express consent. The sender would only be allowed to send messages in response to the particular request, and only for a period of six months.

We hope these questions and answers have helped clarify Canada’s Anti-Spam Law update coming in July. Have another specific question related to the law and email marketing? Email Brad at

Our Best Resources for Travel Marketers

Within the travel marketing industry, there are many different types and sizes of companies. CVBs, airlines, hotels, online travel agents – if it has to do with traveling somewhere, staying somewhere, or even moving somewhere, it fits within this industry. This makes it especially important for travel or hospitality email marketers to come up with their own strategy based on area of the industry, specific company goals, number of employees, and size.

Email marketing can take divergent paths when it comes to the travel industry, and there’s no one-fits-all strategy for everyone. That’s why we’ve put together materials – from blog posts, to eBooks, to webinars – about tactics different parts of the travel industry can use to improve their digital marketing. The following are our best resources for travel marketers:

3 Travel Marketing Strategies to Drive Engagement

7 Travel Promotions Your Subscribers Will Remember

The Aspirational Element of Travel Marketing

Effective Email Strategies for Travel Marketers webinar download

Be Everywhere and a Few More Strategies for Travel Marketing

MiniGuide: Effective Email Strategies for Travel Marketing

We hope you find these resources helpful. They’ve been written by a variety of experts, many who have had experience in digital and travel marketing. These strategies are meant to give you practical examples any business in the travel industry, no matter its size or goals, can implement now.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


Feature Friday: Engagement, Inactive and Passive Subscriber Reports in Professional Edition

Email list health isn’t just about getting more and more subscribers. It’s about giving the boot to ones who aren’t opening, clicking, or otherwise engaging with your messages. It’s hard to say good-bye, but doing so is a must in several cases. This blog post has the down and dirty about when and how to get rid of unresponsive subscribers.

Since keeping an eye on disengaged subscribers is a must in order for you to try getting them back, or perhaps take them off your list, we’ve created special reports. Professional Edition users can access engagement counts, inactive subscriber, and passive subscriber reports to better track email readers’ behavior. These metrics fuel the fire for re-engagement campaigns, and eventually, give you a fully-engaged, healthy list.

And just so we’re all on the same page, let’s cover the definitions of some key words:

Active: A subscriber who has clicked a link inside an email.
Passive: A subscriber who has opened an email, but has not clicked.
Inactive: Inactive indicates a subscriber who has not clicked a link and not opened a message.

Let’s dive into the Engagement Counts report.

This report gives you an overview of:

  • Active subscribers
  • Passive subscribers
  • Inactive subscribers

You may be scratching your head here. This report covers all three metrics, so why are there two other specific reporting features for passives and inactives? The reason is the Engagement Counts report gives you a number for each category – no name, email address or other information. It’s just a broad picture of your list, while the other reports give you details about those numbers. To pull the Engagement Counts report, go to Reports>Generate Report>Standard Report Library in Professional Edition. Click RUN.

The engagement counts report is located in the reports library.

Enter the time frame of when you want to pull the metrics. Professional Edition will automatically show any open or click-through number from all campaigns within the date range you choose. It’s a good idea to use the Exclude Days function. If someone subscribed in the past week and hasn’t clicked in an email yet, you don’t want to send him or her a re-engagement email. Use your best judgment on amount of time to enter into this space.

Choose the date range of the campaign from which you want to pull reports.

The rest is fairly simple: List name, format and report name. Click submit and you’ll be able to download the report under Reports>File Manager>Reports.

Pull the Inactive and Passive Subscribers Reports in much the same fashion as the Engagement Counts Report: Go to Reports>Generate Report>Standard Report Library. The Inactive Subscribers and Passive Subscribers reports will both be listed. Include a from and to date range, exclusion days, a list name and the other information.

These reports will give you specific data about subscribers who haven’t engaged with your emails. It’s a good idea to send these unengaged subscribers a re-engagement campaign to either get them back on board with reading your emails, or to unsubscribe them from your list.

Remember, only an engaged list is a good email list!

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


What Tomorrow’s Marketing Audience Wants

Kids today are marketing's audience tomorrow.If you think about it, one day the kids now sitting in schools will be the ones absorbing your marketing content. The habits they’re developing now shape digital marketing strategy in the future. If you look closely enough at what those habits are, you can get a picture of where the trends are to be proactive with your digital strategy.

Last week, Tnooz published findings from studying the digital habits of children. A few stats stood out in reference to digital marketing.

1. Eighty-five percent of kids over 11 have a mobile phone. Twenty-nine percent say they can’t live without it.

Air you can’t live without. Food and water you can’t live without. A phone is one thing you can live without, and yet the children surveyed compared their mobile devices to their existence. The way of the future is getting farther and farther away from the desktop and more towards portable devices – phablets, tablets, phones and probably devices we can’t imagine yet.

