Campaign Monitor in your ears

There are a few web design podcasts around these days, but one of the oldest and most popular is Boagworld. In this weeks episode, Tagtastic, we've contributed a segment on the basics of planning and running an email marketing campaign. If you're a veteran Campaign Monitor user, there won't be too much new for you, but it might be a nice overview to help you explain to your clients what it is all about. It quickly covers the whole process from planning through design, sending and tweaking for improvement. The whole podcast is definitely worth a listen, as it is aimed at people managing, designing and developing websites on a daily basis. We'd love to hear about any other podcasts in this area that you listen to - leave us a comment with your favorites.
Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson

The secrets behind a 70% open rate

I just came across a great post by Campaign Monitor customer Craig Killick from The Escape on the recent tactics they employed to get an impressive 70% open rate and the sale of 60% of their inventory for the product being marketed.

Craig goes on to explain the 4 main reasons behind this success and also some recommendations of what not to do. Here was the standout for me and is a great example of how to use our segments feature:

When they subscribed, they were given the choice to check a box against specific selections: In this case it was artists that they are specifically interested in buying pieces of work from. This specific e-mail was personalised and about something (a specific artist) that they have a great interest in, from someone they know and trust. Therefore, the penetration is that much more effective.

Definitely a great read for those that need reminding of how crucial it is to ensure your creative is as relevant as possible to your subscribers.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 7 Comments

How to charge your clients for email marketing

Like most services a web designer can offer their clients, there are many different ways to approach charging your clients for email marketing. At Campaign Monitor, we're in a unique position in that we speak with designers charging their clients for email marketing all day every day. Over the years I've seen a huge range of billing approaches taken, some which make sense and others that seem plain crazy.

We occasionally get asked by customers how they should charge their clients for their services. The truth is, there's no one approach that works for everyone (you knew I was going to say that, right?). Having said that, out of the different models I've seen over the years, there are a few that make the most sense. The purpose of this post is to present you with some of these options and let you work out which approach suits you and your client's budget best.

The popular areas to charge for

Over the course of pitching to your clients, designing them a template, getting it delivered and then measuring the results, there are a number of points where you have the opportunity to charge for your services. Of course, most designers won't charge for all of these areas (though some do), these are just examples of what can be deemed billable work.

1. Template Design (flat fee or hourly rate)

This one's pretty straightforward, just like designing a single page site or a landing page, you charge your client for putting the concept (or concepts) together, then coding the approved design and finally testing that design in the most popular email environments.

2. Delivery (usually dependant on the number of recipients)

This is where the range of billing approaches starts to surface. Here are a few of the more popular billing approaches for covering delivery fees:

  • Charge your client a flat monthly fee that covers any campaigns delivered that month
  • Charge them based on a pricing bracket for the number of subscribers being sent to. For example, 2,000 to 5,000 recipients is $150.
  • Charge them a set per/recipient fee. For example, 4 cents/recipient with a flat delivery fee on top, such as $10.

3. Reviewing the results (flat fee or hourly rate)

Once the campaign has been delivered, the designer reviews the reports and makes recommendations to the client to improve or maintain results for subsequent issues. For example, you might have tried a different design approach for the newsletter's "featured product" which yielded a 17% better click-through rate. This is explained to the client and further recommendations might be made.

4. Subsequent changes to the creative (flat fee or hourly rate)

Obviously each campaign you send for the client will include new content. These changes can be made much more cost effectively than the original template design. If the client approves any recommendations you made after reviewing the results of a sent campaign, these may also be included in any updates you make. Because of this, 3 and 4 or often billed as a single item.

5. Other services we've seen designers charge for

While the 4 areas above are the most commonly billable areas of email marketing, I've seen designers also charge for the following separately:

  • Testing the design in popular email environments.
  • Cleaning and importing the client's subscriber list into their account.
  • Adding list subscribe forms to the client's web site.
  • Processing bounces and unsubscribe requests for the client (even though we do this automatically).
  • Giving the client access to web-based reports on the results or sending them a print-based version of the reports (usually a set monthly fee).
  • List and image hosting fees (even though we offer this for free).

The email marketing billing cycle

Just like most web sites, an email marketing program is an organic thing that changes over time. Each issue needs to include new content or a new offer, there might be a design tweak you need to make or a new email client to test in. As well as improving your clients relationship with their customers or driving sales, an email marketing program can also provide a great cashflow injection each month. Here's a quick example of how you might charge a client for your email marketing services on an ongoing basis.

