Wizemail provides email marketing software solutions and e-shot HTML templates to a wide variety of clients - SMEs, Corporate and Digital Advertising Agencies alike – all with one common requirement, a dynamic, professional, digital marketing team on hand when required.

At least weekly, one of the Wizemail team will post a tip, trick or general email marketing advice here.

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  • Processing your email marketing lists & GDPR May 21, 2018 at 9:57 AM

    You may have missed the £120,000 fine awarded against the Kensington and Chelsea council for improper disclosure of the personal details of nearly 1000 residents. The illegal act wasn’t deliberate but as a result of ignorance of an individual. If you’ve got email marketing lists then beware.

    For instance, the regulations around portable data are not the easiest to understand if you are not a data controller. There are a number of conditions attached to what you can and cannot supply following an individual’s request for portable data.

    You should provide the personal data in a format that is structured, commonly used and machine-readable. These three standards are explained in the ICO website but unless you have a certain technical knowledge, not required in someone whose role is looking after your email marketing list, you might pass the function onto someone who is a bit of an IT whizz, at least compared to you.

    One would assume that this person, or group, will be trained as to the care of personal data only to a fairly basic level as they process it irregularly. That’s no problem you might think. However, Kensington and Chelsea council might have another opinion.

    The council had received Freedom of Information requests from three newspapers and supplied the information in the form of a ‘pivot table’, a form of Excel worksheet where information can be hidden. However, the recipients could reveal the information at a click of a mouse button.

    The not inconsiderable fine could have been much higher as it was a serious breach of the data protection laws. However, some useful points here: the actions were not deliberate, the council reported the matter to the ICO without delay and put into place systems to ensure there would be no repetition.

    Remedial actions which include methods to reduce the likely penalty makes good sense, but it would be better to ensure there is adequate training for every person involved in processing personal data. You could train a lot of staff for a fraction of the £120,000. Note too that the fine was under the old regulations and not the GDPR with is higher penalties.

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  • GDPR & permissions for email marketing lists May 21, 2018 at 9:50 AM

    At least, not quite too late. If you haven’t obtained new permissions in order to conform to the GPDR then there’s no time to waste. Don’t panic, but do start now.

    You need to contact all those on your email marketing lists. You could segment them, using the best method of contact as the criterion.

    ‘Best’ needs some explanation. As time is of the essence, the major consideration is how quickly you can contact them. Include a request on all invoices and when they pay online, make sure there’s a box on the landing page.

    Have you got an email marketing campaign about to go live? If so, then this is a great vehicle. Include a request for the recipients to update their permissions. This should be ancillary to the offer and not dominate it. However, that does not necessarily mean leaving it below the fold.

    Be positive. Use words like ‘continue’ and ‘confirm’ rather than ‘sign up’ as most people are reluctant to change. Mention that they have enjoyed the benefits of your email marketing offers for years, or whatever, and they would not want to miss them.

    Many of you will be familiar with such requests from companies that have been a bit quicker off the block.

    Don’t blame anyone. Suggesting that ‘all this is the fault of the government’ is hardly likely to encourage them to sign up. Emphasise the positive, with phrases such as ‘increased security’ and ‘more rights’ there to show that the GDPR is good for everyone.

    Don’t break the current legislation. In other words, sending an unsolicited email to all those on your lists with a request to confirm can get you into trouble with the ICO.

    Don’t cheat either. Producing a campaign where the offer is abysmal just to give an excuse to send an email is likely to put them off. How much better if they find something that is a bargain and then discovers that, unless they tick the box, all this might be gone.

    You’ve left it late if you are only now chasing subscribers. There is no time to waste.

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  • No time to lose; GDPR and email marketing Apr 30, 2018

    I’ve had some strange emails over the last week or so. Some are ostensibly email marketing, others are newsletters, and most of these have been generated by the need to check my permissions. This is cutting it fine.

    There is a variation of forms of enquiries. One, from a company which I subscribe to their email marketing list, had their normal banner and then a paragraph on the GDPR. It wasn’t a bad summary, covering the basic requirements on permissions in a few sentences.

    There were boxes underneath with a brief description of what one would be signing up for. This was followed by another paragraph of text, extolling the privacy virtues of the company. Finally, right at the bottom, below the fold, was an offer of a reduction on one of their products. I had no use for it so the email was not well targeted.

