FACEBOOK NEWS FEED HAS DONE EMAIL MARKETING A BIG FAVOR

Tim’s Tips…

  • Facebook News Feed  has done email marketing a big favor by helping business owners realize that they are building on someone else’s turf and it is better to build on your own turf
  • Pretty emails aren’t always the answer. It pays to write better copy
  • If you can test your emails, that’s great, but it takes some numbers to do it effectively
  • “Offers” make a big difference to email open rates and click-throughs, so test those too.
  • Frequency, how often you send an email to your list matters too and is context specific

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Doug: Welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today I've got a guest joining me from across the waters. He's … I guess the closest major city would be London. I've got Tim Watson. Tim operates a company called Zettasphere. We are connected through an international group called Only Influencers and that group is the world's leading community of email marketing professionals.

Tim is an email marketing consultant who has over 14 years as a specialist in email marketing, experience working with blue chip brands mainly in the US and the UK. In addition to strategic consulting services, Tim is also an email marketing trainer and frequently speaks at industry events. He's an active blogger, so you'll want to check out his website, and he doesn't just report on the trends but he provides thought leadership on the opportunities and the challenges that we're currently facing in the industry.

As well, he's a regular contributor to the DMA Email Council and Smart Insight blogs as well as a guest blogger for other marketing sites. He is an elected member of the UK DNA Email Council, supporting the email marketing industries, and chairs Legal Best Practices Hub of the Email Council, authoring and reviewing DNA whitepapers and best practices.

Tim spends 100% of his time focused on email with over 12 years experience in email marketing and he's very knowledgeable and I'd like to welcome Tim to the Real Marketing Real Fast Podcast today.

Tim Watson: Hey, Doug. Thanks very much for the intro.

Doug: We both share a similar passion and obviously a similar group. We're excited about email and so let's get into it. Do you want to share with our listeners a tactic or a major success or something that you've found has worked really well for yourself and/or your clients using email?

Tim Watson: Yeah, sure. It's that they happen on an almost ongoing basis but just recently an interesting one, and it's a simple tactic, and this was for a B-to-B client, in this particular case. I cover a lot of B-to-B and B-to-C. They had been putting out some emails. They hadn't really had a great deal of response from them, to some of their prospect bases.

They came to me and I had a look at what they were doing and rejigged the campaign. Relatively simple, actually. Most of it was switching the emails from being kind of like an advertising graphical flyer and changing it into a plain text, personal outreach type email with some really nice engaging copy. What went from virtually zero response was to a 5% reply rate on the campaign so they were extremely happy with that, needless to say.

It's playing to the strength of email as being a communication mechanism between people rather than just having something which looks like a graphical flyer and people go, “What's this?” and ignore it.

Doug: It's interesting you mention that because there's always that conflict. I was working on a campaign for a client and he said, “Where're all the images, and where's all the branding?” We had taken exactly the same approach. We said, “We're communicating with your audience and they didn't sign up to receive a flyer. They signed up to receive information,” and we put it in a more personal style and got a higher open rate as well.

Tim Watson: Yeah, that's exactly it. I mean, if you've got products, you're going to need some images very likely. If you're a fashion brand, you're definitely going to use images a lot of the time. It depends what you're doing and why people are there, how they joined your list, what their background is, what your relationship with them at that point in time is. The early part of a relationship or even on a more kind of one-to-one communication can really cut through where the advertising style of a brochure, where email just doesn't reach.

This one, the client was a little bit surprised when they saw what I was recommending. They came thinking I was going to produce some fantastic creative campaigns, as in pictures and beautiful and artwork. I just went straight down the road of engaging copy that brings people through with a set of drawings, too, in the copy, one line at a time with a bit of tease along the way. They went with it, thankfully, rather than saying, “Oh, no, that's not what we wanted. We wanted a pretty picture.” They went with it and trusted me.

Doug: That's funny.

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Tim Watson: You sometimes get pushback from people if it's not what they expected. They go, “No, can we have some images in there?”

Doug: I guess that's why we test stuff, right? Most good marketers know to test and so you test both ways and then at the end of the day, you look at the conversions and you let the conversions guide your next move.

