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Andrew loves making things. After 10 years making websites and growing his business Brown Box, he now manages some of Australia's biggest corporations as they communicate with their customers through email through Oracle Marketing Cloud. Twitter | LinkedIn | Google +

How to manage subscriptions to multiple brands

The more I interact with new marketing techniques and colleagues about the targeting of subscribers and customised experiences in email, the more I think, ‘Wow – marketers are a lot more advanced than I thought.’ There’s really great techniques coming out of ESPs, and people have a lot of great opportunities to do big things with their data and marketing.

The more I interact with businesses as a customer – the less I think this is true.

So while at work I’m thinking about the integrated marketing cloud, and all the amazing opportunities it has to offer – I prefer in the short time available to me between work and family to think about what everyone else is actually doing.

Here’s one thing that continues to strike me: businesses of all sizes don’t do the fundamentals well.

A perfect example of this is when a central marketing office manages multiple brands and doesn’t, or can’t differentiate between email subscribers under one or the other brands.

Let me show you how this often plays out.

I’ll use a recent example of an interaction I had with a couple of brands.

Maui Australia

I visited the campervan rental business Maui Australia website, I found their subscription option and put in my email address.

I successfully subscribed and went on my merry way.


A short time later, I visited an entirely different campervan brand Britz.

Being acutely interested in knowing more about their brand I of course signed up to their email list. Here’s what I got in response:

Here’s where things start to go wrong for the potential subscriber. What he or she doesn’t necessarily know (and doesn’t really care about) is that in the background you have a single company that owns these two businesses. They have likely got the same people working on the marketing and communications for both of these brands and more.

In other words the process of subscription has been built for the needs of the business, not for the needs of the subscriber.

It’s not that hard to fix

For whatever reason, the email setup has been put together with a single subscriber list across all of the web properties owned by the managing company. The most simple way of fixing this is to have discreet subscriber lists between all of the sites. In that way, any person interested in both brands or more can subscribe to both brands.

Small Business Email Marketing – A Cautionary Tale

I once met a man who was running a small business in a well-to-do part of town. He imported and sold beautiful homewares from provincial France that you could not find anywhere else in Sydney.

After 15 years he had built up a great business that supported his lifestyle and allowed him to live in comfort. It was a success. There were always customers in the store, people browsing and asking him questions about this or that product. Half of the names of them were entirely foreign to me, not being a French speaker and all.

He didn’t have huge aspirations for growing an empire, and he wasn’t one of those people who constantly posts about leadership on LinkedIn. He was just a regular small business owner in Sydney, making sales and building relationships with the people who came in.

I visited his store a few times looking for gifts for my wife, when one day I had finished meeting a client nearby and decided to pop on over. When I arrived there was no store. The shop was empty. There was no notice in the window, so I realised he must have gone out of business. Disappointed, I headed off and that was the end of it.

A few months later, I was visiting a potential client in the same part of town, just a few blocks away from where this French homeware store had been. It was in an out of the way spot, off the main street, with little around but houses and one or two businesses. We chatted about getting their business up and running with email marketing, as they had just begun the journey of retail.

After finishing that conversation and heading back to my car I looked up and realised I had actually parked outside another new business. To my surprise it was a French homewares store. I went in to the store, and noticed the same man who had owned the old French homewares store on the main street – but he had a new setup, new building, and an entirely new set of customers. That is he had no customers.

I asked him what had happened? With some sadness he said his landlord had raised the price of the old store so high that it was unaffordable. He had no choice but to pack up shop – and get out. To add to that, he had very little time in which to do it and the landlord would not allow for him to leave a sign in the window indicating what had happened.

So here he was, after 15 years he had been forced to relocate away from the main street, with such a fast turnaround that he wasn’t even able to let people know that it was happening. No doubt many people had made the same assumption that I had – that the store no longer existed and he was out of business. With no sign and no indication otherwise, this was easy to do.

Given that I am always thinking about email, I asked how he had contacted people. He had put an ad in the local paper, and was thinking about putting signs up in the village centre showing where the new location of the store was.

But what about letting people know with a little email?

Well – this is where he was most disappointed. After 15 years of building his business, he said he had not collected a single email address to keep in contact with people. He knew a lot of his customers by name, and had built a relationship with them in person – but never had he bothered to think that he would ever need their email address.

So he had no way of directly telling his best and most valuable customers he had moved.

It was obvious that his business was suffering. No longer a busy store, no foot traffic, and no sign to previous customers that he had moved. He said he had to basically build it up the retail business from scratch again.

If only he had collected any email addresses. Over the period of time at even a couple of email address a week he could have made a significant change to the way that an unexpected move affected his business. Notifying people of his business, keeping up relationships and continuing to grow would not be as big an issue had he done what was right for his customers.

Fortunately he had a wholesale business that was supporting the transition, and had promised me that he would start collecting email addresses because he realised that to reach people where they were, he needed to find a more reliable way of communicating at a distance.

The longest subject line I’ve ever received.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” ~David Ogilvy.

The father of modern marketing David Ogilvy showed how headlines are like gateways. Each person who reads them decides wether or not it is worth continuing on, or abandoning the rest of the content beyond. Subject lines in emails behave in a similar way. They’re vital to draw people in with an initial statement, and create a promise of what is to come if they continue reading.

Keeping subject lines meaningful and readable is one of the most important aspects of putting together an email message. So it’s no surprise that I was surprised to see the following headline in a recent email:

At 80 words, this is the longest subject line I've ever received.

