Small design tweaks can get big results

Chart showing click throughs

Have you ever had a client who insists on having everything in images, so it 'looks exactly right'? It can be hard to convince them of the impact of image blocking and filters on image heavy emails.

Next time it happens, you'll have some more ammunition on your side thanks to this Marketing Sherpa case study (via Tamara Gielen).

The article discusses the redesign that a US Cable Network company did for their email newsletters, facing the reality that many people are not seeing images in email by default.

They designed from the perspective that the email had to work without images, and changed the layout appropriately. Combined with some alt attributes and sending checklists, the changes resulted in a huge 41% increase in clickthroughs.

You probably already think this way — great! Your clients might need some convincing though, and these kinds of case studies are a great help. Have you made a small change to get a big result? We'd love to hear about it.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

Payment gateway problems

Anyone trying to pay for a campaign for the last few hours would have noticed a frustrating "Server busy" message. Our sincere apologies for this. Turns out our payment gateway is having some unscheduled downtime.

We're working with them as I type this and will post an update here the moment they're back online. Not that it's any consolation, but we'll be moving to a new and more reliable merchant provider in the next few weeks. This one's frustrating for everyone.

Update: We're back online and accepting payments again. Thanks so much for your patience as this issue was resolved and apologies again for any delays this caused.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 2 Comments

Capturing unsubscribes in your own system

We’ve posted about this quite a while back but it remains one of the most common questions we get.

How can I get the address of people who just unsubscribed, so I can keep my database up to date?

Since we first answered, we’ve added a full API which has a method for getting a list of people who have unsubscribed since a specified date. If you have some development skill available, that’s a great way to keep things in sync.

However, you don’t have to use the API - a simple way of getting hold of those unsubscribed addresses is to use the custom unsubscribe confirmation page. You can find it under ‘Unsubscribe Options’ for any list, and it lets you enter a URL that we will send people to after they unsubscribe from your list.

You can just have a static ‘sorry to see you go’ page there, but you can also pass through the unsubscribing email address, and send it to whichever internal system you have.

It’s very simple - just make your unsubscribe URL something like:[email]

That [email] tag will be replaced with the relevant address, and passed onto your pag, and from there it’s up to you.  Anyone who unsubscribes via a link in your campaign or an unsubscribe form will be handled in this way.

Please note: You can’t pass through any custom field values on the query string like this, only the name and email address will work.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 4 Comments

Campaign Monitor comes out on top

"Services like Campaign Monitor suit the vast majority of small/medium businesses with their simple and slick user interface, and are still priced very reasonably." writes Vero Pepperrell in a blog post about the good, the bad and the downright ugly email marketing apps out there.

In her post, Vero revisits some of the different tools she's used throughout her email marketing career and Campaign Monitor comes out on top over some of the bigger players in the industry. I loved this bit about one particular application...

It should already raise a big red flag when the service is only usable in IE 6 on Windows.

A lot of the motivation for building Campaign Monitor came from the frustration we experienced using the same tools as Vero. It's great to hear we hit the mark for her too. If you're interested in learning a little more about how we got here, check out this great article in today's Smart Company magazine or the podcast from a talk we gave last year on what we learnt building Campaign Monitor.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner

The “Mark as Irrelevant” button

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret. There’s a difference between how an email sender sees their inbox and how an email recipient sees theirs. It’s only a subtle difference. If you blink you’ll miss it. But, it has far reaching implications on how all of us should be approaching email marketing. Here’s a screenshot of it in all its glory.

What you see

Gmail - what you see

What your recipients see

Gmail - what your recipients see

It’s time we all realized just how important this difference is. Getting your subscriber’s permission is only half the battle. If you’re not relevant, you might as well be a spammer. It’s hard for some to swallow, but it’s really that simple.

Whenever someone marks your email spam in most of the popular email clients, they let us know about it. If the number of complaints exceeds a certain benchmark, your account with us might even be closed. Inevitably, this can lead to frustration because you’ve done almost everything right. It doesn’t matter if you had double opt-in permission and your email has an obvious unsubscribe link. If you’re not relevant, you might as well be a spammer.

From the horse’s mouth…

Still need convincing? All of the major ISP’s have reinforced this position in the last few weeks. They’re giving more filtering control back to their users and the “Mark as Spam” button is the glue holding it all together.

Yahoo! Mail - Miles Libbey: Anti-spam product manager

Operationally, we define spam as whatever consumers don’t want in their inbox.

AOL - Charles Stiles: AOL Postmaster

“I don’t care if they’ve triple opted-in and gave you their credit card number,” said Stiles, drawing chuckles, but making his point loud and clear: Relevance rules, and catering to end user preferences is his top priority.

Microsoft/Hotmail - Craig Spiezle: Online safety evangelist

We need to think really a step beyond opt-in and focus on the consumer’s expectations, relevancy, and frequency.

Gmail - Brad Taylor: Google Engineer

Sometimes people are afraid to report a message because they aren’t sure if it is “really” spam or not. Our opinion is that if you didn’t ask for it and you don’t want it, it’s spam to you, and it should be reported.

Do they really want this email?

Like most things, this ultimately comes down to common sense. Put yourself in the shoes of your subscribers and think about what they actually need. If it’s a useful article on something that interests them, send away, but if it’s the latest press release from marketing, I’d think again. Perhaps then you’ll start to see the “Mark as Spam” button for what it really is.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 22 Comments

Are you a web designer looking for a gig?

We often get approached by people who have enough HTML knowledge to be able to edit an existing page, but don't have the level of design skills to create the look they are after.

We try to be helpful, but we don't always know of a friendly designer who can work with those people to create base designs or MailBuild templates. Last week on the forums, member CleverDick posted a similar query. So if you are a web designer, maybe a freelancer or an inhouse designer looking for some extra gigs, drop by the forum and leave your details in the thread.

When we got more queries like this in the future, we can direct people there to find someone who can help them. We already know you guys are super talented - you can let other people find you too!

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

Plain text templates to save you time

You spend a lot of time crafting your HTML newsletter, tweaking the layout from a previous edition or adding new sections. Then you get to the text entry field, and have to layout the same content again under much greater constraints.

Good Experience

To give you some ideas about how plain text can be best formatted for readability, we’ve gone looking for some examples of well designed plain text, and then created some simple text templates from them.

Our inspiration (and permission) came from 37Signals, Freshbooks and Good Experience, who all have excellent newsletters that we can personally recommend.

Next time you are faced with that empty text field, just copy and paste a template and fill in the sections. If you already do a great job of text formatting, we’d love to hear about it too. Would it make it easier for you if you always started with the plain text from your last newsletter for that client? Let us know with a comment below.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson
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