Today we're talking to Richard Banfield, founding partner of Fresh Tilled Soil, a Boston based design firm whose fantastic email designs have been featured on a number of ocassions in our email design gallery. We asked Richard all about making the transition from web to email design, pitching and pricing his services and for any email marketing secrets he's learnt over the years. We certainly weren't disappointed with his responses and there were a number of gems in here that we hope you can all benefit from.
Has it been hard to convince your clients to embrace email marketing? How do you approach this?
It's not hard at all. Email marketing is a standard marketing vehicle for most of our clients. The biggest obstacle is figuring out what kind of content they should be pushing to their clients.
Most clients initially want to send out boring office announcements and stuff that should be reserved for press releases. Our job is to find out what the audience wants to receive in their inbox, so that they even look forward to opening that monthly email. As spam has changed the nature of email we have to become increasingly creative and insightful.
How much of your current schedule is spent on email marketing for your clients?
"We've used other email marketing software before, but it made a big difference to have a system that was built with the designer in mind."
The answer is much less then you might expect. We've worked hard to develop a process and find the right software, Campaign Monitor, that reduces the time required to setup and deliver a campaign. We've used other email marketing software before, but it made a big difference to have a system that was built with the designer in mind.
Because of this we have cut out most of the costs relating to maintaining a consistently scheduled campaign like monthly newsletters. Generally there is a bigger time investment up front to get the client up to speed and get the template looking perfect but then we can streamline the following monthly emails down to a few hours.
How do you charge your clients for your email marketing services?
Monthly or quarterly retainers. The retainer is calculated as an amortized cost of the time required to design, maintain, edit and distribute the emails. This also takes into consideration that we might spend several hours initially to design the template which we don't have to recreate each time. The longer the contract the more discounted the monthly fee.
What do you think is the biggest benefit of email marketing?
It's still the primary means of affordable communication for businesses so it's still the best bang for the buck. How else can you reach tens of thousands of customers for a few hundred bucks?
From your own experiences, what's the biggest challenge right now in email design?
On the technical side the big challenge is to create designs that are both aesthetically pleasing and can still get through the recipient's email application without being butchered.
In terms of content, the biggest challenge is to remain relevant and concise which means you need to always be closing the loop with clients and getting feedback from the recipients.
How do you communicate campaign results back to your clients?
"We find that most clients would rather pay a little extra for us to deliver a report to them, which Campaign Monitor makes it all too easy to do."
Many of our clients use the Client Report Access feature, especially early in our relationship.
Having said that, we find that most clients would rather pay a little extra for us to deliver a report to them, which Campaign Monitor makes it all too easy to do. This also adds an additional layer of tangible value we can provide. The reports give the clients something they can share with colleagues or their bosses which makes them look like they are doing their job more effectively.
Has it been hard for your team to transition from web design to email design?
Not really. We have had to broaden our CSS skills a little but it has been a smooth transition.
Any email marketing secrets to share with your fellow designers?
The best trick we have learnt is to encourage storytelling to build communities. Whether you are selling shoes or insurance your audience will have lots of great stories to tell about their experiences. These stories make excellent content for both the newsletters and the website.
Through the newsletters we have encouraged audiences to tell their most touching and empowering stories which help other readers to feel connected to the company and the customers that surround it. Telling stories is as fundamental as communication goes but it also happens to be the most sophisticated marketing strategy any company can adopt.
From the Fresh Tilled Soil portfolio...
We've featured a number of Fresh Tilled Soil concepts in our email design gallery. Here's a quick sample from their Campaign Monitor portfolio.