Tim Watson: Sure, yeah. If you can test, that's great. That sort of brings us to a different topic around testing which talks about major successes. Another recent one was actually testing an image that was a graphical email. There were good reasons why it was graphical. We tested it here and one of them produced a 6% uplift compared to there one, the image which was pretty nice but the thing that I see with testing where many people go wrong is they test with small sample sizes. They'll send out 500 emails of one and 500 of another and then see that one's got an X percent click rate or open rate difference and they'll assume that that's then the winner and continue but on a 500 sample size, it's very hard to get any statistical significance so your results are just random and you then go for the next few years believing in something that wasn't true.

Doug: That's funny. I believe in ongoing testing so kind of my theory is we have a baseline that uses but we use but we're always testing to see if we can … 6% is a big bump. If you've got a sizeable email list, that's a huge increase on ROI. I'm sure if you were to go down to HSBC and open up a Pound Sterling account and they said they'd give you an extra 6%, people would line up around the city.

Tim Watson: Oh. Oh, yeah. When you can do the tests and when you've got the data to do it, it takes managing. Yes, there's definitely value to be had from that but you've got to be prepared to have the failures, as well. Sadly everybody talks about the successes in the test world and you see all these lovely cases that he's published but I'm going to have to level up and be honest here. I've had some failures, as well. In fact, I kind of reckons rule of thumb, for one really good success you're going to have to do nine tests that really were not that exciting where you had a great hypothesis. You thought this is really going to do something. You were too convinced as to what was going on.

You change it and then it's kind of a bit of a damp squib and you go, “Oh, that was disappointing,” but that's why we test because we believe in something and then we're shocked when we find out we were long. We learn and go forward but you have to do more The main ingredient with testing is to do a quantity of it. One A, B subject line split test per month's never going to get you anywhere.

Doug: Yeah, fair enough. In terms of testing, you're saying sample size so maybe just talk about sample size. Is there any rule of thumb that you would use with a client or that you'd recommend people to get enough data to make a decision?

Tim Watson: Yeah. It depends what you're going to measure as your parameter. You mentioned conversions. Obviously, it's great when you can measure conversion and true sales and decide your winner based on the total funnel journey, a click through to email to the conversion on a page and measure that. That is actually really hard to do because you need huge sample sizes for that. To give you an idea for a test involving looking at open rate, you're probably going to need somewhere between 3 to 8,000 people in each test cell to get a really nice result on a change in open rate. Click rate, a little bit more, 10,000 people to test. If you want to look at conversion rates right through the funnel, looking at e-commerce conversion, I've used test cells as big as 100,000. I've been lucky to work with a lot of very large databases where you've got that kind of data that you can use. It depends on what you're measuring as to how big the sample size needs to be and in most cases, you're probably going to go on click rate as a reasonable compromise and look at that.

Rule of thumb, there is kind of a simple rule of thumb I look at and it's certainly on open rates and click rates. If you see a difference of about 50 in your results, then you may well have statistical significance. For example, if I see one email got 630 clicks and the other got 680 clicks, that's a difference of 50 and as it works out in a stat, that probably is going to have statistical significance. If you look at results, when I'm looking at case studies and what people are publishing, I have a quick look to see is there a difference of 50. If there isn't, I might resort to an online calculator and get a really accurate measure and if there's a difference of much more than 50, I go, “Oh yeah, their results are solid. They've obviously checked them out.”

Doug: Where do you think the low hanging fruit is here? For our audience that's listening and they say, “Okay, I've got a database and I'm managing it in whatever ESP, I'm sending a weekly newsletter,” hopefully they're sending it at least weekly, “With some information,” where do you think the first place is that they should look if they're going to look at improving the results in testing?

Tim Watson: You can test lots of things. The important things and things that make a difference are the offer. That's going to make a big difference. Subject line's great. Test them and calls to action and so test those formats. The offer probably has the bigger difference. Should you offer a 20% off? Should you offer $50? Should you offer some other benefit of some sort. Offers can have quite a big impact so test those.

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Doug: That's an interesting approach. I'll take that into consideration next time because I've always started with the subject line, figuring I need to get them open first but maybe a different approach is use the same subject line and determine right up front what your biggest response for your offer's going to be so at least you get some cash in the door while you're testing other elements.

