Terrie's Take 546 -- Running an E-mail Marketing Project, ebiz in Japan
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Dec 14 03:41:04 JST 2009
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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
General Edition Sunday, December 13, 2009 Issue No. 546
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
Have you ever wondered just how much email flows around our
planet? According to Symantec, the spam-busting software
company, There were about 173bn emails sent daily in
September 2009. While this is great news for
environmentalists, because that's a lot of paper that
didn't get used, it is a depressing fact that, according
to Symantec, 87% of all unsolicited email was spam.
That is 151bn pieces of c--p filling up yours and our
mailboxes every day...
In case you're interested, in Japan, much of that email is
sent as SMS messages and they really like doing it.
According to Tech Crunchies, this year in Japan 1.9trn
emails, 15.5% more than 2008, will be sent. That's 5.2bn
messages a day, which is about double what Americans send,
but for half the population.
Having established that there is a lot of negative email
flowing through the Internet, how do you get your email
marketing campaign through to a target customer, and even
when you've found them, how to do you get in without being
classed as spam -- either by a spam filter device, or by
the reader themselves?
This is a question facing many foreign firms in Japan right
now -- especially since marketing budgets have been cut and
guerilla marketing is the order of the day. Therefore, in
this issue of Terrie's Take we thought it would be
interesting to discuss some of the decisions and thinking
done for an actual online marketing campaign that our
Metropolis team is conducting. The campaign is the multiple
promotion of the Metropolis Members Club and cashless
donations to a charity called JHELP.
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Many readers will know that Metropolis is Japan's leading
English-language paper magazine. Recent in-house research
found that in terms of print volume, Metropolis and its
sister publications account for about 34% of all
English-language lifestyle (non-newspaper, non business)
paper media published here. So it's popular.
But while Metropolis' paper presence is clear, it is less
well-known online. The challenge issued to the marketing
team was to create the same level of popularity and usage
online, so that readers can interact better with our
editors, advertisers, and of course in this age of SNS,
with each other.
This is a challenge faced by many other foreign companies
who have strong real-world customer bases but who are
facing the reality of online retailers and content
providers looking to eat their lunch if they don't do
something about getting online in a meaningful way, soon.
In Metropolis' case, we came up with an integrated strategy
that combines the power of the brand with online tools and
services to drive our audience to events and the bars,
restaurants, and other venues of our advertisers and
supporters. The Marketing team decided good starting point
for an active online community would be to set up a
Metropolis Member's Club -- an entity where once people
signed up for it they could get updates on what's on and
where to go in Tokyo, even if the paper version of the
magazine is sold out. Content will be available on the web
and cell phones.
As an incentive to members, the team decided to start
giving away worthwhile prizes on the Metropolis website on
a weekly basis -- trading on the "What's in it for me?"
factor. Indeed, the Metropolis Members' Club kicks off with
the ever desirable iPod Touch, followed by high-end spa
visits for the ladies, meals at popular restaurants for
couples, hotel stays, health products, and even a bunch of
soccer balls. If you are living in or are a frequent
visitor to Japan and feel like signing up for the
Metropolis Members Club, you can do it here:
OK, we admit that just giving away prizes is a bit of a
lame marketing campaign (although they're great prizes!)
that pretty much anyone could think of. Especially given
the fact that the magazine's primary audience is working
foreign professionals who are really BUSY, we needed
something else to break through the marketing noise. So the
team came up with an interesting innovation: "cash-less
donations." Just in time for Christmas.
The way the cashless donations work is that with the
support of sponsors like PayPal, Brastel, and Sakura House,
Metropolis offers each person who registers online the
promise that it will donate 200 yen to a charity. This is
a very simple deal: eyeball and mouse time for cash to a
worthy cause. No money need be paid, no online redemptions
or scams, and there are direct benefits in signing up. This
campaign value proposition is particularly appealing to
an audience that is nervously concerned with personal
finances and is cutting back on everything -- including
The charity this year is Ken Joseph's JHELP organization
-- a group that directly helps the target audience of
foreigners and their families in Japan. More about them
Now that the Metropolis marketing team had its "product",
the next challenge was how to let people know the campaign
exists. The traditional approach would be to start
advertising -- so as to reach as many people as possible
and hope that the incentives for them to go to the website
are strong enough. In Metropolis' case it is the media, and
so in recent editions it has been running ads for the
But while paper is important for branding and awareness,
experience has taught us that a strong and direct call to
action from an online audience needs to be made online.
Gifting in particular is a spontaneous activity and needs
to be implemented so that people can react and respond
quickly. Even more so with a busy audience.
Online marketing is a numbers game and the standard
response rate to a campaign is around 1% to 3% depending
on the relevance and power of your value proposition.
