Alistair Blevins eMarketing Blog


Opinion, theory and general chit chat on the wonderful world of digital marketing

It’s been a while…

Am back in the blogosphere after a long leave of absence.

Been out and about within South Africa and meeting some intresting characters who play in the local digital landscape.

Also had rather a lot of work to contend with… which has raised some interesting topics of discussion.

All that, and more, to come in due course.


Filed under: Hello!

It gets worse, and better…

In my last post I wrote about how my cable television service provider, MultiChoice, had failed to impress me with their ‘Annual Price Adjustment Notification’ email. Did their response fare any better?

Best start with the email…

Subject line: MultiChoice – PI general
Dear Mr Blevins
Thank you for your e-mail.
MultiChoice continues to provide compelling, entertaining and informative content that will enhance our subscribers viewing experience.
• Since April 2008 we have launched
o ESPN Classic 
o e -News
o Africa Magic +
o Nickelodeon
o Saffron TV
o BBC Entertainment, BBC Lifestyle and Culture, BBC Knowledge and  CBeebies
• Our interactive applications enhance our subscribers’ viewing experience and afford the viewer the opportunity to request further information.
• The VOD ( video on Demand ) service for Compact and Premium customers allows for catch up TV. 
• The PVR service enables customers to choose and view content and view content at their convenience.

Should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards
Teboho Mabasa
MultiChoice Enquiries Team


Once again, a quite inoffensive email. It addresses me in person, thanks me for my email and tells me, in somewhat limited detail, about some of the services MultiChoice have to offer.


My email to them was constructive criticism surrounding their ‘Annual Price Adjustment Notification’. I mentioned very specific areas which highlighted areas in which they could improve their service.

This email response in no way relates to the email I sent them!

If you read the subject line ‘MultiChoice – PI General’ it’s is plainly evident that my email was pigeon holed and all I have been sent is a stock email. For goodness sake, at least amend the subject to remove the evidence that this is an off-the-shelf reply!

This, at best, is lazy (there’s that word again) customer service. They’ve not even taken the time to top and tail the message to make it more aligned to my enquiry, let alone write a bespoke response or, dare I say, take on board what I had to say and forward it to the appropriate person or department for further consideration/action.

On a more positive note

Thankfully, this email was constructed in a much more customer-oriented manner. The HTML template they’ve used for the response has some redeeming features.

First off, they’ve personalised to the email!

Also, at the foot (although lost below the fold!) are links to some of their key services such as:

  • Online account access
  • Decoder installation services
  • FAQs
  • Contact centres
  • Fax(!) numbers
  • Postal address

All valuable information for the client. This kind of information should be persistent across all of their communications.

It shouldn’t be used selectively. I suppose it’s just cynical of me to suggest that these details were left off an email pertaining to price increases!

It’s not that hard!

Good email marketing is about consistency of:

  • Brand
    Creates the right impression
  • Personalisation
    Make the recipient feel warm and fuzzy
  • Message
    Match the content to the expectations of the subscriber
  • Promotion
    Promote other relevant products and services. Email is always an opportunity provide additional information
  • Touch points
    Make contacting you easy. We all want to take the path of least resistance – so make finding account access, website links, phone and fax(!) numbers, email addresses etc, as simple as possible

All of the above can be achieved quickly and cheaply.

Rocket science it isn’t. Good emarketing practice it is.

Filed under: Email, , , , , , , , ,

Should we help those who fail to help themselves?

This morning I received my ‘Annual Price Adjustment Notification’ from MultiChoice, my cable television provider. They broke just about every e-marketing best practice rule with their communication. Rather than berate them for their lack of forethought I thought I would offer some constructive criticism.

First off, here’s the email:


Dear Valued Subscriber
Please find attached your MultiChoice annual price adjustment notification.

You will need Adobe Reader to open this attachment. If you do not have Adobe Reader installed, please download and install from here

Should you have any queries relating to letter, please send an e-mail with your account number in the subject line to for assistance.

This is just another way that MultiChoice will continue to bring you “so much more excellent service.



Not a particularly offensive email I know. The attachment much the same – the price is going up – no big surprise. It just that one word kept repeating in my mind. Lazy.

Let’s look at the evidence…


Starting an email with ‘Dear Valued Subscriber’ is no longer acceptable for a big corporate. Even the most rudimentary of email systems can handle salutations – and given this email had a personalised PDF attachment I would bet that the system MultiChoice are using could do a whole lot more.