    It was not the best way to encourage me to sign up. How much better to have been a real bargain.

    The email is unlikely to arouse angst in the corridors of the ICO, but there’s little doubt that it does not conform to the regulations. It made the self-praise regarding concern for privacy open to argument.

    It was not the worst abuse. I had an email asking virtually the same questions but without even the offer at the bottom. This is a step too far as I had not given permission for off the cuff emails. A company has recently been fined for such a breach of privacy by the ICO.

    A newsletter, for which I was on a subscriber’s list, came via email last month which was dedicated entirely to the GDPR apart from the boxes to tick to continue receiving it. It was the only bit of legislation ever to totally dominate their newsletter or even be a major part, so there’s some doubt that it conformed to the provision I signed up for about two years ago.

    One would expect companies which are so far behind their competitors to push the boundaries a bit in order to catch up, but care must be taken. If you have dragged your feet and are only just realising that time is not so much tight as gone, you will be wondering what you can do.

    You need to work out what is the main interface between you and specific customers. If it is the website, then they are home and dry. If it is via emailed invoices then there’s nothing wrong with asking customers to check their permission or just tick a box to continue as a subscriber to an email marketing list.

    Newsletters are a convenient route although what subscribers had signed up for must be taken into account. In the event that the permission was explicit, there’s nothing wrong in including a request, even above the fold, as long as it does not overpower the text.

    Similarly, it is permissible to include a request to check permissions in a marketing email. Ask again on the landing page and in the acknowledgement of the order.

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  • The go-live date of the GDPR Apr 30, 2018

    Are we there yet?

    Given the considerable amount of information being published each day on the GDPR, anyone with an email marketing list or data on employees might well think that the legislation is live now. Yet we still have weeks to go.

    Or do we?

    There’s a website I use for research that has a page dedicated to the GDPR and its impact on medium to small firms. It is not specific to email marketing but much of what it contains is relevant. On the top of the landing page, just below the banner, is a countdown clock. It currently shows in excess of 50 days before the GDPR is live.

    I don’t think this is helpful. It gives the impression that we have over seven weeks of pre-GDPR freedom. This is far from the truth. To all intents and purposes, the GDPR is now. 25 May is only an indication of the day that penalties start to be of consideration.

    If you receive personal data from another company you will, no doubt, have received an email or letter saying something similar to one I received:

    ‘We are unsure if you have completed the process of becoming GDPR compliant. Under the law, we are unable to work with processors who are not GDPR compliant. Can you confirm that you are compliant or, if not when you expect to be? Until we have confirmation we will be unable to work with you.’

    To many companies, especially those which are compliant, the GDPR is live now. You can understand their reluctance to put their own interests at risk just because a company is not that bothered.

    One way of looking at the current situation is that it is a massive opportunity for a well-run company to put one over the unprofessional ones.

    You can still find offices with poorly maintained servers where the essential patches have not been applied. Their anti-virus is cheap, even free, and they have no firewalls. Personal data is printed off without record and stored on desks for all to see. Staff would know little or nothing about cybersecurity.

    This is not unique to email marketing of course, and is not restricted to medium-sized companies; if anything, just the opposite. I am told that many legal firms operate at this level.

    Whilst the ICO is unlikely to target the smaller companies in the first instance, although don’t quote me on that should the worst happen to you, there is the possibility, likelihood in fact, of civil actions.

    When you receive the email asking if you are compliant then you should be able to state that all your systems comply with the GDPR. Give contact details for your DPO or someone who has responsibility for receiving queries on the Regulations. State that all your staff have been subject to a course on their responsibilities. Be forceful in your preparedness and you will probably stand out from others companies.

    We are there now. In fact, we’ve been there for some time. 25 May is a date of no significance.

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  • Manage your post-GDPR email marketing lists Apr 13, 2018

    I’ve received a number of emails recently where I’ve been asked to check my permission levels with regards to receiving emails. I’ve had five in three days. Notably, they had, in the main, been from companies whose email marketing lists I’ve subscribed to for some years.

    Why this current fear? A rhetorical question of course and it is the GDPR and, presumably, the threat of swingeing fines for breaching them. 4% of annual worldwide turnover is enough to concentrate the mind.

