We recently sat down to chat with Justin Khoo from FreshInbox about one of our favorite topics — email marketing! Justin is always full of great knowledge and fresh insights, so read on to see what gets him excited about email marketing right now.
Give our readers a little background about yourself.
I write about interactive email techniques on my blog FreshInbox and I’m also building a collaborative email review app called Campaign Workhub. My background is mostly as a programmer but I got involved in email marketing while working for a webmail service. A few years back I noticed that it was possible to create interactive emails with just CSS and HTML and I created the blog to document what I discovered. I’ve since found out that it’s something that quite a few other email designers are excited about.
How should marketers deal with Gmail’s lack of style support?
The email community is pretty split about this prediction. Google has made public comments that they are aware of how their quirks impact email designers and have made statements that they are looking into improving HTML/CSS support. Since no timeline was given, many argued it was just a way to assuage the angry folks without actually doing anything. I’m with Alex on this, though, I feel Google will address this shortcoming sometime this year.
You’re well known in the email industry for your email design blog, FreshInbox. What are you most excited about in email design right now?
Naturally I’m most excited about advanced CSS and interactivity in email – or what I’d like to call kinetic email. It’s still in its infancy so there’s a lot of effort required to create campaigns like these and still have them fall back nicely in legacy or uncooperative email clients. The biggest challenge is providing a convincing use case for it. I personally feel if done right and for the right brand, it can reinforce their brand identity as it gives their email an extra sense of polish. Another challenge is time. Most email designers are hard pressed for time and right now kinetic campaigns require a lot of time spent testing – something hard to justify if the ROI is revenue. However as more best practices are developed, I’m sure these techniques will become more accessible.
You’re pretty infamous for finding and fixing bugs. Which fix do you think has made folks lives better?
I once uncovered a security bug in Microsoft’s Office 365 Mail while trying to understand its quirks. But the fix I feel has made the most impact is the hack that prevents the iOS Gmail app from drastically increasing the font of your email. Believe it or not, it’s the most popular article on my blog!
What tips would you give a marketer who doesn’t code about how to make the most engaging and compelling email?
I would say visit a curated collection of emails like Campaign Monitor’s Top 100 Gallery or Really Good Emails and see what your peers have been sending to get inspired. It’s also good to know which email clients your audience uses so you can ensure your email campaigns are optimized for them (Note: You can see this in your Campaign Reporting in Campaign Monitor under Email Clients).
I’d also recommend you test every email before sending using a service like Litmus or Email on Acid, or Campaign Monitor’s Inbox Preview feature. Lastly, Campaign Monitor’s drag-and-drop email builder is also a very useful tool as it allows you to focus on building beautiful emails without having to know a lick of code.
What’s in your marketing/tech stack?
I use Sublime as my code editor, the Chrome browser, Litmus and Email on Acid to test email rendering.
Of course, I use Campaign Workhub (plug!) to get collaborative feedback when I’m developing email campaigns with my team or clients.
What new tool or technology are you most excited to test this year?
Probably tracking interactions in interactive email. Interactive email is cool, but are people interacting with it? Do people even know it’s interactive? It is going to be exciting to finally be able to get some metrics and stats around that.
I would also have to say I’m really keen to try out this technique to create flexible emails that work well in the Gmail app. This technique was highlighted by Mark Robbins and featured by Dan Denney in a CodeSchool blog article.
There you have it, a glimpse into the email marketing mind of Justin Khoo. Stay tuned for more chats with email experts from around the globe.