Attention to detail

I spotted 3 errors in this email, which doesn’t say much about their marketing communications team or QA process:

  1. No line break under salutation
  2. No full stop at the end of the second sentence
  3. Typo in final sentence – …”so much more excellent service… Where’s the closing “?


This is by far my biggest bug-bear! 

  • No lightness of touch.
    Why not try and soften the email by explaining why the price is increasing and some of the benefits and enhancements we, the paying customer, can expect to see in the coming year. Have MultiChoice failed to notice that the world is in the grip of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? Surely they must understand that people are no longer willing simply to accept seemingly arbitrary price increases without reason, or fear of retribution. Lastly, why use such terminology as ‘Annual Price Adjustment Notification’? What’s wrong with a simple ‘annual pricing review’… plain English please!
  • Failure to cross-sell/up-sell
    As a commercial organisation they have failed to capitalise on the opportunity to promote their wider products and services. New channels, forthcoming features, refer a friend, etc. They missed a big opportunity generate traffic and increased revenue.
  • How is the final sentence related in any way related to the rest of the email?
    Can someone please tell me how this ‘Annual Price Adjustment Notification’ is just another way that MultiChoice continues to bring “so much more” excellent service?

Whilst price increases are never wanted, they are a necessary evil. I think we all understand that.  What I do not understand is the lack of forethought that large organisations put into their customer communications – particularly when dealing with price increases in the tough economic times.

I wonder how many complaints this email has generated and how many could have been avoided by taking more time to consider the customer.

So, I’ve responded to and have constructively raised the points above. I wait to be surprised with a response, and who knows, maybe more customer-friendly emails going forward. I suspect unfortunately, it will fall on deaf ears.

On a positive note, and I thanked MultiChoice for this, they have provided me with a great blog topic!

Every cloud…

Filed under: Email, , , , , , ,

Changing times in challenging times…

With financial advisers facing increased time-pressure from worried clients during working hours, should financial services providers be adjusting their e-communications strategies accordingly?

During a recent presentation by Stoneshot, a UK based email service provider, I was intrigued to learn that in their annual IFA survey 50% of brokers said they regularly checked their emails at evenings and weekends, whilst an additional 30% said they sometimes checked their email at evenings and weekends.

This got me thinking. Must we, as a service to our clients in the B2B channel, be adjusting our email strategy to cater for this new way of working?

Out of curiosity I started to dig around in EmailReaction, the enterprise email solution used to manage our email campaigns. Sure enough I was confronted by an ever growing wall of reports which illustrated the fact that early mornings, evenings and weekends (to a lesser degree) deliver healthy open-rates.

Of course, the penny should have dropped sooner. My own email habits have changed significantly in the past six months.

No longer do I have the time to address the bulk of my email during traditional work hours. This task is now relegated to evenings and weekends.

So, what can we do?

Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute that we start arbitrarily sending our emails out between the hours of 17h00 and 21h00 every evening. 

We do however need to be able to occupy that prime real estate at the head of the email inbox at a time deemed most effective for a particular individual.

What I think we can do is pay close attention to our open and interaction rates and identify those individuals and organisations where there has been a sea change in behaviour and act accordingly, in three distinct areas:

  • Content 
    Only deliver what you absolutely know is of value. A shot gun approach will not work with this audience – they will quickly unsubscribe. In essence, make sure you understand your clients product preferences intimately.
  • Delivery
    Try and segment lists into behavioural groups and broadcast at times likely to suits their habits.
  • Frequency
    Everyone is stretched for time, so aside from ensuring the content is ‘on message’ consider different way of broadcasting content, e.g. combining key messages in a newsletter. Package communications in different ways in order to tailor them to your groups identified above.

Will it work?

It should do! By following the three simple points above surely it would be logical to see an increase in email interaction rates. 

In the coming weeks and months I shall be investigating these angles in my professional capacity and reporting my findings on this blog.

Filed under: Email, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Calling all digital marketers!

Hello, and welcome to my blog!

My name is Alistair Blevins and I am a eMarketer in global financial services.

The aim of this blog is to communicate my own thoughts, theories and feelings on trends, developments and best practice affecting the way digital marketers practice their art today.

Whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say please let your own opinions and stories be heard.


Filed under: Hello!