Email marketers won’t survive if they don’t ensure designs adjust to these ever-changing screen sizes. The future is a fluid experience from print to email to web. Those who will draw the most consumers will align their content and layout to be seen on many different screens.

2. The popularity of Facebook among kids fell 11 percent, with YouTube now taking the lead.

Sharing has always been popular. What’s different is how people will do it. Writing statuses and posting pictures seems to be on the downslide with kids. What’s on the rise in this age group is sharing and watching videos.

You may find it beneficial to at least include a YouTube, Vine or other video-sharing strategy in your marketing plan. You may even want to consider shifting your time and resources more towards video and less on Facebook. Don’t drop your Facebook account right now if you have one. On the contrary, if it’s doing well and works for your company, continue to use it as a part of your overall digital strategy. Just understand video is passing Facebook in popularity, and adjust your approach accordingly.

3. Thirteen percent of kids use travel and navigation apps.

This stat is purely for travel and hospitality marketers. Children are accessing travel apps more and more on their mobile devices. It’s essential for travel and hospitality companies to have good reviews on these travel websites, to be located on these navigation apps. Encourage your customers to share their experiences on these apps, and when they do, promote the reviews and apps in your emails and on your website.

If you think the days when these kids will be your main marketing audience are in the way-too-distant future, think again. These stats are from 2013, so they’re already happening. The statistics may trend higher still in the years to come. It’s essential for digital marketers to know what their customers want and give it to them; personalization and relevance always win. Stay ahead of the curve by following the stats and adjusting for the future of digital marketing.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


5 Digital Marketing Articles to Read Now

You need to read these five digital marketing articles now.We did it again. We put together a list of our favorite articles from the past week or so. We love reading what other digital marketing experts have to say, and we love to keep you – our readers – up to date, as well. Here’s the five digital marketing articles to read right now!

1. Genuine mistake or evil genius email tactic? (Marketing Sherpa)

After just publishing a blog post about best practices for sending an apology email, this article caught our eye. Did we forget to mention in our post it’s not okay to send a fake apology email in order to build your list? Whether or not this company used that tactic, it’s a shady move no marketer should condone.

2. Facebook Gives Brands More Reach Via Page Tagging (Shoutlet)

Facebook is constantly changing, and whether all of those changes are beneficial for brands remains to be seen. One of the most recent updates to the social media platform is page tagging, a concept that could help marketers leverage more users’ newsfeeds.

3. From the Seattle Seahawks: Three Ways to Create Raving Fans (Business to Community)

Seeing as some of our team members are a part of the 12th Man, we just had to recommend this article. If you want raving brand fans who will shout about your products, services and company, this resource spots three practical ways you can get them.

4. Launch an Inside Sales Lead Generation Program In 4 Simple Steps (Rivalry)

We love email, and we’re spreading the word everywhere we go. Our team members contribute to industry blogs and resources regularly, and this is just one example. In this guest blog post on the Rivalry blog, our Manager of Sales Development tells how he took our lead generation team from zero to hero.

5. AMA Baltimore Sponsor Spotlight: WhatCounts

We’re honored to be a sponsor of the American Marketing Association in Baltimore, a city in which one of our offices is located. The organization recently published this post on its blog about us, and we’re pumped. Check it out!

If you’ve read a good article recently, feel free to share it in the comments section below! We’ll tweet it out to our followers.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


Feature Friday: RSS-to-Email in Publicaster Edition

Did you know you could be sending an email featuring your blog content? The best part is you set it up once and then don’t lift a finger after that.

Once you set up an RSS-to-Email campaign in Publicaster, it automatically pulls in updated content from your RSS feed. It then sends this email to a list or segmentation of subscribers you’ve already chosen. Set it to send in real time or on a weekly or daily basis – the choice is yours.

If you choose to send in real time, Publicaster will shoot out the email within a couple minutes of your blog being updated. For media and publishing companies, there’s no waiting until tomorrow, to get today’s news. Whatever you decide, each email in the RSS-to-Email campaign will draw in all updated content since the last email was sent.

This tool avoids the need for a third-party application to send these triggered messages. That means you get to schedule the sends when they’re best suited for your needs, and don’t have to wait on someone else to do it for you.

And unlike a third-party vendor, with this Publicaster feature you also have the ability to control the complete look, feel and placement of the feed content in your email. Instead of a generic third-party branding, you can customize your email to fit your brand. By placing the feed content snippet in the creative, you control exactly where in the email the feed content will be rendered. Additionally, you can view campaign reports for these emails, just as you would with regular distributions.