Example email newsletter billing cycle

Campaign Monitor's pricing structure was a very deliberate decision on our part. We wanted a system that meant you only had to pay when you got paid, and you weren't left short if you had a quiet month. Because of this, the "Charge them a set per/recipient fee" approach from the delivery options above usually makes the most sense for our customers.

Try and keep it simple

From my own experience charging clients for email marketing and also the feedback we get from our customers, it seems that simple is almost always better than complex. Splitting the costs into template design, delivery costs and making subsequent charges is about as granular as most of our customers get and that model seems to work best for most.

Hitting your clients with fees for every little detail in the process can certainly be a profitable way to offer email marketing, but you're also running the risk of confusing some customers. Worse still, you may end up alienating some customers by giving the impression you're trying to milk them for everything they've got (even if you're not).

Finally, email marketing is often sold to clients as part of a wider package that might include a web site or some paid search advertising. Billing for the range of these services can get complicated pretty quickly, so the simpler you keep your email marketing component the better.


I'd love to hear how you guys go about charging for your email marketing services. Do you use the approaches I mentioned here or take a different approach to billing your clients?

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 8 Comments

Permission starts at home(page)

We talk a lot about permission here at Campaign Monitor. All of us as designers focus on making sure our emails have clear unsubscribe links and the required company details.

Today we are going back to the start of the process, and looking at the point of subscription. Your sign up page on your website (or even offline) can answer a lot of questions in the minds of potential subscribers.

  • Why should I sign up for this email?
  • How often will I get emails from you?
  • When will I get the first one?
  • How can I get off the list?
  • What else will you do with my email address?
  • What will it look like?

It's all about setting expectations, so that when that first email arrives, your subscriber is happy, not surprised or angry.

Sometimes you can cover a lot of this with a simple paragraph, like:

"Xylophone Zygote is a monthly email of tips and hints for increasing your score at Scrabble. You can read a sample issue online. We will never sell or give away your email address"

Obviously, you won't always have room for all those things, and often it won't make sense to have them all. If your list is for members of your community, you may already have a lot of trust built up.

Even then, you could certainly include all this information in your welcome email.

At the other extreme, your list might be based on entries to a competition on TV, or people at a tradeshow signing up at your booth. Those people are far more likely to forget what they signed up for, and mark it incorrectly as spam. The more detail they absorb about what to expect, the better their reaction will be.

The basic rule is the shorter the relationship you have with that person, the more information you need to provide. We'd love to hear your thoughts: What influences your decision to sign up for an email newsletter?

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 6 Comments

Some hard numbers on preview panes and image blocking in consumer emails

As a nice follow up to Mark’s research into the current state of image blocking in email last week, I just came across an interesting study from MarketingSherpa via Tamara’s blog.

They surveyed 1,323 consumers over 18 to find out their email viewing preferences in regards to image blocking and preview panes. We already know preview panes are extremely popular in the B2B market because of the popularity of Outlook, but it’s important to note this survey was targeted specifically at the consumer market.

A full 38% of online consumers now use preview pane ‘capable’ email clients and 64% of people who are offered preview panes start using them as their default… Can you imagine if people judged your print ads by just a corner of the creative? Or your TV ads by just a few frames? That’s what’s increasingly happening with email.

Consistent with our recommendations back in November 2005, this great comparison really drives home the importance of ensuring the best bits of your email are at least visible in a preview pane.

To get an idea of exactly which corner many subscribers will be seeing, they also asked the type of preview pane being used. Turns out that just like business email users, home email users also favour the horizontal preview pane, which makes sense considering that’s the most popular default in those email clients that offer one. Because of this, it’s safe to assume that the most important content in your email should be at the top of your email, and preferably top-left to get the best of both types of preview panes.

Another interesting find was that between 35-50% of consumers have images off by default in their email clients. Of course, a percentage of those surveyed would enable images for safe senders and images would still be displayed automatically if you were in their address book. Check out the rest of the survey for the nitty gritty.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 2 Comments

Image Blocking in Email Clients: Current Conditions and Best Practices

For the most current results on image blocking in email clients, view our updated post.

Many people, either by email client defaults or personal preference, are blocking images in the HTML-formatted messages they are accepting. And then there are a small number of people who block HTML entirely. As David Greiner points out, according to a study by Epsilon Interactive 30% of your recipients don’t even know that images are disabled. In any case, it’s logical for recipients to block images and good practice for us to prepare for this scenario.

So what happens to our emails when images are blocked? What are the best practices for ensuring accessibility and optimizing presentation therein? What are default settings across the board? Let’s get down to answering these questions.

