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

In the forums this week

A week ago we launched the Campaign Monitor forums as a place to discuss issues in email design and Campaign Monitor. We've already had a lot of people sign up, and some good discussions kick off.

From time to time we will be pointing out some of the interesting topics and excellent posts here in the blog. This week we started off with the welcome post where we got to meet some of you guys (that's still an excellent place to drop in and say hi). We promised to send a free Campaign Monitor t-shirt to one of the contributors to that thread, and the lucky winner is Chris Harrison, who could be picking his shirt right now.

If you are a Flash guy or girl with some development skills, you could pick up some cash helping out forum member Brenda with her subscribe form in Flash. It's a pretty straightforward job, since you can use our Flash API sample file. She would love to hear from you.

Finally, if you have any suggestion for our presentation at the Future of Web Design, we've setup a FOWD ideas topic and look forward to hearing your ideas. If you haven't joined the forums yet, it is the work of a minute to register and get started. See you there!

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 1 Comment

Campaign Monitor at the Future of Web Design

Future of Web Design In early November, I will be speaking at the Future of Web Design conference in New York, alongside such noted html email lovers as Mr Zeldman :)

The conference website has me speaking on 'Good Practices in Newsletter/Email Design ', but that is a broad topic, and it is early days yet. We would love to hear from you about what you think the presentation should cover, what it should not cover and what the backup singers should be wearing.

Would it be valuable or even practical to cover specifics of implementing html in email? Would we be better off working on convincing more designers to take it seriously? Or some other approach entirely? We've create a new topic in the forum - jump in and share your thoughts.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson

Why permission is never enough

Something we cover on this blog and in our help over and over again is the importance of having explicit permission before you email someone. However, just having that explicit permission is not enough. Recently the FTC Spam Summit 2007 was held in Washington, subtitled "The Next Generation of Threats and Solutions".

According to Jordan Cohen of Epsilon , some of the top ISPs and email providers are moving to a looser definition of spam than is currently held. According to Jordan, a Yahoo representative said:

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

Other influential people were heading in the same direction - it's not enough that someone originally asked you for email, they have to actually keep wanting to receive it. Getting someone onto your list is not the end of your job. You have to work at keeping them happy too.

So what does that mean for you as a designer? One key point is to recognise that some percentage of people on your list probably don't want to be on it. You should make it much easier for them to unsubscribe than to mark it as spam. So don't hide your unsubscribe link in tiny font or bury it in a paragraph.

Every campaign needs to be absolutely relevant for your subscribers. Secondly, keep encouraging your clients to concentrate on list quality instead of list size. Work on making the content more valuable to your subscribers so they want to keep getting it. That's your best ongoing protection against spam complaints.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

There are typos, and then there are typos!

I sent out the Campaign Monitor newsletter to 30,000 or so of our customers and subscribers last night, which you can check out here. Before I send each newsletter, I normally run it through most of the popular email clients to make sure it still looks fine, plus forward it around to a few members of the team for a good old proof read.

Yesterday was a busy one, with the launch of our t-shirt store and some pretty big feature updates happening behind the scenes. By the time the newsletter was good to go, I was the only one left in the office. Wanting to get the newsletter out, I worked through my standard tests, gave it another quick read, got over the famous send button anxiety and sent it out.

It took a good 3 minutes after the newsletter was sent before the first email came in. I tell you, send button anxiety is nothing compared to knowing you've just sent an email with the word "ass" in it to all your customers. I've already received 40 or so hilarious emails from you guys - here are some favourites so far...

That's been making me laugh all morning. Perhaps in your next newsletter you could explain how we can learn to ass our content.
That's the funniest typo i've seen in awhile! Thanks for lightening up my morning!
Can someone over there show me how to "ass" content?
"Just tweak the colors, ass your content and your all set." Reason #89234 why spell-check is never enough ;)

So why am I rubbing this in my own face? Just a friendly reminder from the Campaign Monitor team about making sure you proof-read every newsletter you send. Not everyone needs to learn the hard way.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 10 Comments

Campaign Monitor tees - flaunt the nerd within!

It's been a long wait but the Campaign Monitor t-shirts have finally arrived. A big thanks to everyone who voted and left comments in our quick survey. We had hundreds of votes cast and decided to go with the top 3 designs as voted by you. Once the tally was complete, we hired designer Trent Agnew to turn your ideas into a thing of beauty. We're super happy with the results and are pretty confident you guys have helped produce the coolest email nerd shirts the world has ever seen.

Without further adue, the winners are...

Security! by Mark Brownlow

Security! by Mark Brownlow

Receiving almost half the total votes, a big congratulations goes to Mark Brownlow from Email Marketing Reports for the winning tagline. Not only does he have one of the best email blogs on the web, but turns out he's damn funny too! We'll be sending Mark a copy of each shirt along with some other cool prizes.

The Counter by Jason Dancisin

The Counter by Jason Dancisin

Coming in at second place was Jason Dancisin's simple but effective "This shirt has been viewed 4782 times". We instantly loved this one and were glad to see it voted in. We're sending Jason a copy of each shirt, the awesome SitePoint email marketing kit and loading his account with some free email credits.

I'm single by our own Mat Patterson

I'm Single by Mat Patterson

Someone in the office thinks they're pretty clever! We were stoked to see Mat's early design we used when begging you guys for help come in at third place. Here's the redesigned version.

The final voting tally

For those of you that made the final round but missed out on getting printed, thanks again for the hilarious suggestions. Here's a pretty graph showing the vote counts for the top 10 designs our team selected.

T-shirt votes

Finally, we're still overwhelmed with the response we've had to this and are so glad we could involve you all in the process. There are two things we've taken away from this.

  1. Our customers are damn funny.
  2. Penis jokes are alive and well.

Moving forward, we plan on sending a shirt to anyone who makes it into the design gallery and any customers who we spot doing something special with Campaign Monitor or helping out in our forums.

Grab your own copy

We've set up a small online store where you can check out the shirts in more detail and grab one in your own size. On a side note, the store was built in less than a day with the awesome Shopify - one of the most impressive web apps I've used in a long time.

Head on over to the store and flaunt the email marketing nerd within.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 9 Comments
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