So how do you set up an RSS-to-Email campaign in Publicaster?

First, populate a list or segmentation in the List Manager with the RSS feed subscribers. Create and save the email template in the Creative Manager. The email must contain the [~FeedContent~] code snippet in order to pull in data. The snippet automatically formats the email.

Use the RSS Feed Content code snippet.

If you don’t like the look, you can change it by using custom XSLT when you go to deploy the campaign.

Edit the look and feel of the RSS-to-Email campaign with XSLT.

If you select yes to use a custom template, Publicaster will automatically load the base template that’s used internally, which you can edit to your heart’s content. This allows you to change any aspect of the feed content display in the email including INLINE CSS.

Now you’re ready to set up the campaign to send. In the Campaign Manager, select the RSS to Email dropdown menu option.

Choose RSS-to-Email in the Campaign Manager.

The rest is straightforward: Give your campaign a name; tell the platform where your RSS feed is located; and decide if you want to include a table of contents section.

Fill in the RSS-to-Email campaign information.

Next, enter the day the campaign should begin sending and the frequency with which Publicaster should send (real time, daily, weekly). Select the list or segmentation that will receive the email. Use a suppression list and seed list if necessary. If you want Publicaster to track the email campaign’s metrics for reporting purposes, make sure link tracking is enabled.

Select the date and time and frequency of the RSS-to-Email send.

A few final steps, and then you’re set! Choose the email template, campaign series, from/reply to addresses, and physical mailing address. Finally, scroll to the top and click the “Is Active” box. Hit Save and you’re finished. This campaign will now run on its own until you turn it off, allowing you to send emails subscribers asked for without doing a lot of work.

There’s no use setting up an RSS-to-Email campaign if people can’t sign up to receive it. Setting up a dedicated opt-in form for this email is a must. As with any email you send, make sure subscribers know what content will be in it and how often it will come to their inboxes.

Have questions about RSS-to-Email campaigns? Ping us at

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


Go Edgy with Email, But Test First

We applaud email marketers who go out of their comfort zones to try something new. Those who change it up a bit whether in subject line, content or design – and test to see if it has a positive effect with subscribers – are smart marketers.

We recently came across an email where a company tried something out-of-the-box with its branding. Usually sending messages with light-hearted subject lines and straightforward messaging, Spirit Airlines took a leap in the opposite direction. Here’s the first email it sent:

Subject line: We’re Not Smoking Crack…

A clever pun for Canadian flights - Spirit Airlines goes edgy with emails.

Spirit Airlines isn’t a WhatCounts client, but we assume the response rate for this email was better than usual. Why? Because the company decided to continue on this creative track; take a look at the next email it sent.

Subject line: Go Down on Us…

Going edgy with email for flights to the Carribean.

The subject line, the messaging, the imagery…it all points to a Spirit Airlines that’s markedly different from any subscribers have seen before. This could prove either good or bad for the brand.

Imagine being a regular recipient of Spirit Airlines emails. To some people, these edgy messages would seem off-putting because they don’t think of the brand in this way. The message would definitely be unexpected, confusing and possibly unwelcome. However, to other subscribers, these messages may invoke a laugh and cause them to open and click more.

What’s the lesson here?

You’re not your readers. It’s important to take chances with your content and design in order to fend off stagnation, but testing is a must. In other words, experiment with your email marketing, but make sure it still complements your brand and, most importantly, subscribers respond well to it.

What do you think about the email campaigns Spirit Airlines created? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


The Ultimate Guide to Sending an Apology Email

As an email marketer, you may be familiar with the sinking feeling after you’ve realized an email went out with one or more mistakes. Maybe the main link doesn’t work or there’s a misspelling in the main header. No matter if the blunder is great or small, you feel disappointed and – let’s face it – more than likely panicked. A follow-up apology email may be your best bet, and we’re here to tell you how to do it right.

Deciding If You Need to Send an Apology Email

Even if you think you’ve messed up big time, it doesn’t mean your subscribers have caught on. When you realize a mistake has been made in an email campaign, don’t panic. Take a deep breath.

After that first and most important step is successfully completed, gather your team to determine subscribers’ reactions to the mistake now or what they will be. Are they amused or upset? For example, if you sent someone a discount for his or her birthday on the wrong day, the subscriber is probably going to be charmed more than offended. Other reasons you should hold the reins on hitting send:

  • Trivial mess-ups such as misspelled words or misplaced grammar don’t need to be addressed in an apology email. It’s better to leave them well enough alone than to draw attention to them in an extra email.
  • Broken link? Using our platform, you can change a link even after the email sends. Voila – need for an apology email eliminated! If you don’t have access to a feature such as this, consider moving the content from the correct link over to a new landing page that has the URL of the “broken” link.
  • If you sent two of the same emails in a row, don’t worry about sending an apology email. You can address the mistake in a campaign the next day. Customers already received the first email from you, and their inboxes are loaded with emails. Are they really going to want to open another email from you, or are they going to kick you to the delete or spam folders? Weigh the risks before making a decision. Three of the same emails in a row, though, and you probably should send the apology.