Tim Watson: You kind of asked what else to test, frequency. You mentioned at least once a week. Obviously highly brand specific and what it is you're talking to people about and why but the frequency, of course, has a huge impact on results. Should you be sending once a week or three times a week or kind of once a month? Probably not in most cases but doing any sort of testing around frequency is one of the biggest quick wins.

Doug: What do you find in terms of … You brought up frequency so I've got my ideas on frequency and my kind of thinking and belief is if you're mailing once a month, that people will often forget about you. They forget that they subscribed and they don't understand the rules that you and I have to live by. If they forgot they unsubscribed and they just don't want our email anymore, instead of unsubscribing, they might mark it as spam. Someone needs to educate our openers to not do that. It's bad for us but what would you recommend for frequency or is there any rule of thumb? What do you find is working best today with your clients?

Tim Watson: Yeah. It's so hugely context specific, isn't it? If you take, again, fashion something like that, then you're going to be finding three times a week is a really good number. I have a client who put out an email every day and actually part of the … It's not a deals company. It's something else but part of the promise when people sign up is you're going to get an email every day so no big surprise. Frequency is one a day …

Doug: It's daily, yeah.

 

Tim Watson: … because that's what you agreed and that's what you signed up for. You set that expectation. If you were doing something insurance or perhaps a B-to-B service company, then you might struggle to do more than one a week. You may have to be looking at two a month. Agree totally you want to make sure you don't get forgotten. It's how good can you be at putting something in your emails often enough that it makes people appreciate them and stay there. If you can make your emails so interesting that people can't get enough of them, then that's great because you can send a lot more. It's that balance between making them interesting and useful and helpful, valuable in some way that allows you to, gives you permission to keep coming to the inbox as often as possible.

Doug: I love that. I think that's a really great point and I'm really happy to hear you talk about the different industries because lots of times you'll talk to people and they have a definitive answer. Oh, you should only send once a week or every other week and so to your point, your fashion guys are saying, “Hey, three times a week works because there's lots of information,” or if you have a daily newsletter, people are going to expect to get it daily so daily is not too much. If they start sending it twice a day, that might be a problem but, yeah. Whatever your commitment is. If people have signed up and you've told them in advance this is what you can expect from me. My commitment is …

When I started my podcast, for example, I said, “I'm going to publish twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays,” and 99% of the time I hit that goal but that's their expectation so it'd be kind of crazy if they said, “Hey, you're publishing too much.” It's like, “I said I was going to publish twice a week so, fair enough. If I'm going to publish three times a week,” again, the industry dependent and I love your point of what can you send people that they just can't wait to get your email, which means adding value to their life and not necessarily sending them more ads?

Tim Watson: Yeah. If people know that there's something going to come along sometime soon that they're going to appreciate having received, then they're quite happy to ignore a few emails in between that weren't the ones that they were interested in because it just wasn't their thing at the moment. Your podcast emails, there's lots of great content going out on these podcasts, possibly some topics are less interesting to some people than others and they'll probably happily go, “Oh yeah, you know, that podcast, that's probably not me so much. I'll let that one go past my eyes but I know that in a couple of days' time there's going to be another one that could be the thing that I'm looking for.” There's a balancing there as well. You're happy to ignore a little bit of email if you get some good stuff every now and then.

Doug: Fair enough. That's a great point. I want to switch gears just a little bit because I did do a little bit of digging on your background and kind of some of the services and stuff that you offer and how you help your clients and one thing we haven't talked about so far in the podcast, we've done a lot of discussion around email and deliverability and all those other issues but you help people look for and determine what email service provider to use. Do you want to share just a little bit about how that works and why somebody would use that as a service?

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Tim Watson: Oh yeah, of course. I'll be straight. It's something that I don't do as often as a strategy because people don't change their service provider too often. In fact, you don't really want to be changing more than every, preferably not more than every two years and I'd say no more than every five years because it's such a painful process. When I do go through this process, as I do from time to time with people, they're looking for someone who's got a wider experience. Very often people who've worked in a company, they've worked with one provider and they say the grass is greener elsewhere but they don't really know because they've never worked with a different provider so that's one angle and another one is 3, 400 different email platforms around the big names everybody knows but if you look at it, there's lots of platforms and trying to find the right match is quite a painful process. People looking for some guidance as to the things that they can use to focus on quickly.

