The Magnificent U.K. Seven: Part 2

Two weeks ago I introduced a band of knowledgeable Brits, also known as The Magnificent U.K. Seven, offering valuable information on how to develop a winning email marketing campaign. This week I will enter the mind of the editor — Duncan Parry.

As a part-time directory editor for Lycos U.K., Parry finds, describes, and categorizes Web sites that fit into his assigned classification areas and are, more importantly, U.K. relevant. He does this by placing Web sites into an existing directory structure or creating a new one as needed. So what happens if he finds something relevant but it falls outside U.K. jurisdiction?

“I’m not as restricted, let’s say, as the editor of shopping, because I cover computers, technology, Internet (including WAP [wireless application protocol]), and telecommunications. Within that, anything that falls into ‘commercial services’ and ‘shopping’ categories, again, has to be U.K. focused,” said Parry.

In addition to serving Lycos, Parry provides site design services and writes about the Internet and business. The following comments are his own and not those of Lycos.

Lycos U.K.

As Parry mentioned, Lycos U.K. is focused on providing content that is relevant to the U.K. Its competition appears to be AltaVista, Excite, LookSmart United Kingdom, msn.co.uk, and UK Plus. There are other U.K.-focused directories and search engines, but unlike their multinational counterparts, which have strong brand, financial, and technological support, they are maintained on a local level.

Learning From Lycos

One of the issues I wanted to focus on was the overall state of the U.K. market. With the demise of eToys and the U.K. operations of TheStreet.com, I asked whether a stigma is permeating the market and whether this is a good time to set up an email marketing campaign.

“Yes, there is some skepticism about the viability of online businesses, but I don’t think it is widely held within the general public,” said Parry.

I wondered what Lycos is doing that sets it apart from competitors and what we can learn from it. Parry pointed out four factors that help build Web site awareness, increase traffic, sustain loyalty, and provide a rich and fulfilling user experience:

  1. High relevance. Nothing frustrates U.K. Internet users more than a U.K. site that is just a mirror of a U.S. site. Much of the content on such sites isn’t relevant, and consequently the information is useless.

  2. A powerful search engine. Due to constant Web site updates, search results improve dramatically when you have good search engine capabilities.
  3. Trust. “I personally recommend the top sites in a category based on the quality of their content, presentation, and U.K. relevance. This indicates to the user a useful site to try first. When they have had a good experience, they develop trust and come back for more,” said Parry.
  4. Brand tie-ins. The useful recommendation area is an ongoing dynamic site, and a U.K. television campaign is currently running to promote this feature with a tag line along the lines of “Lycos — look for the wagging dog.” Every recommended site is accompanied by an image of the Lycos dog with its tail wagging.

What’s Hot, What’s Not: Email Versus Spam

Let’s get to the heart of our purpose. I’m LaurelMedia U.S.A. and about to launch my email marketing campaign. I might go direct or use a U.K. intermediary. I asked Parry what a businessperson could do with his or her email program that would be absolutely politically incorrect.

“Most Brits absolutely detest U.S.A.-focused marketing emails or spam.”

Spam? As a small business owner, how could my double opt-in list be considered spam once it’s launched in the U.K?

“If a message is irrelevant to the U.K. and me, that’s spam. When I enter my email address on a U.S.A. site and I indicate I’m in the U.K, it’s completely irrelevant, inefficient, and a time waster to spam me with U.S.A.-focused advertisements. I’m not going to buy anything, and I resent the company for sending it in the first place.”

Everybody got that?

Opportunity for Growth in Email Campaigns

After all is said and done, is there a market for email campaigns in the U.K.?

“I think there is a lot of room for U.K.-focused, highly targeted, opt-in email marketing over here, and some companies are already doing this,” said Parry. “For example, as a result of email from a computer/technology shopping site, I have made purchases. I also visit sites and earn Web rewards as a result of emails from WebRewards because they are relevant to me over on this side of the Atlantic pond.”

It’s clear that small businesses need to monitor what U.K. companies are doing, model their efforts, then offer something similar. In the process, if you find a company that does something similar but noncompetitive to what you are doing, why not partner?

Parry added his two-pence’s worth, “I think U.K. companies are interested in doing business with U.S.A SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] that have viable business ideas — we’re all out to make a profit after all! And the exchange rate is currently in favor of U.S.A. buyers.”

To sum up what we have learned, I could put it in my own words, but since we are trying to be and think like Brits, let me use Parry’s final three-word mantra for email marketers: relevant opt-in marketing.

That’s all for now. In installment three of The Magnificent U.K. Seven, I’ll feature another big gun — possibly two — for hire. You won’t want to miss out on the next episode. Who knows what new business-boosting tips lie ahead?

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