Another Penn State Scandal? Email Marketing Problems Now

In the next year and a half, I’ll have TWO kids in college – yikes! And since my kids both took the SAT test, our family email inbox has been overflowing with emails from colleges that the kids may or may not be interested in attending. While I’m not thrilled, I do understand that since they didn’t opt-out when they took the test, the colleges’ emails are CAN SPAM compliant. However, there might another Penn State scandal – this time in their email marketing opt-out practices.

In April, our home email address received an email from Penn State inviting us to spend a summer day at Penn State.

Penn State Email

Penn State Email

Thanks, but neither of my kids is interested, so I’ll just Unsubscribe. I click on the link and I’m taken to a page with the following info:

Unsubscribe Email Address

Please enter the email address you would like to unsubscribe from our events and communications lists.

Email Address:

You will receive an email at this address which contains a link to confirm your unsubscribe request. Thank you.


WHAT??? You’re sending me another email? I know DJ Waldow says it’s ok to break the rules and send a post-unsubscribe email, but I’m not sure an email with a link to confirm my unsubscribe request is exactly what he had in mind… I’m feeling agreeable so instead of clicking the “This Is Spam” button on the original email, I insert my email address and click Submit.

I received the email confirming my unsubscribe selection:

We have received a request to have this email address removed from our events and communications mailing lists. If you wish to complete the unsubscribe process, please click the confirmation link below.

Your web browser will display a confirmation notice when your email address has been removed.

Confirmation Number: XXXXXXX

Phew, I click on the link and I’m done, right?

By having to visit two separate pages, the Penn State email unsubscribe process could be considered in violation of the portion of the CAN SPAM compliance guide requirement #6 Honor opt-out requests promptly which states “You can’t…make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request.” But it’s ok, because I’m done so I won’t create another Penn State scandal by ratting them out on my blog.

Unfortunately, we’re not done yet. I then received ANOTHER email from Penn State Admissions stating:

This email address has been removed from the events and communications mailing lists of the Penn State Undergraduate Admissions Office.

Please allow 24-48 hours for the change to take effect. If at any time you wish to begin receiving email messages from our office again, please send an email to indicating your preferences. Thank you.


The Undergraduate Admissions Office at Penn State

Two emails after the original marketing message when my kids didn’t overtly subscribe to begin with, and I had to click on two links and go to two separate web pages in order to unsubscribe, but wait there’s more…did I mention I got another email from them and started the process all over again in May??? Let’s hope that’s the end of email marketing messages from Penn State coming to my email address.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Were you mad? Did you delete the email or choose the “This Is Spam” option or contact the sender directly? Please let me know what you did and if you got any positive results in the comment section below.

Conferences, Chats, Mentions, and a New Job, too!

Affiliate Summit 2011 Speaker
Affiliate Summit 2011 Speaker

I’ve been VERY busy since my Blogiversaryday – here’s what I’ve been up to:


Blue Sky Factory User Conference – Blue Sky Factory COO and Managing Partner, Doug Broujos, and I presented a session on Getting People to Open Your Email. We spoke about Subject Lines, “From” Names, Pre-Header, and other factors that impact people receiving and opening email. I’ll add a link to the recording/slides once it’s posted. I was thrilled by the audience interaction and the thoughtful questions they asked. I am convinced that Blue Sky Factory hires some of the best and brightest people in email marketing – let me know if you need a referral and you and I can both get 3 months of landing page services for free!

Affiliate Summit West 2011 – Did I mention I was speaking at #ASW11? You can find more info about my speaking engagements on the About page of my site! See more about my top 15 speaking status in the Mentions section below.


#ProfsChat Guest of Honor – I was just coming off the high of speaking at an email marketing conference when I got an email from Megan Leap at MarketingProfs asking if I would be the special guest on #ProfsChat so of course I said YES! Our topic was email marketing and social media – two of my favorite topics! You can find the complete transcript, including some great links, here: #ProfsChat email marketing and social media transcript.

#SMchat moderator – although I missed my usual “2nd Wednesday of the month” Marketing moderator slot on #SMchat because I was speaking at the Blue Sky Factory User Conference, I was able to view the transcript of the great job done by Guest Moderator Joe Ruiz (better known as @SMSJoe on Twitter). I look forward to moderating today’s #SMchat – once again we’re discussing email marketing and social media, but this time specifically as it relates to Facebook’s venture into email marketing, formerly know as Facebook’s “Project Titan” and now officially released as Facebook Messages. There are no scripted questions this week, but the conversation should be lively on this hot topic! Don’t have Facebook Messages yet? You can request an invite here:


Mention in Chris Penn’s Newsletter – I love the way Chris emphasizes the action items in his email – especially subscribe and unsubscribe – and breaks the content into easy-to-digest sections. As an extra-added bonus, I got a mention in this month’s newsletter for sharing last month’s newsletter with my social media network – how’s that for an incentive to SWYN/FTAF?