Default Settings in Popular Email Clients

Every client has its own default settings regarding displaying/hiding images. And while most email clients have a setting to turn images on or off, some offer conditional settings which are contingent upon known senders or other factors. The following table outlines the default settings of popular desktop- and webmail-clients. (Note that I’m reporting the settings of my personal versions of each client and that settings may differ from one version to another.). I have included contextually-relevant references to ALT text as part of this article. For a more in-depth look at how ALT text renders in popular email clients, you may want to read a more comprehensive article I wrote about ALT text.

Image Blocking in Webmail Clients
Client Default Img Display Trusted-Sender Img Display Renders ALT Text
Yahoo Mail on No No
Yahoo Mail Beta on Yes Yes
Windows Live Mail off Yes No
Gmail off Yes sometimes
.Mac on No sometimes
Hotmail on Yes No
AOL on Yes Yes

Image Blocking in Desktop Clients
Client Default Img Display Trusted-Sender Img Display Renders ALT Text
Apple Mail on No No
Thunderbird on Yes Yes
Outlook 2007 off Yes sort of
Outlook 2003 off Yes Yes
Outlook Express on No Yes
Lotus Notes on Yes Yes
Eudora on No sort of
Entourage on No Yes
AOL off Yes No

So now that we’ve covered the settings in popular email clients, let’s outline how we can help our emails survive image blocking.

Recommendations for Successful Deployment

From my perspective, an email is successful when it meets the following goals:

  • Retains visual integrity in the most commonly used email clients with images enabled.
  • Retains readability in the most commonly used email clients with images disabled.
  • Is readable to people with visual disabilities and navigable to people with mobility disabilities.
  • Is low in weight for recipients using mobile devices and dial-up connections.
  • Is deployed to a permission-based list of subscribers.
  • Meets CAN-SPAM Act requirements.
  • Legitimately passes common tests employed by spam filters.

Looking at this list it becomes clear just how important it is to consider image blocking when designing/developing an email. Dependency on images can lead to failures on many different levels. Preparing for a scenario in which images are disabled puts us at an advantage to oblige the settings/preferences of a broader range of recipients.

Become a “Known Sender”

Nearly every email client in my test suite enables people to automatically display images when a message is from a “known sender” (senders appearing in white lists, contact lists or address books). Because our subscribers have requested to receive emails from us, they will naturally want to ensure they receive the messages. Spam filters can disrupt legitimate communication when subscribers are unaware of how they function. With a couple, simple notifications we can increase our chances of success:

  1. Ask a subscriber to add the email-list address to their address book (right on the subscribe form) and briefly explain why.
  2. Enable a double opt-in subscription process, and send a plain-text confirmation which includes a request to add the email-list address to a recipient’s address book. And, again, briefly explain why.

Informing a subscriber about this simple step will increase our chances of images being enabled and will help us legitimately pass through spam filters.

Prepare for Disabled Images

So we’ve created a structurally-sound template, we’re preparing to send our email to a permission-based list of subscribers and we’ve taken steps to see our list email-address into the address books of the said subscribers. There are still a number of people on our lists who will intentionally block images, and therefore we should account for that scenario.

I wrote an article outlining a technique for this very purpose. With the releases of Yahoo Mail Beta and Windows Live Mail we lose the ability to integrate the aforementioned technique. However, Ryan Kennedy from the Yahoo Mail team has pointed out that they are looking into potential resolutions for this obstacle.

Positioning aside, there are some things we can do to retain the integrity of our emails when images are disabled:

  1. Begin an email with HTML text or logical ALT text. We can decide what a reader sees in a preview pane or small message-window. If we’re prepared, we can optimize the experience of scanning messages. Moreover, some applications offer the ability to preview the first few lines of text before an email is loaded/viewed.
  2. Use ALT text. This seems so obvious I’m almost embarrassed mentioning it. However, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the email newsletters I receive sans ALT text, so there it is.
  3. Use captions for contextually-important images. In lieu of proper support for ALT text across the board, we can add captions to images which are vitally important to the content of an email.

Avoid Image-Based Emails

Again, this is something which should seem obvious. But image-based emails are often practiced as a simple, easy method of delivering a pretty design irrespective of the rendering circus among the array of common email-clients. When we ponder image blocking as part of the rendering equation, it’s easy to see how an image-based email could be completely destroyed with a single preference. Furthermore, this doesn’t take into consideration file sizes for mobile/dial-up recipients, accessibility for those visually impaired or the HTML-to-text ratio that popular spam filters apply with their algorithms.

In summary, we should be giving serious consideration to image-blocking and what we can do about it. It’s natural and reasonable why people disable them, but with the right approach we can improve the experience for our subscribers.

Read this post Posted by Administrator - 52 Comments
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