Doug: How would you recommend somebody start? The reason I'm asking is I'm probably not unlike yourself. I'm on a lot of different online forums and I'm not going to name a bunch of different brands but I'll often see discussion and people weighing in and lobbying for the brand that they're using and I wonder sometimes if sometimes you just need to start. Pick something. It might be the wrong thing but get started. Don't spend six months or a year analyzing what is the best ESP but get something and start collecting some data. If somebody's looking for maybe they're using a smaller free version or they're using a small solution, they need to move up to a midsize or bigger solution, how would you recommend they start that process?

Tim Watson: Yeah, okay. The particular scenario here you're saying is someone who's just going to get started with email-

Doug: They're either going to get started or they're going to move up. They've maybe started with something simple so maybe they've started with something like Mail Chimp and now they want to get into more of a CRM solution. What would you suggest would be the kind of next steps for them to walk down that road?

Tim Watson: Sure. As you say, if you're kind of not heavily invested at the moment and you haven't got a complex setup, then probably the best way is to jump in and get started and cut your teeth and learn a few lessons. You're probably not going to go far wrong if you pick a well-known platform, as you say, a Mail Chimp or something like that. If you're looking to go a bit further, make the next step, then the right process to follow is really, really, really clear to yourself about why. Exactly what is it you want to get out of that? What is the strategy that you're trying to deliver that your platform doesn't let you do?

I think that's, a lot of people kind of they've been using a platform for a while and they go, “Oh, you know, I think there must be something better. I've been using this for the last couple years and somehow it doesn't feel right for me. I'll have a look to see what hot things are out there,” and then they'll go and sort of allow themselves to be wowed by the vendors who are say amazing things and promise amazing things and very often they do amazing things but they'll talk about, “Of course you'll be able to segment this and integrate that and when you stand up on one leg and it's raining and so on, then this magic will happen here,” and it's very easy to get very excited with all these shiny features and think this is the platform, this has got the shiniest bits without first working out are those the things that are holding your business back. How will you actually use these things in practice?

It's almost a tendency to buy technology and then work out a strategy to fit the technology rather than the other way around. If you feel your platform's limiting you, first, try and, by all means, have a look what's in the market to get a sense of what's out there but be so clear with yourself about what it is you want to do, not in general terms. Try and make it really specific, especially if it's automation related because those scenarios are quite complex and you can find the key thing you needed not available. You need to work out point by point the steps that your automation is going to do, all the data that it needs to have available to it to make it work and then, once you've kind of got really clear idea, then look for a platform that's going to perform that for you.

Doug: I was hoping you were going to go there. That's kind of my guidance is come up with a requirements document. What are all the things that you need to have and then put the nice-to-have things later because I know that I fall into this trap all the time. I love technology and I love new stuff and often I find myself with a new program dreaming about new things I could do when I've forgotten about the basic business stuff, which is kind of make the cash register ring. We're looking at all these, oh, wow, I can do this and, oh, wow, it can do that. Then the other thing I guess is to look at what you've already got, so what tools are you using? Are they going to play nice together?

Tim Watson: Yeah, definitely. You're probably not going to be changing your whole world so what is it that you've got that you've got to make it work with and will it work? There's an interesting difference between talking to someone and a vendor will say, “Yes, yes. We can do that.”

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There's a subtle difference between, “Yes, yes. We can do that and actually, it's about three days of effort plus some customer service,” or, “Yes, we can do that. You'll just need to go over here, click these things and you'll be done in a quarter of an hour,” and the difference is one of scenario A never happens because there's never enough effort to do it at a time. Scenario B does happen so. The ease of being able to do the things that you want to do is actually pretty pivotal and I've worked in enough environments where in theory, you'll be able to try a new initiative on the email program but in practice, because of the amount of resource that going to be required to get it done, it never gets the top of the priority list.

Doug: Sorry about that. Yeah. Yeah, that totally makes sense. It's just interesting. I've never had a guest on or spoken to someone who actually walks people through the process and, like you said, there's a lot of good choices out there and necessarily it doesn't have to be the biggest, the best, the most expensive. It just needs to meet the needs of your business, like you said. What's preventing you from growing your business and taking that next step? Do you want to share with us a little bit about what are you most excited about today as it relates to our industry?