Indeed, as the recession bites and traditional companies
try harder to get consumers' attention, you can see many
ads in the trains and Japanese newspapers offering all
sorts of campaigns and incentives to get people to
register on the websites of new products and services.
But going out through traditional offline media, or even
high volume online media like Yahoo Japan, is expensive,
and as an English-language magazine we're not a consumer
product that would be of interest to 99% of Japanese
respondents anyway. So we need better targeting.
The next step for most companies would be to promote
through affiliate marketers and other online advertisers.
ValueCommerce for example, a company run by local
entrepreneur Brian Nelson, has hundreds of thousands of web
sites that it has contracts to run ads on, and for which it
knows who the primary audiences are. Thus, you can specify
to ValueCommerce your desired market niche, and you will
get an ad plan for just the sites servicing those types of
Another alternative for those on a lower budget is to make
use of online networking sites such as Mixi and Linked In.
These are easy to use and they work by allowing you to
create very focused groups of users and inviting other
members to them. Once you have an active forum of users,
the idea is to use strategic placement of comments and
support to drive business inquiries and introductions to
yourself. We see many people doing this with Linked In,
especially consultants and network marketers.
However, in our opinion the weakness of SNS sites is that
they are discretionary web destinations for most end users,
and so usage of them tends to be sporadic. Entertainment
and information sharing is all very good, but if you're
really busy, you will soon lose contact with a community
site and its groups if there is no compelling reason to
connect to it daily. Recently Linked In and others have
realized this, and are "pushing" content back to the users
by email, by way of updates and reports. This appears to
be generating a much higher level of repeat visits.
Notably, these new online marketing solutions all revert to
a medium which was probably the original use of the
Internet -- that of email, to keep users in contact. Ever
since we started publishing Terrie's Take in 1997, we've
been privy to the power of email as a medium and its
ability to pull in reader responses. Email is one of the
few online media (Google apps with online ads is shaping
up to be another) where the user HAS to use the application
and thus is compelled to view at least the subject line of
every marketing message that you send them.
Email is powerful in our opinion for the following reasons:
1. One glance of the subject title gives the reader a sign
as to whether or not to read
2. Email is a common source of business leads/requests
these days and thus is a vital tool for financial well-being
3. Email is more convenient than phone calls if you're a
busy person, since it can be time-shifted and you can gain
time to think before acting
4. Email provides an audit trail and thereby an activity
history that can be searched later
5. An underrated point is that with email there is an
element of surprise and anticipation connected with action
of opening each one
So these various points, we think, contribute to the
likelihood that the penetration of email into a given
audience is almost 100%. OK, sure there are spam filters to
contend with, but by and large unless you're sending out
tens of thousands of solicitations in a concentrated
marketing effort (aka, spam), most innocent marketing
emails will make it through intact and will be viewed by
the reader. In our related companies, many of our sales
successes are due to small scale, focused email
Again from experience, we can say that the best response
for getting recipients to open their email comes when the
sender is a trusted party and your content is relevant and
respected by the audience. This may sound obvious, but the
implication of this is that you either find a marketer who
has developed a trusted persona online (usually through a
"How To" expert newsletter) and have them endorse your
product/service, or you need to start building your own
community and trust therein. Certainly this is what we have
done with Terrie's Take -- delivering week after week of
commentary to an audience that is willing to share access
in return for information.
Again from Tech Crunchies, we found a very interesting
global statistic as to why people unsubscribe from email
1. Newsletter not relevant to recipient: 46%
2. Too many emails to manage: 23%
3. They clutter the inbox: 16%
4. Untrusted source (Spam): 16%
This clearly shows that if you are trusted and relevant to
the reader, then the other reasons why someone might
unsubscribe are far less impactful than the content of your
own message. A good lesson to be learned here.
So there you have it. We believe in email, whether it's
pretty html, or dry old ascii. What matters most is to
offer the audience a strong and interesting value
proposition to get them subscribed in the first place, then
to be offering quality content to keep them engaged. While
sending email sounds easy, it's far from it and we don't
expect an orgy of spam as a result of this newsletter. What
is clear, though, is that email is clearly a superior and
communications tool and is underutilized by most marketers.
Lastly, about JHELP.
As frequent readers will know, we've been supporters of Ken
Joseph's JHELP service for some years now. If you haven't
visited www.jhelp.com, we can tell you in a nutshell that
Ken has three areas of activity:
1) Helping foreigners in trouble in Japan,
2) Japanese in trouble overseas, and
3) Food and shelter aid services for communities stricken
by natural disasters.