    I’ve assumed that the relevant companies have checked their permissions and discovered that those from a few years ago no longer stand up to close inspection. If they are challenged, after a complaint perhaps or as a result of some other investigation, they fear that they will not be able to prove that the recipients had agreed.

    It is likely, probable even, that some of these checks on permissions will result in a number unsubscribing from email marketing lists and demands that the companies delete some data. The publicity with regards to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica collusion has come at the worst time.

    Abuse of trust will be at the forefront of many people’s minds and discussions, ironically on Facebook amongst other social media sites, is full of advice to delete personal data. Whilst you and I know that email marketing differs significantly from Facebook with regards to how data is used, we will be tarred.

    However, there is little doubt that it is advisable to follow the example of these companies. You should be checking that your permissions, perhaps especially of those who have been on your email marketing lists for some time, are up to scrutiny.

    It is important not to build on the fears of your subscribers, but many will draw a link between your checks and the Facebook/CA debacle. Be open to them. Mention the GDPR and, perhaps, a requirement for clearer permissions. Inform them of their rights.

    You will, almost certainly, lose subscribers, probably through no fault of your own. Some will have been cluttering up your email marketing lists and doing nothing so at least you’ll have a bit of a spring clean.

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  • SEO - do recent changes to Google affect email marketing? Apr 13, 2018

    How did you first find this site? Perhaps you entered something like ‘free email marketing templates’ into a Google search and then, going by the meta description, thought you’d give us a try. It’s the way of the internet world.

    You will be wondering how you can work your way up the rankings to get to page one. After all, it must require a lot of tweaking of your site and that costs. However, there is a simple and straightforward way to ensure you become a Google favourite. First, let’s look at the problems.

    There are always changes to Google algorithms and changes are not good for email marketing. We invest in systems which may no longer be effective with subtle alterations. Old truths become established and despite Google saying, at least broadly, what effect the changes have, it is difficult to know which way to jump. Take links.

    Some time ago there were suggestions from Google that they would punish paid-for links by dropping websites which use them. Now, most commentators suggest that quality links are everything. So should you blow your IT budget on gaining links?

    Links take a long time to build and it is difficult to judge whether they are of sufficient quality or, dread the thought, might incur the wrath of Google. It is a natural response to go for what is easily measured.

    You will probably have received an email or two from whoever manages your site giving information on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). You might have been told that unless your website is entirely SSL-enabled your ranking will suffer. It would appear that any direct gains are slight so you might feel tempted to let that cost pass. However a significant number of browsers – the percentage varies but stays above 50% – are put off by non-SSL-enabled sites and are reluctant to venture on them. Given how many subscribers to email marketing lists come via a website it would seem, therefore, that there’s a clear benefit to us.

    What influence do alt tags have on rankings? They provide text for those who are visually impaired. Regardless of it being a responsible action, it also encourages them to stay on site. Alt tags are a big subject and deserve a few hundred words on their own but they add to the user experience.

    Are meta descriptions any use in Google rankings? Given that the one for this site probably had an influence on you clicking through that’s got to be positive.

    Keywords are essential to getting potential email marketing list subscribers to your site. But they need help.

    The way to decide on all these questions is to ask what Google wants. It wants a result that searchers find useful so will ask: How many clickthroughs? How long do they stay? Do they visit many pages?

    These are the returns that Google uses. So keywords are still effective as long as they are honest. Inappropriate links are negative. If browsers don’t like non-SSL sites then nor does Google. Quality content encourages people to stay on site.

    You’ve proved that meta descriptions work.

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  • Targeted imagery in email marketing Apr 13, 2018

    When I was a young, aspiring writer I knew the first names of editors but was frightened of using them. My rejection rate gradually dropped as I fathomed what each one favoured. I was targeting my submissions before email marketing was invented.

    My next step was to predict the style of the image each editor would opt for and I soon knew what type to submit. An over 80% acceptance rate showed I’d got it right.

    The trick I’d discovered was to target images as much as I targeted the copy. An article for servicing your own car would have pictures of oil-stained fingers holding an obscure object. Bright colours were to be avoided apart from the silver of burnished metal. A trip to the seaside for the middle-aged had lots of deck chairs, cornets and bands.

    You will subtly change the wording of each email depending on the nature of the segregated email marketing list. You will think long and hard about the Subject Line, how to address the person and what features to highlight. Yet do you put the same effort into picking the image? If not, you’re missing a trick.