Tim Watson: I think the fact that despite the very people that keep saying email's not going to survive, it keeps going and going and going and I just quietly smile when people look at me and say, “Email is dying,” and I'm going like, “I'm not seeing it.” There's plenty of new mar-tech? entrance into the area. There are people investing in it from the vendor side, the email programs that I work with. There doesn't seem to be any slow-down in those. The thing that really excites me is the fact that, whilst I was knocking technology a little bit, there is a lot of tech that's there which is making things possible now which five years ago were really hard to do. It's bringing down the cost point with a lot more of the predictive technologies. Heaven's sake, shall I say the AI word? The artificial intelligence side of things.

Interesting enough, everybody used to be in predictive analytics about two years ago but all of those people now claim they're in artificial intelligence.

Doug: The other half of the world claims to be in blockchain or Bitcoin.

Tim Watson: Blockchain, Bitcoin, yeah. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Blockchain, yeah, what can we use that for? What about artificial intelligence, too? No, seriously, there is some good stuff going on despite all the hype and there's hype and froth around all of these things but being able to do relevant communication, automate things at scale in terms of content and deliver better experiences, that's great and that's keeping us moving. That's definitely an exciting area.

Doug: I tend to agree. Like you said, the marketplace is changing. Technology's getting better. I guess the one thing that's kind of interesting is that you're right, I hear the naysayers as well. I'm just about to release a book on email marketing and it's called “Three Big Lies” and one of the lies is that email is dead. It doesn't work and it's illegal. I thought, “Why don't I just start with the three things that people complain about the most?” Why don't we get those out of the way and then we can work and talk about the reality and you didn't have to look very far online, and still even today in the news, to see what's happening with our social media friends at Facebook and the outrage and I'm going, “Hey, what would you rather have? Would you rather have a business page on Facebook or would you rather have an email list of, say, 10,000 so 10,000 likes of your business page or 10,000 people in your database?” For me, it's a no-brainer. I would rather have a database.

Tim Watson: Yeah, I think that …

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Tim Watson: … certainly, Facebook has done email a lot of favors from the early days of, come on in and build your audience on our platform and the bait and the switch to now pay to reach them, which is like, “Hey, Facebook. That's great. You've really done the email marketing industry a big favor there because everybody's realized that they've built their property on someone else's borrowed turf and actually building your own property's a little bit better.”

Doug: Yeah, I agree. I think these days and moving forward, I want to own the platform where my clients are. My clients are going to communicate with me through direct mail or through email or online. I want to make sure that I can access those and not have someone else say, “You know, I know this is how we started out but we're changing our use terms now because I really don't like your ads anymore so we can't advertise to them.”

Tim Watson: Yeah. Yeah. The reason why email's so great is that it's an open standard. It's not owned by anybody. [inaudible 00:28:19] everything else is somehow owned by someone.

Doug: Just one quick note just as a point of interest for you, people talk about open rates and deliverability and all those wonderful things that are things that we deal with every day in email. I recently just took on a new project, a new client and they had some data they hadn't sent to for a long time so we sent it out and we cleaned the data so it was clean but it was their original database. They just hadn't communicated with these guys for over a year. We had a 48% open rate on the email.

Tim Watson: Yeah, wow.

Doug: That's still, in my book, pretty darn acceptable to see that half your audience saw it. I know that typically when I post on social media, half my audience does not see my Tweet, my Instagram post or my LinkedIn post.

Tim Watson: Yeah, definitely not. No. Also, it's there today, gone tomorrow or gone in about half an hour. I was just looking through some reporting for a client that I catch up with on a monthly basis and I caught up with him earlier in the week and I said, “Oh, by the way, kind of curious but this is what we've got on some of the abandoned wing backs and so on, the signup process, but whilst I was going through that there was abandoned way back that came from May 2017,,” a message from May 2017.

Doug: That's funny.

Tim Watson: They must have gone back through now and gone through and executed and completed conversion I don't think you'd get that on a social post. They'd obviously kept it in their inbox or kept it in their email. Gmail's fantastic, isn't it? You can keep everything you've ever had. You can search. They must have kept something somewhere. They probably hit a search. They went, “Oh yeah, I need those guys now,” searched, found it, clicked through and bam. That's sort of the persistence of those email messages. They don't disappear half an hour later.

