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[Resolved, Take 2] Outage at our hosting service Mon Sep 26 9:00 am eastern

Monday, September 26, 2011

3:30 pm. Our servers are back online. Apologies again for the inconvenience.

1:50pm update. Our hosting service is again down.

11:44:00am Update: Our hosting service has finally recovered and we're back online. Apologies again to those affacted.

We're looking at a problem with our hosting service. Apologies for the inconvenience this may cause; more news as soon as we have it.



Tying it All Together - Beefing up FeedBlitz Autoresponders, Part 3

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In the first part of this three post autoresponder series I announced the following new features for FeedBlitz's autoresponders:
  1. Custom landing pages for autoresponder subscribers;
  2. Custom confirmation emails;
  3. Event rules and triggers;
  4. New "On completion" event trigger.
In the second post, I talked about our AWeber-compatible email parser capability, enabling simple third party shopping cart and form integration.

This last post shows you how to tie them all together. Here's the scenario:
  • You want to thank your store's purchasers with a coupon and then a three part "how to" series;
  • At the end of the series you want to add them to your full mailing list (so they don't get too much mail while they're in the autoresponder)
  • You want to do this with minimal unsubscribe or spam complaints.
Here's how.
  1. Create your autoresponder and define the sequence of articles;
  2. Create a custom landing page on your site where you deliver the coupon on your site, and tell the autoresponder about it;
  3. Set up an trigger event on the autoresponder to subscribe people to your main mailing list on completion.
  4. Use the custom confirmation (the dual opt-in activation) email to tell people that there's a coupon waiting for them and all they have to do to get is to click the confirmation link.
  5. Set up the parser for the autoresponder to watch for notification emails from your shopping cart, which kicks the whole process off.
What happens is this.
  1. The visitor makes a purchase from your store - hooray!
  2. The parser picks up the notification from your shopping cart, and sends the opt-in confirmation email to the subscriber.
  3. This opt-in email is the one you customized, telling the user about the goodies they are going to get if they click the activation link.
  4. The user confirms, and two things happen:
    • The first email in the autoresponder sequence is sent.
    • They are sent to your custom landing page to pick up the offer.
  5. They get remaining articles in your series over the next few days.
  6. When the last one goes out, the "completion" event occurs, subscribing the user to your regular mailing list, where you can build upon the trust you've already created between you and the buyer.
Not much work to set up, but what you get at the end is a powerful, fully automated email marketing solution that builds trust with - and who knows, maybe some extra revenue from - your new purchaser.

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Shopping cart and popup integration - Beefing Up Autoresponders, Part 2

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autoresponders are often used to thank people for subscribing to your mailing list, or to launch multi-step drip marketing series, or as standalone email courses sent to subscribers. These are easy to set up because all these features are inside the FeedBlitz service.

But some of the best uses for autoresponders is to add a new subscriber when they've done something outside your email service's ecosystem, such as when they buy from your online store or when you use a third party popup or widget to solicit new subscriptions.

FeedBlitz has now been extended to easily support third party shopping carts and other third party lead generation products for your site. 

Introducing Email Parsers

Available at Newsletters - Settings - Email Parser and Responders - Email Parser, the approach we've adopted will be familiar to anyone who has used AWeber. Better yet, the approach will work with any third party shopping cart, widget or plugin that supoprts AWeber too, so integration is a snap. Unlike them, however, you are spared having to learn about regular expressions to make it work. Phew!

Here's a sample FeedBlitz email parser screen:

FeedBlitz generates a large, random email address (hidden in the screenshot above) for you to put into the AWeber integration's "list email address" field in your shopping cart's email service settings. Since the email is a feedblitz.com address, it will come to us.

When the email arrives, it is processed by the parser assigned to that address. You can tell it how to detect whether the inbound email is (a) genuine and (b) the kind of email you want to process (so you can differentiate between, say, a sales notification and a shipping update). If you don't know what these values are, you can use the email forwarding function (set to "Always") to get all the messages the parser receives sent on to you; you can then see what it's getting and edit it appropriately.

Then you tell the parser how the data you want to grab appears in the body of the mail itself. One per line, or PayPal style, or comma separated etc.  The parser splits up the inbound email, and then looks at the matches you specify to figure out information such as the buyer's email address and their name.

When a parser's trigger matches the settings, it will create a pending subscription, populate the relevant custom fields with the data it finds, and invite the subscriber to join the list (yes, we enforce double opt-in, because it gets us better deliverability - it's a good thing).

You can set the email forwarding value to forward you the mail the parser receives. So, for example, for new email parser addresses you want to use with PayPal, set the forwarding to be "Always", tell PayPal to use that email address, and when PayPal's confirmation email is sent to the parser it will be forwarded on to you. You can confirm using the link in the email, and then go back to the parser and change the forwarding setting (if you like) to keep the noise down.