    We all love our self-image being massaged so someone who considers themselves a technical supermind might mind being talked down to. If the item is understood more easily by nerds why not consider a graph or chart? They are easily produced on most office suites.

    It is fair to say that they often look more informative than they actually are, but if those in a segmented email marketing list favour them, then one with lots of wavy lines might be just the thing. Another advantage of a graph is that it is easily scanned, so a customer is not diverted from the pitch.

    If you are building a ‘family’ of subscribers then you may use informal language in the copy. Reflect this in your choice of image. With the vast majority of mobile phones having some form of camera, you could encourage your staff to submit images to feature in a marketing email.

    Discuss your needs for the campaign and let them loose. A little reward might not go amiss. Stock images are often taken by professionals, very few of whom aim to make them appear as if taken by an amateur. On the other hand, an amateur shot normally belies its source.

    Such an image will increase the feeling of family. It must, however, be of high enough definition to look good on screen. An endorsement – ‘Taken by Leslie in HR’ – is the finishing touch.

    Stock images cost. There are few photographs who make a good living from them and prices are normally reasonable. You will know how to refine a search so there’s little time lost. There will be something within your financial reach and of adequate technical quality.

    Look everywhere for images. Remarkably, if you ask to use off a website most owners of the copyright seem only too pleased to agree.

    With images on marketing emails being opened on mobiles, you need to ensure they are targeted and shown at their best.

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  • Breaches of personal data and the GDPR Mar 9, 2018

    The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) has a lot to say about what you should do if you think you have been subject of a personal data breach. You might think that all you have to worry about is the addresses in your email marketing lists, but it goes much further than that.

    The first requirement is that you have to assess the breach to see if you need to report it to the ICO. A breach could be as simple as an employee accidentally deleting personal data, and the ICO generally will not want to know about it, but if the breach might cause distress or loss to an individual then you must tell them.

    Whilst 72 hours is given as the deadline, the requirement is ‘without undue delay’. Whilst you should read the GDPR for the full details required by the ICO, most are rather obvious: the number and types of individuals and the number and type of personal data records, the details of the contact point, normally the data protection officer.

    Your assessment of the likely fall-out from the breach will need to be included together with what steps you have already taken to mitigate the damage. You need to include what further actions are planned.

    We’ve mentioned recently that any company involved in email marketing should have contingency plans in place. These will give you actions to perform immediately and include others to consider.

    Lack of information is no reason not to inform the ICO and the GDPR has provisions which allow you to report information in phases. This brings us onto a new, and vital, aspect of the GDPR; recordings.

    There is a requirement for you to record all your actions in relation to a personal data breach. If you decide that the breach is of such a nature that there is no requirement to inform the ICO you must record your reasons and the actions you took to ascertain its seriousness. If you don’t have all the information to tell the ICO, then record why. If you are doing things correctly, this is simple self-defence.

    Useful link: Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

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  • Personal data breach – what to do? Mar 9, 2018

    Email marketing is particularly vulnerable to personal data breaches and as such we must have procedures in place should the worst happen and everyone in your company must know what they should. Failure to conform to the requirements could be more costly than the loss of data.

    We’ve recently covered what a data breach is, and remember it is a bit deeper than just loss or theft of your email marketing lists. There is a requirement under the soon to go live General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) to follow certain specific actions. If you don’t you can be fined, and heavily.

    The first essential is to have procedures in place. These need to include:

    1/ A plan of action

    You must have processes in place for the quick and effective response to a data breach. This is not a time for crisis management.

    2/ Staff are suitable trained

    All your staff should be able to recognise a data breach and aware of their individual responsibilities in the event of one occurring. Your staff should be confident enough to feel safe when reporting any suspected breach. They should also be aware as to whom they should report and how.

    Consider having dedicated personnel, whether an individual or a team, to manage the breach and your responsibilities. Run test scenarios.

    3/ Ascertain the seriousness of the breach

    The risks to individuals and your company will vary depending on the nature of the breach. You need someone trained to assess how serious one is. They should be able to quickly establish the risks to individuals, your company and the data you hold.