Doug: I think you brought up a valid point. I look at my own email and obviously, I have a number of different email addresses for things I'm doing. I often file stuff for future reference. I'm thinking I don't need to bookmark the page. I can just file that and then I know that with Gmail's advanced search tool, I can go search for that topic so I could go into my email right now and search for email deliverability and have a whole slew of stuff come up from people like you that I follow in the DMA and the EEC that would be all around that topic so it's my own mini search engine where I've accumulated relevant stuff from people I like and trust.

Tim Watson: Sure and it's your own curated force. As you say, it's people you know, like and trust. It's not like going to the search engine where you've then got to filter through all of the stuff which is maybe not from the source that you're willing to believe. Sadly there's a lot of misinformation on the web as well, things like don't put free in the subject line. It's a spam trigger word, which is just such a myth it's untrue but it still goes round and round and round. There'll be a blog post sometime in the next month with that. It's a curated source of information in your inbox that's more powerful … You're going to trust it so much more and be willing to go to it.

Doug: Yeah. They're like, I consider it my friends. These are people I like and follow so I can read it and I can file it and I know that it'll safely be there six months from now and I'm saying, “Hey, I'm looking for that information on that new AI app that's going into email and I can dig it up and off we go.”

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Tim Watson: Yeah, yeah. The conversions come through, as I say. It was quite funny. I was going through the data and what happened there? That's May 2017 and it's come through and converted. Okay.

Doug: That's free. That was a good one. Who's one guest that you think I should have on my podcast?

Tim Watson: Wow, there's so many good people around. Actually, I don't know if you already have them. If you had Chad White on, he's a great guy.

Doug: I have not. I should reach out to Chad. I did read his book. I did give him a nice five-star endorsement on Amazon so I should phone him up and say, “Hey, you should get on the podcast and share about all the smart stuff you're doing. You guys, yourself and over at Litmus.”

Tim Watson: Yeah. He's a research director over at Litmus now he's kind of a quiet strength because there's a lot of people who are quite noisy and visible in the industry but Chad just quietly gets on with stuff and reliably comes up with interesting things but he doesn't make a great deal of noise about the process. Yeah.

Doug: I think his book is probably the most thorough book I've read on email marketing to date.

Tim Watson: Right.

Doug: It covered the whole gamut. What's the best place to find you, Tim, so if people want to hunt you down and find out and say, “Hey, I want to connect with this guy and learn more about him or what he's doing or I need some help,” where can people track you down online?

Tim Watson: Sure. It's a hop over to Zettasphere.com. They'll certainly find me there and there's a link on there for my LinkedIn page and people can slip one on LinkedIn. If searched Tim Watson on LinkedIn, Watson marketing, you'll probably find me. If you search Tim Watson email marketing on Google, that will find me or, yes, or go to Zettasphere.com, Z-E-T-T-A-S-P-H-E-R-E dot com.

Doug: Excellent. I really appreciate taking time out of your day today and sharing with us. It's always a pleasure to talk to people, especially people who agree with me that email is good. Makes my day more exciting.

Tim Watson: Yeah. You're welcome. A pleasure to have had the opportunity, Doug.

Doug: Thanks so much, listeners. We're going to wrap up. that's another episode of “Real Marketing Real Fast”. I had with me today Tim Watson joining me. As usual, we'll make sure that all of this conversation is transcribed for those of you who like to read it and for those of you who don't, we'll just use it to take advantage of the search engines. We'll make sure that Tim's information is there, all the links to his website, his blog and his LinkedIn profile so tune back in. Make sure you are subscribed to our email list and make sure that you are subscribed to listen to us iTunes so thanks so much and we'll catch up to you on the next episode.

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FACEBOOK NEWS FEED HAS DONE EMAIL MARKETING A BIG FAVOR
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FACEBOOK NEWS FEED
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Links to other podcast and or blog posts:

Real Marketing Real Fast Podcast – host Doug Morneau – Episode #42

FACEBOOK NEWS FEED HAS DONE EMAIL MARKETING A BIG FAVOR

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