Mention in Geno Prussakov’s blog – You can see from my Tweet how excited I am:
I’m #14!!! RT @eprussakov Most Influential Affiliate Summit West 2011 Speakers – Top 40

New Job

With a fond farewell, I announced my resignation from MEDEX Global Solutions although I’ll continue to be an affiliate and will never leave the country without MEDEX international travel medical insurance after all of the scary travel stories I’ve heard while working there.

I start my new job as Assistant Vice President, Ecommerce at 1st Mariner Bank after Thanksgiving! As you can see from the image, 1st Mariner is just as excited as I am. Wish me luck!

1st Mariner Announcement
1st Mariner Announcement
Please note: These are affiliate links to MEDEX and Affiliate Summit, but I’d link to them even without an affiliate relationship because I’ve become a true believer in travel medical insurance and I’m thankful that Affiliate Summit has asked me to speak at their event.

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three… #SMchat Topic for 05/12/10

MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2010
Photo credit: MarketingProfs

Last week, I presented along with Stephanie Miller from Return Path, at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum (MPB2B). Our topic was “Email Testing for Higher ROI” and it expanded on the testing theme that was prevalent throughout the conference. Marketing campaign testing is important to increase revenue and strengthen return on investment. In a nutshell, you need to develop a baseline/benchmark, determine your testing methodology and hypothesis, test it out, analyze the results, and refine and repeat based on your initial test results. There were several testing questions that were discussed at MPB2B and I’d like to continue those discussions at this week’s #SMchat Twitter chat.

The #SMchat topic for May 12th is Testing! What questions do you have about testing? What answers / examples would you like to share? Please join us from 1-2:30P ET on 5/12/10 to talk about testing including these conversation-starters:

Welcome…please tell us about you!
Q1 – Do you test your marketing campaigns? How often?
Q2 – What part(s) of your marketing do you test? (i.e. PPC, email, landing pages, etc.)
Q3 – Is there a better/easier web page testing program than Google Website Optimizer?
Q4 – Do you have a method to your testing or just test at random?
Q5 – Do you believe in doing similar and expanding or doing diverse tests and narrowing?
Q6 – What do you consider “statistically significant” results & why?
Q7 – What will you test next?

Any other testing questions you have? Please feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

Location, Location, Location!

I’m in Boston speaking at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, which is a beautiful city for a conference although Boston has had some water problems in the past few days. (Can you say ‘massive water main break?’ See my post on for more details.) It struck me as a great location, being a quick train or plane ride from most of the East Coast, yet easily accessible from the rest of the country as well. It got me thinking about locations – both big (like cities) and small (like conference rooms).

Sitting on the left corner
Sharon sits on the left.

I sit on the left. I write with my left hand and it makes it easier for me to sit on the left corner of a table if I’m going to be writing – that way I don’t bump elbows with anyone. Being a leftie, the seat at the far left or end of the table makes sense for me. Although my children both write with their right hands, my son throws with his left hand and my daughter bats left-handed. Locating them in certain positions when playing sports makes sense, too.

M3 Left-Handed Batter Position
M3 Left-Handed Batter Location

For example, my daughter gains an advantage in fast-pitch softball by batting left-handed – she’s already several steps closer to 1st base so it’s easier for her to make it there. Are you making it easier for your customers to make it to the checkout (or form for non-ecommerce sites) by placing the call to action correctly? Best practices say that you should state your offer often (at least 3 times) and “above the fold.” Use your web analytics to make sure you know the most common screen sizes and then place the call to action and conversion process starting point in a prominent location where users don’t have to scroll. Hubspot has a great article on using heat maps to determine optimal placement. That’s one way to take advantage of location on your website.

T3 Lacrosse Location
T3 Left-Handed Lacrosse Positions

Another way to gain advantage is by marketing to your customers at the right place and the right time (see my post on that here), but it’s also important to take control of the playing field by being in the right location. My son is a lacrosse defenseman and being a leftie gives him the advantage of being able to stay in the middle of the field on defense and have his stick comfortably positioned to line up with a right-handed shooter coming toward him. What do you do to position your product/services so that they line up with your customer’s needs? It also gives him an advantage when he has the ball on offense because his body is lined up between the ball and the defender.

