Kent House is running for Cancer Research UK

31 March 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

Kent House has a track record of running in marathons and half-marathons all over UK and Europe in the effort to raise money for different charities. In 2007, I run in the Flora London Marathon and with the support of my Kent House colleagues, we managed to raise over £2000 for Children with Leukaemia. This year, I will be running in three races and our Kent House team is hoping to raise over £1000 for the Cancer Research UK and the Cam-mind charities.

The running season will start with the Race for Life on the 14th of June 2009 around the Jesus Green in Cambridge. The aim is to run 5k with other women determined to raise awareness about cancer and to inspire people to take part in a Race for Life event, no matter their age, shape, size or fitness level. If you would like to sponsor me then please visit my online fundraising page.

My second race will be the biggest of all… I will be running the Stockholm half-marathon on the 12th of September 2009 and I will be also raising money for the Cancer Research UK.

And lastly, my third race will be the Chariots of Fire on the 20th of September 2009. This race is planned to follow “in the footsteps of the famous film, taking its scenic route through the streets and colleges of Cambridge, with teams of six running a 1.7 mile course in relay format”. I will be running with 5 other friends and colleagues from the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge. With the kind support of Kent House, our running team will be raising as much money as possible for Cam-mind, which is the longest established mental health charity in Cambridge.

Kent House on Facebook

19 March 2009 by Yvonne Conway  
Filed under News and views

Just this week Kent House has gotten its very own Facebook page!

If you want to check out any upcoming events or become a fan of Kent House, why not pay us a visit.

As the page has just been set up this week, it is looking a little bare, so check it out, post a link to your site (always good for SEO!) and add a few comments!

You may notice if you visit the page that we have an event coming up in June, we will be sending out official invitations to over the coming months and you will be able to register online using our award winning EventManager event management system. However if you want to log your interest now, just send me a quick email and I will make sure you are on the invitation list.

Website Morphing can increase your sales by 20%

12 March 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

The idea of intelligent websites that automatically customise themselves in order to appear more appealing to visitors caused a lot of discussion when the report on “Website Morphing” was published by MIT in Marketing Science in May 2008.

The researchers from MIT suggest that morphing websites in ten clicks or less can deduce the visitors’ preferred layout of the site’s content and images and customise themselves accordingly. Website morphing can easily figure out who wants a simple website that gives advice and smaller amounts of information and who wants a more detailed, complicated site that allows visitors to delve deeper into the product.

It is estimated that by doing so the morphing websites can increase company sales by about 20% as they bring a lot of ‘fresh air’ to the browsing experience, and most importantly they free people from personalising the website layout themselves. The experimental study on morphing was carried out on the BT Group website and it contributed to the company earning approximately $80 million (£60 million) in additional revenue.

The authors of the report claim that “website design has become a major driver of profit. Websites that match the preferences and information needs of visitors are efficient; those that do not will forego potential profit and might be driven from the market”.

Morphing works in two ways. First, every click a customer makes on a website reveals something about his or her cognitive style. Examples of such styles are impulsive vs. deliberative, visual vs. verbal, technical vs. non-technical, innovators vs. late adopters, etc. The second step is to determine what type of morph will serve each style, which is determined by machine learning. A website might morph by changing graphs and pictures to text, reducing a display to fewer options, or by optimising the amount of information presented about each product choice. A morphed website also might add or delete things like column headings, links, tools, virtual personas and dialogue boxes.

It looks like website morphing is a very promising and innovative idea, and although the report is relatively new, there is quite a few cutting-edge companies that are currently implementing this technology into their business model.

Tracking your marketing emails

12 March 2009 by Martyn Hoyer  
Filed under Email marketing

When you send out an email marketing campaign, you’ll probably want to know how well received it has been. After all, that is one of the advantages of using email instead of snail mail for your marketing. How many paper mailshots have you sent that haven’t even been opened…? I don’t know either!

Using email tracking, you can not only find out who has opened your (HTML) emails, but you can also find out what links have been clicked (across both plain text and HTML emails) within your campaign.

This is incredibly useful for two reasons, firstly you will now know how many people on your list are actually opening your emails and secondly you will know what sort of links are appealing to people.

Tracking email openings

Unfortunately, you can only reliably track the opening of HTML emails. An HTML email by its very nature will at some point have to go and ask a server somewhere for some sort of data (most commonly, an image). Software can recognise these requests and use them to figure out that an email has been opened. This technique can then be cleverly adapted to put in a unique request for some data for each recipient opening the email. That way, you can see exactly who has opened the email.