“This month we’re talking… Regeneration – Why, in 2017, travel is the most valuable form of education;8 Ways Tourism Has Positively Impacted Our World;What Happens When You Return Home? The Cycle Of Travel.;This is Thailand’s dreamiest national park and nobody seems to know about it…;Machu Picchu was the bucket list experience I never knew I needed;Why, for me, travelling is all about what you eat;This is what I learnt from the people who call the Mekong River home”

Sure that’s an extreme example of subject line length – and it’s likely you’ll not be writing subjects like that out of habit. What is clear though is the same with a lot of questions when it comes to email marketing. What works for your subscribers is being clear, straight forward, and communicating value. Back the promise of your subject line with the content within the email, and treat your subscribers with respect.

Email marketing only used by 35% of SMBs in Australia

According to the 2016 Sensis eBusiness Report, only 35% of small & medium businesses in Australia “…promote the business using email marketing”.

The report measures technology use within 1000 small and medium business in Australia, showing historic, existing, and projected numbers for the year ahead.

Contrasting with what I think is an extremely low number, the use of social media to promote businesses is a much higher 48%.

I believe this presents a few opportunities for marketers and businesses alike:

  • It is clear from simple experience, that there are far less than 35% of businesses who are doing email particularly well. As such, I believe standing out in the mind of the customer can be achieved without having to implement very complex email techniques, rather – getting the fundamentals right can provide you with excellent results.
  • Where maybe businesses find more competition on social media, email is a less saturated channel. There is still room to enter the market and take advantage of the gains that email has consistently provided when done properly.
  • There is room for marketers and marketing advisors to grow their own businesses by helping businesses get started with email. I believe this has been the case for many years, even while the social web has continued to garner most of the attention. On a side note, I don’t think small/medium businesses do ‘The Internet’ well – even in Australia’s largest companies the technological literacy of the CMO is fairly average.

Interesting emails : December 2016

December is always an intense month for email marketers and businesses who employ them. As a channel it brings in significant revenue for the Christmas period, and is relied upon to quickly and efficiently boost sales. 

So it was no surprise to see the coverage that the experience company Adrenalin got across email, above the line, and outdoor displays in the lead up to Christmas. They were everywhere. 

A snapshot of my inbox shows you in just the last couple of days of Christmas how much email they were deploying to secure final hour sales. 

Here’s a view of their activity:

  • 7 emails in the 3 days before Christmas day. 
  • 14 emails in the 7 days before Christmas day.
  • 28 emails in December before Christmas day. 

Adrenalin email marketing

Email inbox

Tourism & Travel Email Marketing – Don’t Thank Your Subscribers 

After reviewing email from 230 tourism and travel businesses, I found that over 40% of businesses fail to engage customers after subscription.

One particular characteristic of this lack of engagement is the way that businesses speak with organisationally centric language by saying ‘thank you’ and abruptly end the customer journey in response to a subscription.

When the subscription journey finishes with a ‘thank you’ it’s an incomplete experience. Here’s how it looks.

Subscribers aren’t subscribing to help you out – so why would you only give a thanks message in response and end the conversation? They’re subscribing because they see value in staying connected.

Think about the way a classic email subscription flow looks like.

Visitor to website > Enticed to subscribe, promise of getting news or offers > Subscription… [next steps]

Why does the person subscribe? Because they’re shown that there would be value in receiving an email. Ending the flow at ‘Subscription’ fails to understand why the subscriber has signed up in the first place.

They’re after something that you have to give. Don’t just end it with a thanks, and be on your merry way.

Follow up immediately with something reinforcing the value that you’ve sold to them. They have given you permission. It could be as simple as where to follow you on social media if they want to explore more in real time, or further information about your business, or even a commonly valued piece of content that you can share with the subscriber.

The thank you piece ends the interaction by saying, “This was actually about me – not you. Now you’ll have to wait until we finally get around to finishing our newsletter that we’ll do some time when we feel like getting around to it.”

A quicker way to navigate your job

I’m still relatively new to the corporate environment, and after the last decade or so of running a small business – I’m accustomed to hustling all day to get things done. One of the things that I continue to wonder is, ‘how do large businesses even make any money?’. I don’t ask the question because I am actually confused as to how – but rather because I see so much waste and repeated work that it still shocks me as to how much they actually make in profits.

I am a small player on a large field in Oracle – and in fact, I’m not even an employee, I’m a contractor. But I love making things better and easier to use. If a piece of software has shortcuts then I’ll find them. If there’s a way to automate my job then I’ll want to do it. If there’s a process that can be made better then you want to watch out because I’m going to make it better.

Standardisation is a way to make things a bit faster, a bit better, a bit easier for people to understand. That’s why processes and systems exist. However there’s one thing that a lot of people find hard – and that’s URLs. Especially at Oracle where I’m currently contracting there are (as my kids would say) a zillion billion dillion googolplex of URLs and software and places to remember.

So I made

It’s a URL shortener – but more to the point it’s a URL standardiser. Pop in a URL, give it a customised name, and out comes a customised, easy to read URL. Using it, I can customise where projects are just by remembering the job name of the project. Because it’s private and fresh – I don’t have to work out names that are available.

Now anyone can create standardised URLs for sharing across projects, across websites, across software. Shorter and easier to read – no need to have a billion bookmarks, or navigate through the very many clicks that are wasting time each day.

Hopefully it can go a small way to helping people in their jobs, and helping reduce wasted time.

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Andrew Beeston

Digital marketing professional

Hi, I'm Andrew Beeston - apart from my day job I'm currently thinking about email marketing in the travel and tourism industry.

To help me create new ideas and engage in the practice of my profession, I write something fresh every day about email marketing, and observations of emails in my inbox.

hear from you if you have any reaction to anything I post here.


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