Say you’ve determined an apology isn’t necessary from the subscriber’s point of view. You’re not done yet. You must also consider the effect the mistake has on your business and what the company’s reaction will be. Are you blushing just a little or are you potentially going to lose a boatload of money? Here are some tips on knowing the difference, and what to do once you’ve vetoed the decision to say mea culpa:

  • If data has been compromised, this is a serious situation and should be addressed accordingly with your apology email.
  • If you sent a special deal (and it doesn’t work) to a select numbers of subscribers such as people in your rewards program or people who pay for a subscription to your emails, you definitely need to say sorry and make good on your promise.
  • Send an apology when there’s a significant typo for the price point. An extra 9 in $9.99 for a small commodity item won’t fly with subscribers. At the same time, leaving just one zero out of $1,000 would mean giving away your revenue.
  • Send an email to the wrong list? Don’t send an apology email to everyone! People from the correct list may be on the list you sent to, in which case they received the email they were supposed to. Suppress anyone from the wrong list who is on the correct list when you send this apology email.

Timing is crucial to make a decision about sending an apology email. In some cases, the more time lost, the more customer frustration grows or money goes down the drain for you. It’s essential to make a decision about sending apology emails as quickly as possible; however, don’t rush. Sometimes it will be apparent you need to send an apology, and other times the decision making process will be murky. Although you need to make a timely decision, take the time to make sure it’s the right decision.

Content to Include in an Apology Email

So you’ve determined you need to send an apology email. Hopefully, you have a branded template already set up to use, but if not, create a simple template. As you write the content for the apology, keep these tips in mind.

  • Make it clear in your subject line there’s been a mistake and you’re sorry. Now isn’t the time to be funny or silly. Respect subscribers’ time; get to the point.
  • Use strong subject lines. Although saying, “Oops!” tends to be a favorite, it’s a little overused. Be more creative or more sincere. A simple, “We apologize” works well.
  • Don’t send an apology message with a shady “no reply” sender address. Make sure subscribers can send an email to someone who actually works for you. Have that person monitor his or her email address for comments or complaints.
  • Be brief. Keep your apology message short. One email, one headline, and a few lines of text is all that’s necessary to pull off an effective apology.
  • The email should match your brand, not only in creative and design, but in tone and copy. Be careful with humor – people may become more annoyed with you. Being sincere is your best bet.
  • Don’t play the blame game and push the mistake off on someone else, even if it is his or her fault. Owning up to the mistake will ultimately make you look better in the eyes of subscribers.
  • If you can, compensate subscribers for the inconvenience of the wrong message, e.g. a coupon or discount.
  • Proofread. Have several sets of eyes look at this email. You don’t want to send an apology email rife with its own mistakes.
  • Consider having it signed by a company executive. The apology will carry a lot more weight for bigger boo-boos.

Here’a an example of an apology email WhatCounts client True Citrus sent:

True Citrus apology emailTrue Citrus Apology Email

After you hit send on your apology email, it’s important to continue monitoring your social media sites, as well as your support, customer service, or general information email addresses. Tell the people who respond to these email addresses about the problem, and forward them a copy of the apology email you sent. Make sure everyone is ready to respond quickly with an additional apology and the corrected information.

Avoid Sending an Apology Email in the Future

Just because you sent an apology email doesn’t mean you’re done. There’s lots to do in order to diminish the chance of messing up again and having to send another apology email in the future.

  • Measure the impact of the apology email you did send to see how effective it was with subscribers. Keep an eye on opt-outs and spam complaints.
  • Conduct a post mortem to see what happened and how to prevent the same problems in the future.
  • Create an action plan for determining when an apology email is needed, and to whom responsibilities will fall. Discuss the plan with your team and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Establish processes about proofreading and approving emails if they’re not already in place. It may be beneficial to have two or three team members look over important emails before they go out.
  • Create one or two apology email templates so you can quickly respond to errors in the future.
  • Test every email before you send it. Click all the links and read the content out loud. Testing can help you catch typos, broken links and other errors.

No one is proud when they have to send an apology email. However, everyone is capable of making mistakes, and email marketing is no exception. Save the day by sending a clear, professional apology email.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl


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