You can also see when a user opened an email, which could potentially be very useful information for marketing purposes. It could be used to determine what day of the week or time of the day to send future campaigns.

There is a slight flaw with this method; if a recipient forwards their email to 20 friends, each time a friend opens it, it’ll be counted as an opening from the original recipient. A bit of common sense when analysing your statistics is required! I’m sure you wouldn’t be complaining that your campaign is being forwarded on anyway, it means more people are reading it!

Because plain text emails are simply text, they don’t make any requests to the server, so it’s a lot harder to track openings of emails. Links in plain text emails can still be tracked, so if you notice a recipient has opened a link but their opening of the email hasn’t been logged, it’s likely that they’ve opened the email as plain text.

It can be quite exciting to have a look at your statistics after sending out a campaign, however, don’t expect everyone on your list to open your email, it’s often only around 20% of your list of recipients that are recordered as opening the email (possibly less, if there are a lot of plain text recipients) but it’s still far more cost effective to send to 1000 recipients and have 200 people open it than to send out 200 paper mails!

You could use the open statistics to collect a new list of recipients, specifically the ones that didn’t open your campaign. You could then send them another one a couple of days later that starts with something like “We noticed you didn’t open your last email, maybe we can tempt you with these better offers?”.

Tracking link clicks

As well as whether the email has been opened, you can also track what links people have clicked on (and again, when they clicked them).

It’s a similar method to tracking the openings. Basically, the server sending out the email campaign acts as a stepping stone to the recipient’s route to the destination link. The email campaign’s link doesn’t go directly to the intended URL, instead it goes back to the email sending software. The email sending software recognises the unique request, logs a “click”, checks which URL it maps to, and then sends the user on to their destination… in an instant! It’s a bit like passing through a turnstile.

Finding out what your recipients are clicking on can be very useful. Lets say you’ve sent out a marketing email with three different offers in it, with a link for each to a page on your website with more details about that offer. A quick review of your link statistics could tell you which offer of the three was clicked on the most. Knowing this information can help you decide on offers for future campaigns.

Going slightly deeper, you could target individuals by using links to determine their interests, and then send them follow-up emails with details of products/services that are tailored to those interests.

All the links in your campaign are automatically tracked if you have tracking turned on, so you can also use link tracking to see if and when recipients have unsubscribed themselves from your email campaign (and if you send a lot, which campaign prompted them to unsubscribe could be useful information).

You can also see if and when users have clicked the “webversion” link.

The webversion link, when clicked, opens a copy of the recipient’s email in their browser. It is usually presented as “If you are having trouble reading this email, click here to open it in your browser” (because HTML email is extremely delicate and you need to know all of its quirks to get it to display correctly across all the incarnations of email client) and is very wise to include.

If you find that your webversion link is getting a lot of clicks, then it’s quite likely there’s a technical problem somewhere in your campaign, and something you’ll probably need to get fixed before the next one goes out!

It’s worth noting that you can make a webversion uniqe to each user, in which case all the tracking will still work even if a user is viewing their email in their browser.

A quick note about the look of the links themselves. They’re obviously dependent on the style of the rest of the email, but you probably do want them to be prominent. The standard is blue, underlined text (when using a white background), but there is a bit of leeway, it’s certainly not something to overlook!

An example…

Over the Christmas period we decided to send out an E-Christmas card to our colleagues. It was a bit of fun, but also contained a few tracked links. You might remember receiving it… if so, we hope the turkey still has pride of place on the mantlepiece!

The email in its original state can be found here. Note the code to invoke the first name into the text to give the email a bit of personalisation (you might find me talking about that in another blog entry!), there’s also the webversion link which won’t work as it’s automatically generated at the time of sending to make each user’s webversion unqiue.

After that email was sent out, we regularly checked the statistics, finding out who was opening the emails, and whether they were clicking any links. One particular recipient appeared to be opening it repeatedly, which we soon realised probably meant that they’d forwarded it around their office, which did bring a smile to our faces.

I’ve also just taken another look at the statistics, and it seems one recipient opened the email on the 9th February! That’s got to be a record for the earliest card for Christmas 2009!

Obviously, as I said, that “campaign” was just a bit of fun, but it did prove the power of tracking, and if you didn’t download the PDF, we know who you are!