Testing your email campaigns is a great way to determine your customer’s needs in order to have them line up with your goals and objectives. Stephanie Miller and I will be discussing that topic at our Hands-on Session: Email Testing for Higher ROI during the MarketingProfs B2B Forum and I’ll share some of our tips and tricks online after the presentation for those who couldn’t attend.

I hope that you will share some of your tips and tricks on location, call to action, email, or any other relevant topic in the comments section below!

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs In One Basket

Easter Bunny says, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket!"
The Easter Bunny says,

The topic of the first Twitter chat that I moderated was Jack of All Trades or Master of One. You can read more about it here. This past weekend was Easter, and even though the kids are growing up, the Easter Bunny was still hopping!

That combination made me start to think about the way some companies put all of their budget into one channel. During #SMchat, the focus was on individual growth rather than corporate, but the general consensus was that in order to grow you needed to have experience in more than one area of marketing. If it makes sense for the marketer to diversify, it should also work for the companies that they represent, right? That’s why it is surprising to me that so many companies don’t make use of all of the online and offline marketing venues that are available. The explanation that I’ve heard is that there is not enough money in the budget to cover all of the media channels. My response to that is you’re doing your company an injustice if you don’t test every available area of marketing. You never know what will work best for your company without testing.

Testing marketing channels can be done relatively inexpensively, and once you have proven ROI you can determine how much more you can spend in that media. For example, I have worked for several companies who felt that TV is too expensive for their budgets, but I’ve run national DRTV (direct response television) tests that cost far less than what they’re spending on PPC SEM (pay-per-click search engine marketing) campaigns and bring in more revenue for the money spent, plus have the advantage of reaching offline viewers that may not see your ads online.

Another really great marketing channel to test is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is wonderful because there are so many options and it is the most easily tracked – you can pay for the click, the sale, or even the phone call if you convert better over the phone than online.

Email traditionally has the highest ROI of any marketing channel but you need to test email marketing to see how it works for your company, plus you need to build your email list organically in order to have email perform at the levels it is capable of producing. You won’t get those high ROI numbers on a rented list.

Social media is the “new kid” and people are having difficulty determining ROI from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the other social media venues. I see social media as the glue that brings the company and the customer together. You need to be where your customers are – and more and more people are on social media sites than any other with the exception of Google.

Do you agree – should your marketing budget be spread across multiple channels or should you focus on one aspect of marketing in order to spend your budget wisely? Please comment below to let me know!

2010 Internet Marketing Olympics Dream Team

Well, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada ends today so I decided to try to come up with a “dream team” of Internet Marketing Olympians in several categories. The “events” are: Affiliate Marketing, Blogging, Email Marketing, Search Engine Marketing (including SEO/SEM/PPC), Social Marketing, Web Analytics, and I’ve even included an event for Vendors.

Affiliate Marketing

Geno Prussakov
Jen Goode
Melanie Seery
Missy Ward
Scott Jangro
Shawn Collins
Stephanie Lichtenstein
Trisha Lyn Fawver


Aneta Hall
CB Whittemore
Coree Silvera
Dawn Westerberg
Debra Ellis
DJ Francis
Heather in BC
Lee Odden

Email Marketing

Blue Sky Factory – Greg Cangialosi, DJ Waldow, and Chris Penn
Chad White
Loren Baker
Michael Katz
Scott Hardigree
Stephanie Miller

Search Engine Marketing

Adam Sherk
Brent Payne
Chris Burns
David Szetela
Rand Fishkin
Wil Reynolds

Social Media

Jay Baer
Jim Kukral
Mack Collier
Mari Smith
Paul Chaney
Renee Lemley
Scott Stratten

Web Analytics

Avinash Kaushik
Coremetrics (including but not limited to: John Squire, Boaz Ronkin, Susan Barnett, and Jason Mraz)


HubspotDharmesh Shah, Mike Volpe, Rebecca Corliss, and Ellie Mirman
Ion Interactive
Marketing ProfsAnn Handley, Shelley Ryan, and Beth Harte
More Visibility
Radian 6Amber Naslund and Teresa Basich
The Duffy Agency – Kevin Duffy and Sean Duffy

I know I missed a lot of people/companies/organizations that should be on my 2010 Internet Marketing Olympic Dream Team – please post a comment and let me know who they are below. Thanks!

Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, or Merry Christmas?

Santa Claus
Does your company use Santa Claus as their winter holiday representative?

I work for an international travel medical and security assistance company. The opinions expressed below are my own and may not represent those of the company where I work.

Our company sent generic holiday greetings via email to our subscribers – no mention of Santa Claus, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or any other holiday – just a general sentiment that no matter where in the world you are this holiday season,  you are wished peace and joy. Seems innocent enough, right? Apparently we weren’t specific enough with our season’s greetings for at least one subscriber. He asked to be removed because if I couldn’t wish him a Merry Christmas, then he didn’t want to be subscribed to our email list.

While I would love to have an email list that is specific enough to let me know what winter holiday each customer celebrates, unfortunately many companies (including the one where I work) do not have lists that targeted, so rather than further upset that reader, we removed him from our holiday greetings email campaigns.

Unless your company has a specific religious orientation like Catholic Charities USA or The Jewish Federations of North America, or represents a specific culture like the African American Cultural Center in Los Angeles, or has ties to any of the other winter festivals, it is my opinion that sending a holiday email with a generic “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” message is better than not sending any message at all.

Are you able to segment your emails to something as specific as holiday preference? If so, how did you gather that information? If not, what do you think – is it better to say Happy Holiday or Season’s Greetings, or is Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or Enjoy the Winter Solstice the way to go? Please post a comment below and let me know what you would recommend!

Thanks to for the wonderful Santa graphic!

Top 5 Tips from a Webinar Connoisseur

I LOVE webinars!!! I consider myself a “webinar connoisseur” because I view several webinars each week, either live or recorded. The insights that I get from these web conferences are unique and extraordinary knowledge that I can obtain in few other places. In the past week alone, I have attended nine webinars:
– Listrak’s Best Practices for Proving Marketing’s Value
– Search Marketing Now/iProspect’s PPC Strategy & Tactics from the Experts
– Zuberance & WOMMA Word of Mouth webinar, Creating & Energizing Brand Advocates
Webmarketing123’s SEO Webinar on Content Optimization
– Awareness Networks’ Maintaining Your Brand on the Social Web with Scott Monty of Ford
– MarketingProf’s Anatomy of Buzz with Emanuel Rosen
– Blue Sky Factory’s Shake & Bake Your Email Campaigns Into 2010
– Ion Interactive’s Advanced Landing Page Strategies for Lead Generation
– And just a few hours ago I attended MarketingProf’s Word of Mouth Marketing with Andy Sernovitz

Plus, next week I’ll be attending at least five webinars, including the All About eMail Virtual Conference & Expo 2009.

So, as an “expert” webinar attendee, here are my top five must-have webinar tips:
1) Easy to Learn: Unique, relevant content is the most important part of a webinar. If the topic is the same as everyone else is presenting or the webinar doesn’t help me solve a problem or answer a question, I’m likely to pass. If your webinar has a “sponsor” then you need to make sure the sponsor fits with the content.
2) Easy to Engage: Make sure that have an engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker who knows the topic on which they are presenting and can communicate that knowledge in an exciting manner to keep the interest of your webinar viewers. One thing to remember in “sponsored” webinars is that you’re giving implied endorsement to everyone there – basically from the user’s perspective you’re saying “this speaker/company/product/etc. meets our standards of quality.”

3) Easy to Share: Have the speaker’s Twitter handle and/or the hashtag on at least the opening and closing slides, and if possible on every slide (perhaps along the bottom). I would expect people who are interested in online webinars to want to share on Twitter and it makes it more difficult to share info with others without a Twitter handle or hashtag.

4) Easy to Find: When you search for a webinar title on any of the major search engines, you need to make sure that a) your site is in one of the top positions naturally or via paid search and b) the links go to matching landing pages which change before and after the webinar has been recorded.
– Before the webinar, you need a sign-up page that contains a simple description of the event (including topic, date, time, speaker, etc.) and asks the minimum of details to qualify an attendee. This may be similar to your email newsletter sign-up page and you may want to include a subscription to your email newsletter on the form. As long as there is content on the slides and not just a bunch of pretty pictures, I really like having the slide deck early, especially if there is Q&A time planned, so that I can formulate my questions and see if they’re answered in the presentation or if I need to ask during Q&A.
– After the webinar, you should go to the download page with the slide deck (possibly in 2 forms – black and white “notes” form and full page slides form). Also, include the Q&A chat thread and a link to the Twitter hashtag recap so you don’t lose that aspect of the “conversation” about your topic.