    4/ Know the basics

    a/ The ICO must be informed within 72 hours of you becoming aware of a breach. This does not mean once you have full details but when it is clear there is a breach. If it turns out to be almost inconsequential then it might be of no further interest to the ICO, but you will have fulfilled that requirement if the worst has happened

    b/ The ICO requires certain details. Ensure your team knows what these are. However, lacking full information is not a reason to delay notification.

    c/ You will need to have processes in place to inform individuals, and without undue delay, in certain circumstances. The GDPR stipulates what information should be given.

    d/ Documentation

    There is a new requirement for documentation in the GDPR. We will cover this in a future article although you should have familiarised yourself with the requirements and have developed plans for compliance by now. Mind you, it is something that you should have been doing as a matter of course for some time as it gives a strong element of self-protection.

    In a future article we will cover the possible damage that can be caused to an individual in the event of a breach. This should be your primary concern. The ICO will check what you do. Without being mercenary, one should also remember the value of your email marketing lists.
  • What is a Data Breach? Feb 14, 2018

    Everyone in email marketing should be finalising their procedures to ensure conformity with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The fact that there is much that is common to the regulations it replaces is something to be wary of. The wording is similar, as one would expect given that it comes from the same source, but there are fundamental and significant differences.

    Take a personal data breach. Our email marketing lists are sacrosanct and we all feel we have secured them against unauthorised access, at least as much as we can. However, when we are told there are security flaws in processors of virtually all computers, there can never be certainty.

    The GDPR tells us what to do when there is a personal data breach but that’s not an awful lot of use if we don’t know what one is. It is described as a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data. In other words, it is a security incident involving personal data which affects its confidentiality, integrity or availability, such as:

    1/ An unauthorised third party gains access

    This would include the much publicised hacking scenario with remote devices. Ransomware, if, for instance, your email marketing lists data is included in the data made unavailable, comes within this heading. The less dramatic but probably more frequent situation where an unauthorised member of staff having access is also included.

    2/ Deliberate or accidental action (or inaction) by a controller or processor

    We are all dependent on the abilities of our staff. The risks can be lowered to a great extent by education – ensuring they are up to date on the GDPR requirements – and oversight. If their procedures are not checked regularly, how are you to decide whether they need more instruction?

    3/ Sending personal data to an incorrect recipient

    It could be a simple mistake, a deliberate act or lack of knowledge. Regardless of which it is, it is a data breach and requires a response.

    4/ Computing devices containing personal data being lost or stolen

    We secure our data behind firewalls and virus checkers but do you ensure your premises are equally secure? If you transport personal data on USB or other drive, do you ensure it is always encrypted? Whilst it won’t stop a data breach if stolen or misplace, it will probably reduce your culpability significantly.

    5/ Alteration of personal data without permission

    This is normally the fault of your established procedures. Ensure each data controller and processor knows precisely what they can and cannot do. This includes seeking authority when required. There must be checks in place.

    6/ Loss of availability of personal data

    If there is a hardware failure or personal data is inadvertently wiped from your records then this may be a data breach. It may also be a disaster for your company so ensure you have back-ups of all personal data which is kept up to date.

    We will cover how you should respond to data breaches in a future article.

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  • Spin in email marketing Feb 14, 2018

    There’s a TV advert for an insurance company where clever use of the language doesn’t so much cover a negative as turn it into a positive. It would appear that the company refuses to pay out on 3% of claims. To someone wanting to insure their property, this might be worrying. On the other hand the company tells us that due to its clever organisation it is allowed to pay out on 97% of claims.

    Allowed; now there’s a word that’s intended to describe the battles the company endures on behalf of its customers. Who could fail to be impressed by 97%.

    It is spin of course and as such it carries a risk but if it wasn’t productive, the company would have pulled the ad by now. Changing emphasis has got to be good, hasn’t it? The question is whether it is an option for email marketing.

    I took a holiday in Italy at a time of year where the odds for sunny weather were very high. After three days of rain I began to be irritated when told that this was unusual. “For the last three weeks we’ve had nothing but sunshine,” just about every one of the hotel staff told me.

    That didn’t make me feel better. However, all was not lost. Within a few miles of the hotel there were any number of attractions that were covered, many with wine as an added attraction. I was told of a state-owned Roman ruin within walking distance of the hotel that was not advertised. It was a delight.

    The marketing emails for the holiday emphasised the weather of the region. All the pictures were of brilliantly lit landscapes, with beautiful sunsets over the lake. I was obviously in the segmented email marketing list of those who loved the sun. But nowhere could I find mention of the attractions of the area that were protected from the weather.