Data Protection in events management

11 March 2009 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management

The Data Protection Act (DPA) seems to affect every walk of life. As soon as you store information about someone else you become responsible for ensuring that their information is kept securely and used appropriately.

So how does that change the way in which you have to think about event data you ask? By running events and taking registration information about your delegates and more often than not offering catering you become party to what is classed as highly sensitive information in terms of the DPA. Someone’s dietary requirements or requirement for disabled access/parking may seem trivial to you, but to the individual it could well be something far more personal.

Delegate lists are hot property to certain people that attend events; in fact for some people the delegate list is as important as the event itself. If you plan to issue a delegate list with contact information for all those attending then you need to have everyone’s permission to do so (it’s the same with taking photos at an event). A delegate’s name, job title and organisation are the only details that you can really share without asking for permission as they are essentially in the public domain anyway. If you want people to network either ensure that they know that they need to bring business cards with them or leave a pile of blank business cards on the tables so that delegates can use them to exchange details during the event.

If you use a web based event management/registration system you can quickly and easily ensure you meet DPA guidelines by offering an opt in / opt out marketing section within the user registation profile. EventManager has this functionality already included as standard, as a high percentage of our clients work in the Public Sector. You can even market delegates direct from the application, advising them of future events that they might be interested in all within DPA guidelines as anyone that has opted out is not included within the copy list and those that are, are BCC’d so that delegates information is kept private and secure.

Here’s a sample DPA statement that I wrote a few years ago in conjunction with a DPA / FOI lawyer:

Delegate lists and Data Protection

Under the Data Protection Act delegates need to be given the opportunity to opt in/out of a list of delegates, if it is to be issued to a third party. If participants are not given the chance to opt in/out you cannot assume that it’s OK to disseminate their information.

If a delegate list is to be produced, an opt in/out tick box needs to be incorporated into the booking form, with words similar to:

‘I agree that the event organisers may pass on my details to other registered delegates for this event and am aware that I may be contacted about future [your organisation name] events. I agree that the organisers may pass on my details to any third party.’

If all Data Protection requirements are met (i.e. delegates are made aware that their information may be shared with third parties and they are given the opportunity to opt in/opt out of this) it is simply a matter for [your organisation name] to decide whether we share the information with others.

If Data Protection requirements are not met The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) should not override a delegates’ right to privacy.

Section 40 of FOI states: http://www.ico.gov.uk/documentUploads/AG%201%20personal%20info.pdf

“If the personal data is about someone other than the applicant, there is an exemption if disclosure would breach any of the Data Protection Principles. (This is the main issue explored in this guidance.) There are also some special rules to be applied in cases where the personal data is about someone who has formally objected to their disclosure. The term, “third party data,” is used to describe personal information about someone other than the applicant. “

“The term “personal data” is defined in the Data Protection Act, as amended by the Freedom of Information Act. “Personal data” is information about a living individual from which that individual can be identified. It may take any of the following forms:

• Computer input documents;
• Information processed by computer or other equipment (e.g. CCTV);
• Information in medical, social work, local authority housing or school pupil records;
• Information in some sorts of structured manual records;
• Unstructured personal information held in manual form by a public authority. “

If however Data Protection requirements have been met and necessary consent has been given then we have an obligation under FOI to provide these details to a third party if they are requested.

As a rule of thumb, [your organisation name] Events Team will not include an opt in/out option on bookings forms, unless otherwise requested by Event Commissioners. This will allow us to ensure that delegates’ details remain protected in the vast majority of cases. In the unlikely event that a request is received under FOI where Data Protection requirements have been adhered to, the Events Team will seek the appropriate advice from the [your organisation name] Legal Team.

All of the systems and processes used, designed and created by Kent House for our clients are designed to store and manage the information that cleints need to keep on their users securely, whether it be for event management or as part of a database.

If you have any queries regarding our Products and Services and how they can help you to be DPA compliant for your events delivery, please feel free to contact us at info@kenthouse.com or 0845 638 0700.

EventManager – Feb update and new members of the family…

11 March 2009 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management, News and views

February was a busy month for the EventManager development team.

We’re on the brink of completing the deployment of v4.0 of the application to all installations which brings all client installations back onto the single core application as well as adding a number of new and improved features.

We’re also delighted to add 2 new clients to the EventManager family:

  1. NHS North East http://www.northeast.nhs.uk/
  2. The National Patient Safety Agency http://www.npsa.nhs.uk/

Their events installations will be deployed in the coming weeks. We’re very much looking forward to working with them both over the coming years.