5) Easy to Remember: Don’t forget to Tweet about your webinar when it gets close! You should also send a reminder email and/or provide an “Add to Calendar” function so attendees will remember your event. Keep emails to once the day before the webinar and one email shortly (an hour?) before the event. If you use an Outlook meeting invite, make sure it includes details about the webinar in addition to the title and a URL to join the webinar so users know who is the presenter, sponsor, etc. Set a reminder for 15 minutes before the event (a personal pet peeve because I have a tendency to forget about meetings without them).

Bonus Tech Tip – Easy to Enjoy: From a tech standpoint, make sure your web meeting console/interface works across multiple browsers/platforms. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been excited to attend a webinar only to cancel out when the slides wouldn’t advance because I was using Firefox or was on a Mac. Focus Research recently came out with a list of Top 12 Web Conferencing Vendors that might be helpful, but check with the vendor to see if anything has changed since the article was published. Also, test to make sure that everything is working properly – speakers and moderators can be heard and their volume is set to the same level, the slides or video works correctly, chat is functioning, etc.

If you follow my 5 (+1) tips, I guarantee you’ll have at least one happy webinar attendee – me! Did I neglect to mention something that you really like or dislike in a web conference? Please comment below to let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.

Did You Wish Everyone A Happy Halloween?

Photo courtesy of and copyright Paul Prawdiuk, Free Range Stock,

Photo courtesy of and copyright Paul Prawdiuk, Free Range Stock,

I wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a very happy Halloween!  The kids went trick-or-treating, so we’re stocked up on candy for at least the next 24 hours or so.

One of the email marketing initiatives that I developed for work is a Holiday Greetings email for any applicable holidays.  This gives us another reason to contact our subscribers other than the direct sales pitch, plus it’s just a nice thing to do.  The company where I currently work is a travel medical and security assistance provider called MEDEX Global Group.  Our subscribers have responded positively to the holiday greetings in general and the MEDEX Global Group Halloween email creative in particular.

Do you take the time to wish your subscribers happy holidays?  Are there any holidays that you avoid?  Which holiday campaigns perform the best for you?  Please leave a comment below and let me know what works for you! Happy Halloween!

The Right Message, to the Right Person, at the Right Time.

Don't be labeled a spammer?
Photo courtesy of and copyright Krystle, Free Range Stock,

I’ve got two children in high school, a freshman and a sophomore.  The kids’ school, like many others across the country, has the Connect-ED® notification service, where administrators can contact thousands of parents simultaneously without tying up school resources to get the message out.  In this scenario, they use it to call our land line to tell us some news from school.  The Homecoming dance is coming up, so I wasn’t too surprised to see the school phone number show on my caller ID at dinnertime this evening.  That’s a great use of technology to automate a formerly resource-intensive task, right?

Not quite.  It wasn’t a message about Homecoming (which would have been of interest to all of the students), but instead the phone call that we received was about an upcoming college night for high school juniors.  Did I mention that I have a freshman and a sophomore?  Not a junior = not relevant = phone spam.  Now, I know spam is technically unsolicited commercial emails, but the same principle applies to keep people from complaining.  You need to provide the Right Message, to the Right Person, at the Right Time in order for your information to be seen as relevant.

The Right Message

I gave the kids’ school my contact information and I expect them to contact me with messages about upcoming events or other things that they think I should know.  However, I also expect them to send me the Right Message.  I would be happy to receive messages about Homecoming activities, the end of the grading period, or even the high rate of absenteeism due to the H1N1 (Swine) Flu and what I can do to keep my children from catching it.

The Right Person

Since I don’t have a high school junior, I don’t expect the school to contact me about events that are targeted specifically to juniors.  I expect the message for juniors to be sent to the Right Person – parents of high school juniors.  I would be the Right Person for messages directed to parents of high school freshmen and sophomores.

The Right Time

In 2007, 78.3% of children had at least one parent working full time according to the NIH.  Assuming that these working parents get off work at 5PM, and have to fix dinner or pick it up which takes more time, this might indicate that 6-6:30PM might be an inconvenient time to call.  I think the Right Time to call might be a bit later, after dinner is over.  Or don’t call at all, send an email — but only to the parents of juniors who have opted-in to receive your emails!  What do you think?

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