Despair.com Thrilled With Improved E-Mail Delivery

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The founders of Despair.com, a humorous work Web site that promotes the "demotivation" of employees, recently began looking for a way to make their e-mail subscribers happy.


It's an ironic move for a company that sells a book titled "Art of Demotivation" as well as posters, coffee mugs and other products that poke fun at the "Teamwork" and "Success" messages posted in many corporate offices.


Examples of the site's dry twist on motivation include posters with beautiful scenery and statements such as: "Achievement: You can achieve anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination and an endless supply of expendable labor" and "You aren't being paid to believe in the power of your dreams."


Though Despair entertains and effectively sells to customers on its 80,000-member e-mail list, executives with the company knew that some members of its list were unhappy.


Despair had been using an e-mail service provided through its Yahoo Store account, but was having trouble with delivery (including high bounce rates) as well as opt-ins and opt-outs.


"I think we may have outgrown their system, and we were unable to [easily] unsubscribe people who asked to be unsubscribed," said Justin Sewell, a founder of Despair.


The firm even addressed customers directly about the problems at the bottom of its September promotional e-mail: "After receiving increasing numbers of complaints from people who have opted-in ... yet never received a copy of our e-mail newsletter, we finally have upgraded our e-mail service."


Despair switched this summer to retention e-mail firm iPost, Novato, CA, which develops e-mail content and delivers to businesses' established lists (not third-party prospect lists).


IPost cleaned Despair's list of any bad addresses and fixed repairable addresses, such as jon@aolcom. It tested for spam filter triggers and poorly constructed HTML, among other delivery issues.


Along with improving delivery, Despair and iPost executives developed an exciting way to launch the site's 2006 poster and calendar collection, the first new collection in two years.


"We try not to abuse people's e-mails, and we try not to send something that does not have something new," Sewell said.


A Sept. 21 HTML e-mail to subscribers featured humorous copy about the launch and pictures of four of the line's 12 posters. The examples of the posters were sized large enough for recipients to see the images, but small enough that the humor line was too tiny to read.


That design element interested readers, who clicked through to the site to read the entire poster. This contributed to the e-mail's 40 percent open rate and 83 percent click-through rate, iPost president/CEO Steve Webster said.


In addition, delivery rates jumped 20 percent from Despair's last mailing earlier this year.


Despair.com saw a "big spike" in visits to the site but Sewell said it is difficult to quantify how many visits converted to orders.


Webster said iPost achieves high delivery rates because it uses only lists generated by its customers and chooses clients that want to maintain relationships with their customers, not use e-mail for acquisition. Also, the firm maintains a good reputation with the major ISPs.


Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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