While designers may often focus on how difficult email projects are to sell and execute, for Mark J. Reeves, the positives – like short turnarounds and creative challenges – are clear. In this short Community Champion Q&A, we discuss winning clients over with email, the difference between web and email projects and why responsive has changed everything.

Mark J. Reeves

From time to time, we interview a successful customer as part of our Community Champion series, to find out what it is about email marketing that works and how other designers, agencies, and brands can make the most of it. Mark is a perfect fit – as the founder of Clearbold, a Massachusetts-based agency that’s always given email a starring role, his insights into the business are as practical as it gets. He also spends much time educating clients (and our community via the forums), so make sure you take note of his favorite blogs, guides and tools, too!

Hi Mark, you’ve been offering email marketing to clients for a very long time now. What lead you into making email so integral to your business?

I actually first worked with email nine years ago, in a big agency, doing segmentation and reporting for a list with over one million subscribers. We targeted customers with emails featuring activities aligned with their interests – based on surveys – and watched product usage go up following each campaign blast. That was really powerful.

Email projects… reach a point of completion that most web work never achieves.When I went solo two years later, email was a naturally compelling service to offer. The Sitepoint book from Campaign Monitor (“Create Stunning HTML Email That Just Works!“) was my hands-on primer.

Email projects are a lot of fun for me. They’re small enough that you can wrap your head around one in an afternoon. They require attention to detail, because you can’t tweak or fix them once a campaign goes out. But that also means they reach a point of completion that most web work never achieves.

Are there distinct challenges in offering email marketing to clients, over say, web design or search?

The bigger clients already do email marketing as part of their integrated efforts, so more often the challenge there is convincing them to use a better toolset or new techniques. I try my best to steer them in the right direction!

For smaller clients – the ones we often enjoy working with the most – email seems like a little thing with yet another price tag. We focus on outcomes when making the case there. I recorded a screencast of my own newsletter in Campaign Monitor this summer and shared that with a client, highlighting all the data and reporting capabilities. That got him excited and got us the green light.

What’s the most exciting trend, or technique you’ve come across in email lately? How has it impacted the way you work?

Without a doubt, responsive design. It’s even more compelling than on the web because we can see email open rates surging on mobile, which is inevitable, and tailor the experience there to make an even better impression.

We’ve been using responsive techniques in website builds for a few years, so it’s been easy to apply those to email. There’s very little resistance because it makes so much sense and is something people can relate to – everyone reads email on mobile devices. We do have to push back a bit on design comps, particularly where custom fonts would require lots of sliced images, but it’s easy enough to explain how the landscape has evolved and get buy-in.

Email can be a tough sell. What’s your advice to designers and marketers who want to have it get the credit it deserves?

Email… is the best tool we’ve got for directly measuring outcomes

The power of email marketing still lies in the data and the permission model. It’s the best tool we’ve got for directly measuring outcomes and, when done right, it’s the strongest marketing relationship we can engage customers in due to its opt-in nature. Put those two together and you have a very compelling argument for investing in email, even in a world saturated with marketing messages.

Finally, you mentioned the “Create Stunning HTML Email” book – are there any resources you’d recommend to email designers?

Keep an eye on our own resources list that we try to keep updated, client work permitting.

One of the reasons we rely on Campaign Monitor is the support they’ve provided the community, so it should be no surprise that it’s among our favorite resources.

  • The Campaign Monitor Blog – We actually just referenced this post on using animated GIFs in HTML email this month. This blog is our first stop to catch up on the latest changes and trends or to revisit topics on what’s supported on which platforms.
  • Campaign Monitor’s CSS Inliner – Even if we’re delivering an email to a client for use on another system, we’ve always run our work through a test in Campaign Monitor to move CSS inline as we expect.
  • Litmus – We’ve begun using Litmus directly after relying on its toolset within our Campaign Monitor account for years. Its testing suite is thorough, reliable and makes it easy to share results with clients & colleagues for review.
  • MX Toolbox – If you manage your own authentication settings, this is a useful tool to check that your DNS records are configured properly.

Big love to Mark for his ongoing excellent contributions to our forums and email design gallery – he’s been a true Community Champion to many of our customers and the design community as a whole.

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