    Don’t just concentrate on the positives. Put a graph on the marketing email showing the likelihood of a dry holiday. If it is not 100% then mention the fact that even if the 3% chance of rain comes there are alternatives to the beach.

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  • What’s on your website? Jan 25, 2018

    I haven’t always been in email marketing. I started out in the ad-setting department of a local weekly newspaper. The easier part of my job was to take rough notes from a client and convert it into copy. The harder part was to get the proofs accepted by my boss.

    Once, when unwisely voicing my frustrations at having to alter a part of the copy I was particularly pleased with, he said, “Explain to me in ten words or less why anyone who wants to buy central heating for their house cares about your clever word play.”

    I liked the bloke. He set high standards for us but personally exceeded them. However, I could never come to terms with that fact that as I went up the pay scale for the role, I was writing fewer and fewer words.

    Everyone tells you that as far as email marketing campaigns are concerned, every word counts. If one is not essential then it is in the way. Get rid of it. Customers haven’t got time to waste. Let them read it quickly and then move on.

    This goes for all aspects of customer interface. Your website is there to sell, just the same as your marketing emails. So why are there so many mission statements on websites?

    An overall description on your targets and beliefs is great, but it is for internal consumption only. You are selling products, not yourself. In any case, no one is interested.

    There are other problems with mission statements, the biggest being how pretentious the phrase sounds. Mission? You’re in email marketing and your purpose is to sell. Calling it a mission hardly adds to the desirability of the item.

    Another bit of self-indulgence is the pages on what the company thinks about what it does, what it produces, or their ‘ethos’. Aspirations are nothing more than self-recommendation. You will be judged on what you do.

    Read such pages on the site of a competitor of yours and when you’ve finished, grade it on pretention from 0-10. Or 8-10 is probably likely. Then realise that that’s how others see you.

    Two things that your website should be doing are getting your product better known and, more importantly, getting is desired. While people are reading that your company worked out of the disused dance hall of a public house, they are not imagining themselves using your product.

    Those from your email marketing list, as well as potential customers just browsing, come onto your website for solutions to their problems. They want something from you so you should, right from the start, eliminate all distractions. If they’ve used a keyword in a search that points to a particular product, then ensure that that landing page is what confronts them when Google does its bit.

    As with any advert, don’t tell; show. To get yourself ignored, tell people you are a genuine people person. To get people interested, be genuine.

    Most customers don’t care who you are or what hurdles you have had to overcome to be where you are. That is, not unless you make them care.

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  • Protecting your email marketing lists Jan 22, 2018

    You will have read the report published this year by the Google Project Zero team on vulnerabilities that, it appears, all modern computers are subject to. Email marketing, and any other business that is dependent on personal data, is under threat.

    The names given to these vulnerabilities, Meltdown and Spectre, are hardly reassuring. Given that they provide routes for hackers to access personal data one has to accept that they are not scary enough.

    The problem is fundamental and applies to most computers. There are three connected vulnerabilities in processors designed by Intel, AMD and ARM. If you want to know the full details then go to Meltdown and Spectre.

    WizEmail's Security Bot will always keep your data safePut simply, hackers could gain access to the host server’s kernel memory, which for those of you who are not technically minded is about as bad as it sounds. It means that any personal data being processed is potentially compromised. Further, credentials and encryption keys could be harvested and so personal data stored elsewhere is also at risk.

    At the moment, and perhaps something to emphasise, is that there are no reports of any attacks using these vulnerabilities. Now the secret is out, one assumes that hackers will be looking for ways to exploit the information.

    Whether you are a nerd or favour paper and pencil, what you want to know is what you can do. At risk is any personal data you hold, your data processor and your company.

    In deciding whether a penalty for any breach of personal data is worthy of penalty, and if so how much, the ICO will place a great deal of emphasis on how a company has reacted to the report of Meltdown and Spectre. Research should be your first response. There’s much on this subject on the ICO website.

    As you would expect, the ICO recommends that you should determine which, if any, of your systems are vulnerable. It also suggests that you apply the patches as a matter of urgency. It goes on to say that under the GDPR, starting 25 May this year, failure to apply patches can make a company liable for any breach of security.

