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Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Purge

Constant Contact’s price doubles when you reach 500 email addresses. My newsletter subscriber list recently passed 400 and was growing by 10-15 per month, while my open rate had dipped to around 20%. It was time to purge.

Email addresses are fragile. People change ISPs, or they lose their jobs, or they sign up for Yahoo and Gmail addresses that they never use. Permanence is rare. When we switched over to BELD.net this year Anne and I opted to pay Earthlink $3 per month to preserve the addresses we’ve had since 1987. But even those will die by the end of this year; we aren’t going to pay that $3 forever.

Constant Contact’s process for cleaning up one’s list is hidden – after all, bloated email lists are lucrative for them. I actually had to email their support department to find the online instructions. The process is pretty convoluted and the results don’t quite match the instructions. Without numbing you with too much detail: You duplicate your main mailing list, then remove everyone who has opened an email in the past 90 days (the past two issues, for me). The remaining “unconfirmed” addresses -- 286 in my case – get an opt-in newsletter. If they click the link therein, they go back on the list; if they don’t, they’re out. Forty-one of those 286 people opened the email and 22 of them clicked the link. In other words, 41 of the 286 addresses that I culled turned out to be valid and 22 were interested subscribers.

In the end I got rid of 245 garbage addresses. I won’t have to worry about hitting that 500-address price increase again for years now.

With the remaining 158 names known to be good, my newsletter open rate ought to approach 100%, right? You’d think so. But only 60 people looked at the Fathers Day free shipping coupon that I sent out this week. Two emails (both sent to friends…Joy, what happened to your hotmail address?) bounced as non-existent. Fathers Day is a poor benchmark because my average customer is too old to care, and my newsletter’s subject line (“3 Days Only: Free Shipping for Fathers Day”) wasn’t cute or clever. But a 38% open rate is disappointing after such a thorough cleanup. The issue did bring in one nice big sale, though, so there’s that.

Incidentally, a Constant Contact telephone support guy told me that what I did was very advanced stuff for their user base. Fewer than 1% of their customers ever try to purge their mailing lists. It’s no wonder I couldn’t find the instructions in their FAQ; the question isn’t asked frequently.
Anyway: If you didn’t get a newsletter this week, please use the Newsletter Signup box on the upper right side of this page to re-join my list.


I just figured out how to add a Facebook “Like” button to the bottom of my website. I’ve been stuck at 120-123 fans for months now. Maybe this will get that growing again. Just this week I had my first customer answer “How did you find us?” with “Saw your Facebook page.”

I also figured out how to work around Blogger's broken image upload function by simply editing the HTML code. I posted a question on their Help blog last week and never got an answer. So I should be able to amuse you with pictures again.


Mochahost finally closed my old account on Sunday, six days after I put in the order. No mention of a refund. But that’s OK: the $40 that they’re keeping will buy them a lot of bad publicity. I won’t hesitate to tell the world (via the Googlebot) that Mocha was the worst company I’ve encountered in almost six years in business.


Overall Fathers Day sales were poor. The week ending 6/11 was pretty good at 122% of LY. But this week, which should have brought the big rush, is running a paltry 69% of LY. Last year’s numbers were inflated by one big sale of Mini Briefcases – not Fathers Day business at all. With a day and a half left, this week could still deliver the $500 that it’s short. But it ain’t likely.

I'll be back in two weeks with June's numbers, assuming nothing interesting happens before then.

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