CEO George Schlossnagle has been named a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2012 program for the Maryland, U.S. region. The award recognises outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Awards will be presented at a special gala on June 28 in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.

“It’s an honour to be recognised as a finalist for an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award,” said Schlossnagle. “At Message Systems, we are committed to delivering the best messaging technology solutions possible. It’s very exciting to be acknowledged for our innovation, growth achievements and genuine commitment to our business.”

Now in its 26th year, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program has expanded to recognise business leaders in more than 140 cities in more than 50 countries throughout the world. Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year Program. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year Overall Award winner, will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, California, U.S., on November 17, 2012. The awards are the culminating event of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

I wanted to get a note into our first newsletter of 2012 because in so many ways, 2011 was a watershed year for Message Systems. First, we’re growing like gangbusters. We’ve added 25 entirely new brands to our client list in 2011, and expanded our relationships with many of our existing clients. To keep that dizzying pace going through 2012 and beyond we’ve expanded our headcount by nearly 70% over the past 12 months. Not surprisingly this required us to expand our offices: We secured a new suite in a building adjacent to our headquarters in Columbia, so we now have all of our engineers in one location. And, our San Francisco offices have reached capacity, so we’ll be almost doubling our space there in the coming months.

2011 also saw us hosting our first-ever user conference in San Diego, Interact2011, which was a resounding success, attracting more than a hundred attendees. The chance to hear from our customers first-hand was invaluable, and we had a darn good time, too. If you didn’t attend Interact2011, I urge you not to miss Interact2012. You can register now, in fact, for the August event.

Another aspect of our growth story is that we’ve been able to accelerate our product development. As such, we’re moving to a quarterly release schedule. We believe this is going to help us to respond more rapidly to customer needs, and we’ll be working to keep customers better apprised of our progress as we push the envelope on what’s possible with digital messaging.

To that end, we’re covering Momentum 3.4.0 in our Product Spotlight in this issue of the newsletter. With Momentum 3.4.0, you can now experiment with transforming message content on the fly between not only email and SMS – which you can do now with our Mobile Momentum product – but also IM. Imagine, being able to keep a conversation going with a customer or partner over email, SMS and IM chat, bouncing from one channel to another throughout the day without losing the context of the conversation. We’re making cross-channel messaging a reality.

We’ve also got a featured customer story on our friends at Infusionsoft, a marketing automation firm based in Arizona that’s using Momentum’s Adaptive Delivery® feature to drive deliverability rates consistently up into the 99% range. And, we’ve turned our Tech Tips column this month over to Oleksiy Kovyrin, Senior Technical Operations Engineer at LivingSocial, who was kind enough to share his tips on tuning Momentum to your specific environment for best performance.

In 2012, we’re focused on one thing: Helping you, our customers or potential customers, to be successful. Have an idea on how we can do that? Let us know!

Spend any amount of time with direct marketers and you’re likely to hear talk of list size. Most marketers will agree that engaged list size is a far more relevant measure than total list size. Yet lots of email marketers continue to be driven by the size metric alone. What’s holding us back is finding agreement on what engaged means, and that’s been tough to overcome since the nature and intensity of engagement varies so much by brand and product category.

One engagement model in particular that I think merits further discussion is the one employed by Nichole Delma, the Chief Data Officer at RCRD LBL, an online destination for free curated music downloads. I co-presented with Nicole and David Daniels of the Relevancy Group at the OTA Forum last month. How Nicole approaches engagement is that she tightly targets offers to her subscribers’ preferences, closely monitors their engagement and aggressively drops those who don’t respond. Since engagement is critical to attracting artists and labels to RCRD LBL, her list might be smaller but it delivers better value.

While Nicole’s tactics may not be suitable to all brands, the general strategy she’s applying is really smart, and something I wanted to pass along. As a starting point to converting to an engagement-based model, I’d suggest looking at your list turn, and by list I don’t mean some monolithic, unsegmented list but the individual segments you routinely mail. Determine how frequently you mail (turn) your list and let the number of engagement opportunities you’ve provided to recipients guide what you do if they’re non-responsive.

For example, you’d treat the recipients on a list you mail weekly differently than those on the list you mail monthly. Then decide what constitutes ‘non-engagement’ by looking at activity in email as well as other channels. Ask yourself why recipients aren’t engaged (targeting, content, cadence, channel, etc.). If you don’t know, seek to find out. Separate the disengaged from your main list and try different reactivation techniques over whatever timeframe and cadence makes sense. If unsuccessful in your re-engagement efforts, you will at some point need to move them into inactive status and discontinue mailing.

There’s no formula for doing these things that makes sense for every brand. But it all starts with a decision to make ‘engaged customers’ your primary metric, not list size. Not to do so is a very slippery slope that makes it very difficult for legitimate email marketers to differentiate themselves from the spammers. While not new, I believe these general steps are the right ones to take, and admire how the team at RCRD LBL is getting it done. You can read more on the topic in this ClickZ article from David Daniels of The Relevancy Group.