    The ICO emphasises that Privacy by Design should be in every part of information processing from, to quote their list, the hardware and software to the procedures, guidelines, standards, and polices that your organisation has or should have. It suggests that your systems can’t be exploited if hackers can’t navigate through the front door. Whether this is true or not, it indicates what they will be checking should the worst happen.

    You should also ensure that any outside services you use, such as cloud storage, are not vulnerable. You cannot pass the buck to another when it comes to security of personal data.

    Are you confident of your antivirus? Microsoft patches might not be compatible with your security software. See here for information on the Microsoft security update.

    The one essential in your response to Meltdown and Spectre is to record the steps you take with regards to checking your security and reducing your vulnerability.

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  • Indirect uses of email Jan 22, 2018

    Email marketing isn’t all about selling. The vast majority is, of course, but not all. The most popular way of using such emails to reduce churn, the most common being the ‘just checking in’ kind.

    I think I should make one thing clear though; I’m no fan of such emails, mainly because they don’t work. Fair enough, there’s little investment required, but even so, if you get nothing out of it you should put nothing in. Why should a subscriber respond? You are doing nothing for them.

    You should offer them something personal, specific to them. Just asking why they haven’t responded to previous emails doesn’t count. You should know enough about them to understand their needs and their wants.

    Is there something in the business news that they might have missed, or better still, have you received relevant information that isn’t in the public domain yet? You might want to keep the latter to yourself for as long as possible but if you mention it in an email even just before it bursts into common knowledge then you’ve ticked a box for them. If you supplied a link to a landing for further information, especially one that is private, then they will feel you’ve picked them specially.

    The fact that the email is actionable will show whether they did respond to the email.

    Then there is informing them of what their closest competitor, or better still competitors, is up to. If these companies have opted for a change that might affect your subscriber, then inform them. Better still, why not come up with a method of countering the threat? You could tell them what others are doing.

    In essence, a hook can be very useful if there’s no other way in. For instance, what was their last purchase? If it was long enough ago to make you think they might be wanting a replacement or upgrade in a while, offer them something free for the one they have. Whatever the cost to you, it won’t be for long and, on top of that, when it comes the time for the replacement the memory of your largess might be enough to convince them to stay with your company.

    You might be lucky enough to find a post from them on your forums. That’s always worth a follow-up. Or is there something happening in their area soon that might be useful to them? It does not have to be one you are organising or have any interest in.

    If you are struggling for a hook, send them something; maybe a fairly detailed ‘have you ever thought about’ that is relevant to their produce or processes. Don’t make it too deep but point out that there is more information on your site.

    There’s little point in a ‘how have you been’ type of email. It fools few, if any. On the other hand, if they have been quiet for a while then something that they will be grateful for or will stick in their mind might be useful.

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  • How will email marketing develop in 2018? Jan 9, 2018

    One of the most remarkable trends over recent years, and which intensified in 2017, is the way that consumers have taken to new technology. No post Christmas lunch snooze for me. There was chatting to some of my family in Kyoto for a while, then moving westwards to Lucerne for a magnificent live view of mountains. Those I saw face to face were keen to show me the latest apps which would allow me new experiences.

    One factor that was apparent was that the preferred form of messaging is personalised. Various chat bots were demonstrated to me ad nauseum, with the weather being popular. We now choose the nature of the information we receive. Such details as when, where and how are no longer subjects chosen for us.

    A quote I read with regards future trends is that they are here now, just not evenly distributed. To a great extent this is spot on. Everyone, and that includes me, agrees that for email marketing personalisation, the big trend in 2017, will be a bigger trend in 2018. Or, to put it simply, we haven’t seen the best of it yet.

    The last 12 months has seen a massive development of control by the individual, which is a facet of the most significant trend, that of interaction. For exploiting our email marketing lists, this is excellent news as the more information our customers allow us the more we are able to target effectively.

    This means big data, again a prediction for 2017, will continue into 2018, making automation vital. Artificial intelligence will make decisions instantly that even a couple of years ago would have required a meeting of minds. Not only that, the conclusion would have been a best guess.

    No one can predict the future with enough precision for detailed planning. It is probable, almost certain, that chat bots, automation, personalisation, video and social media will play a bigger part in email marketing. After all, that’s what was predicted last year, and it was proved correct. They could well be the next big thing. The one plan that is required for 2018 is the flexibility to respond quickly.