Finally, once defined, a parser can be used by any of your lists or autoresponders. The email address the parser listens to is what changes on a list-by-list basis. You cannot change the email address from the long random value which FeedBlitz assigns, and this is by design. It makes the inbound email address fundamentally unguessable and therefore highly resistant to spambots. Spammers are bad. We don't want to help them add junk to your list, which a short changeable inbound email address risks.

So, we've introduced easy to use, well behaved, AWeber compatible (at least as far as the shopinig cart or popup is concerned), easy to use parsers. Another form of API you can use at FeedBlitz, and one that anyone who's set up a shopping cart plugin, PayPal button or Cafepress store can manage. Now you can thank your buyers with drip emails, thank you autoresponders or coupons off their next purchase.

Tomorrow: How to tie parsers and the autoresponder features I mentioned yesterday together for a sweet, effective retail autoresponder solution.

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Beefing up FeedBlitz Autoresponders - Part 1

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Autoresponders - a predefined sequence of emails that go out to subscribers - have long been a part of FeedBlitz's offerings. Most folks using FeedBlitz, however, don't make the most of them. While that's OK, it means that many of you are missing out on one of the keys to making your blog a financial success.

Autoresponders are used by the most successful organizations and online marketers - especially those wanting to boost their affiliate earnings - to automatically market and sell to their audience on an unattended basis. Done right, autoresponders can become your blog's personal ATM. I covered autoresponders in this post in my List Building for Bloggers series, and I'll be talking about them a lot more in the coming weeks.

Today, though, I'm going to tell you what we've been working on here at FeedBlitz to make our autoresponder program more appealing for bloggers who want to focus on more aggressive monetization and making their blogs financial successes. There is much to talk about, which is why I'm splitting things into multiple posts. Here's part 1.

Extending RSS to Email Newsletter Features to Autoresponders

In the responder tab (v3) or the autoresponder's settings page (v4), we have enabled the following features that were previously available only to automated newsletter production (blog to mail):

1. Custom landing page redirect for directly subscribing readers

Many monetization approaches have web site visitors subscribe directly to an autoresponder instead of to your general mailings list. If you want to build your list this way, you can now tell FeedBlitz where to send new subscribers once they activate instead of using our default thank you page. You can use the page you specify like you can its equivalent for newsletters: Recycling popular content, delivering incentives or rewards, etc.

2. Custom confirmation email text

You can now customize the "click here to confirm your subscription" email for autoresponders, again when the subscriber subscribes directly instead of triggering the autoresponder via a subscription to a regaulr newsletter.

3. Event rules and triggers

List automation was previously available for newsletters only. List automation events are triggered when a subscriber subscribes, unsubscribes or (this is new and only for autoresponders) when the autoresponder sequence completes.  This last feature allows you to grow your list by having visitors subscribe to your autoresponder offer or campaign, and then add them to your regular mailings when the autoresponder wraps up. Doing this ensures that only one list at a time is mailing a new subscriber (first the autoresponder, and then your normal list), reducing the risk of excessive unsubscribe rates that you might run by having both lists (newsletter and autoresponder) mailing the user concurrently.

Further, we've modified event trigger functionality for all lists, such that if any trigger on any list adds a user to an autoresponder, that autoresponder will fire off the first message in the list. It didn't work that way before, which was an oversight. Oops!

Automatic for the People

(OK, yes, this is a reference to REM's breakup annoncement yesterday. I'm a fan.)

What this means to you is that FeedBlitz's autoresponders are now as rich in terms of core functioanlity as their RSS to email newsletter bretheren. 

Better yet, as they like to say on late night cable TV ads, "But wait, there's more!"

And indeed there is. But that's for the next post.

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Pouring Social Media Gas onto Your Email List's Fire

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One of the challenges of email is privacy and junk: People are leery of sharing their own email addresses. It's why dual opt-in is essential for maintaining your deliverability and list quality.

But this also means, as I've said before, that when someone activates a subscription to your list, they are pumped. Committed. After all, it's taken work to get themselves there.

And that little burst of excitement can now be used to help accelerate your list's growth here at FeedBlitz.

Once someone activates their subscription from the dual opt-in email, our default landing page invites them to optionally share their excitement on Facebook, Twitter and / or LinkedIn.  They keep their email address private, but they share the news that they just joined your list on their favorite social media networks. As part of the notification the subscriber can create, FeedBlitz adds a link to your online subscription form. All your new subscriber's followers and friends have to do is click the link to start the subscription process to your list.

Here's what the new section of the activation landing page looks like (it's just a picture; it won't work here):

Trusted social relationships help turn that new subscriber excitement into a networked referral. That's more interest for you and, ultimately, more email subscribers more quickly.

There are also similar sharing options now available for select list owner activities too!  See if you can find them...

Update 2011-12-30 - Now with Extra Google+

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Service availability problems morning of Sept 9th

Friday, September 09, 2011

Update 10:41 am - we're back.

Earlier this morning apparently some networking equipment has been misconfigured at our hosting service taking core servers offline. They're working on it but for now service availbility is very limited and you may see errors. I apologize for the inconvenience this may cause.



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