What kind of trouble can foreigners get into in Japan? Well
the list is as endless as people's ability to misunderstand
and mis-plan. Try any of the following:
* Lost passports and other travel papers
* Problems with immigration, the police, imprisonment
* Disputes with landlords, guarantors, employers
* Health emergencies
* Travel emergencies -- a common one is people running out
* Family disputes, divorces, child care disputes
* Personal distress of any sort
* And finally, even the repatriation of the remains of
deceased people (somebody has to do it)
Ken's organization runs on volunteer input and has done so
since he started the organization in 1987. Over the years
his team has received several tens of thousands of phone
calls, and is available 24x7 to help those in need. This
is a tough role to play, and Ken has certainly taken on a
massive responsibility for caring for those in need.
The problem in providing an unlimited and free service like
this is the cost of running it. Ken relies exclusively on
donations. Luckily the staff come almost for free, but the
many phone calls, travel, rent/storage, dispursement of
emergency funds, and office all require cold hard cash.
Funding an operation like JHELP would be a challenge in any
country, but possibly more so in Japan, where the tradition
of giving to charities is limited, and where companies gain
very little tax incentive to give and so they don't. Some
years ago, Ken built up a formidable paper mailing list and
in conjunction with good press, was receiving funds by
furikomi through post offices around the nation. However,
now not only are the number of post offices dramatically
falling due the restructuring of Japan Post, but also
electronic messaging replacing paper mail makes Ken's
donation appeals that much easier to ignore.
With this campaign, we're trying to help Ken restore his
finances and get his operation reestablished online. You
can help Ken and JHELP now by signing up for the Metropolis
2009 Christmas Appeal now, at www.metropolis.co.jp/members.
We only have until December 25th to get 1,000 people signed
up. As of tonight (December 13th, 2009) we hit the first
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- Survey latest govt idea to increase tourism
- Tax haven definition to change
- Transcosmos goes to China
- Open skies agreement agreed in principle between US and Japan
- Wendy's leaving Japan
-> Survey latest govt idea to increase tourism
Not sure what the Tourism Agency is thinking, but in any
case, it has announced that it will launch an online survey
website next year, for foreigners interested in visiting
Japan. The goal of the website is to collect data from 2m
respondents, and pass this information on to 1,000
businesses which are supplying the website with prizes to
be won by the respondents. Apparently 2010 will be Visit
Japan Year and the government has said it wants to
increase tourism from 8.35m people in 2008 to 25m in 2019.
(Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Dec 12, 2009)
-> Tax haven definition to change
The government's Tax Commission panel says it will change
the definition of what constitutes a tax haven (which
currently causes 17,000 Japanese company operators in those
countries to do special tax reporting) by reducing the tax level
measuring stick from the current 25% to a few percentage
points lower (yet to be stated). ***Ed: Countries currently
considered as tax havens according to the existing system
include China, South Korea, and Russia -- which is clearly
stupid.** (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Dec 12,
-> Transcosmos goes to China
Call center operator Transcosmos continues its expansion
into China with an agreement with Taobao.com, China's
largest EC website operator. Under the terms of the
agreement, Taobao will refer all its retail customers
needing outsourced call center assistance and order
delivery to Transcosmos. ***Ed: Interestingly, Transcosmos
will handle initial web marketing out of its Okinawa call
center, doing any phone based work later out of call
centers it has in Shanghai, Beijing and two other cities.**
(Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Dec 11, 2009)
-> Open skies agreement agreed in principle between US and Japan
Japan and the U.S. have agreed in principle to allow more
freedom to air carriers servicing the Japan-US route.
Previous to the agreement, all aspects of operations
between the countries has been controlled on the Japanese
side by the government. The agreement will allow carriers
to set their own routes and destinations, as well as set
pricing and capacity. The agreement comes as JAL and ANA
are entering into long-term alliances with American
Airlines and United Airlines, respectively. (Source: TT
commentary from google.com, Dec 12, 2009)
-> Wendy's leaving Japan
In what appears to be a shoot-yourself-in-the-foot episode,
the Wendy's/Arby's Group has announced that it is not
renewing the licence agreement is has with food retailer
Zensho. This will result in all 71 Wendy's restaurants in
Japan shutting down at the end of January. Apparently the
problem lay with Zensho not wanting to expand in Japan and
putting its capital into other projects -- which Wendy's
was not happy with. ***Ed: All we can say is that a 3-week
closure notice is very bad form for Wendy's and despite
saying that they remain committed to Japan, it is very
difficult to see anyone else wanting to take on the
franchise. So that will mean Wendy's would have to come in
themselves -- a difficult proposition in the face of fierce
competition from McDonalds and local chains.** (Source: TT
commentary from reuters.com, Dec 11, 2009)
NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
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