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Look for the Positives in Your Unhappy Subscribers

As you know, Campaign Monitor is directly integrated into the feedback loop for a number of large ISP’s like AOL, Hotmail, MSN, Juno, Netzero and a few others. This means that when any of your subscribers at these ISP’s mark your campaign as junk, we automatically remove them from your list and give you a detailed report about who made the complaint and when. Derek Harding recently put together an overview of how feedback loops actually work and there are two points we think he covered really well. The first is an explanation of why even the most well maintained lists can still see a few complaints. It’s important to understand that though your list may be 100 percent opt-in, it may still receive a substantial number of complaints. For years, end users have been told not to trust email unsubscribe links, so many users hit the spam button as a way of unsubscribing. While we do take action when a customer receives a significant number of spam complaints, we certainly realize that many of your recipients are just taking the easy way out or might not trust your unsubscribe link. Then there was this beauty. Too many marketers dismiss complainants as troublemakers and malcontents. The reality is there’s a wealth of data in who complains and what they complain about. Regardless of whether you believe the complaints are unfounded, if they complained they were dissatisfied. Smart marketers aim to avoid dissatisfied customers (or prospective customers). In my experience, the majority of complaints are caused by a failure to meet expectations. A common case is high complaint rates among new subscribers. This can be caused by subscribers not realizing what they signed up for, subscribers not getting what they thought they signed up for, or a long delay between sign-up and the first mailing. Just like the recent tips on getting the most out of your unsubscribes, there’s plenty we can learn from those marking our legitimate emails as junk. If you’re receiving complaints for any of your campaigns, it might be time to review your subscribe process and make sure you’re meeting and exceeding the expectations of your subscribers.

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Hardware Upgrade Problems

A few hours ago we flicked the switch on a big server upgrade including a significant hardware boost and a brand new database server. Unfortunately the process hasn’t gone as smoothly as we had hoped and something that should have taken 5 minutes is going to take much longer. At this stage, it’s very unlikely that we’ll have Campaign Monitor up and running before 6pm (CDT) this afternoon. We can’t apologize enough for this, and please rest assured that we’re doing everything in our power to get things running smoothly again. We’ll post updates here the moment we’re back online and you can access your account. UPDATE – 12.45pm (CDT) All sent campaigns should be displaying and working fine now. Link tracking is currently disabled but we’ll switch that on soon. In the mean time though, your recipients won’t notice a thing. We’re now working on your subscribe forms and will post here as soon as they’re back online. UPDATE – 1.25pm (CDT) OK, subscribe forms are back online now. This means your campaign recipients and any subscribers are no longer affected by this outage. Link tracking is also back online and we’re now hard at work getting the application itself available UPDATE – 4.45pm (CDT) We’re making plenty of progress bringing the application back online, but it looks like we won’t make our self imposed deadline of 6pm (CDT). As it’s coming to the end of the business day for many of you, we recommend waiting until tomorrow to get any campaigns out. A hardware problem managed to corrupt some recent data, so we’re treading carefully to restore this problem before we open the application up again. It’s tough to give accurate estimates on when this will be complete but we don’t want to promise any less than 6 more hours (12am CDT). As usual, we’ll be posting here the moment you can access your account and thanks again for your patience. UPDATE – 2.00am (CDT) Right now it looks like we’re less than 2 hours away from bringing the application back online. All of our hardware issues have now been resolved and we’re tying up loose ends before flicking the switch back on. Thanks for all the kind words we’ve been receiving too, your understanding is very much appreciated. More news to follow real soon… UPDATE – 6.40am (CDT) WE’RE BACK! Access to all accounts has been re-enabled and all the queued campaigns are getting delivered as I type this. We’ll be closely monitoring everything, but please feel free to access your account. We can’t thank you guys enough for the kind words of support and patience as we got to the bottom of this issue. We’ve seriously got the best customers in the world. UPDATE – 8.20am (CDT) While the application is back online and fully operational, the hardware failure did mean that a portion of our customers data needed to be restored from a very recent backup. Unfortunately this meant that anything added to those accounts during this window was lost. We’ll also be restoring some data to these accounts to fill in some of these gaps over the next 12-24 hours.

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Making the Most of Your Unsubscribes

Yesterday we highlighted some great tips for welcoming new subscribers to your list, so today we thought we’d look at the flipside. Stefan Pollard just put together some great suggestions for getting the most out of anyone leaving your subscriber list. As you know, Campaign Monitor requires a single-click unsubscribe link to be included in every email you send. On top of this, we also let you set up a confirmation page to redirect the unsubscriber to, and this is where Stefan’s tips shine. He writes… Instead of letting unsubscribers go with just a thank-you note, give them the opportunity to tell you why they’re leaving. You can use that information to sharpen the focus of your e-mail program, redo your template or send schedule, improve personalization, or find other ways to become more valuable to subscribers or customers. We especially liked these 2 suggestions: Include a form giving that gives them an opportunity to let you know why they unsubscribed, such as no longer interested, was sent too frequently, etc. If you have other newsletters on different topics or sent less often, give them the opportunity to subscribe to them instead. Out of any subscribers in your list, it’s the people who are leaving that can offer the best advice on what needs improving.

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9 Steps to Better Welcome Emails for New Subscribers

Mark Brownlow recently put together 9 common sense suggestions on ways we can all improve our automated welcome emails we send to new subscribers. As Mark explains… Somebody just felt interested and enthused enough about your products, services or publications to request regular emails from you. This is one of those precious marketing moments. You’ve got the prospect’s attention. You’ve got their interest. You’ve got their permission to send them email. And how do you communicate with them in this glorious, elusive moment? Unfortunately for many of us this is usually a pretty generic and boring confirmation email. Mark’s recommendations range from reminding them how often they’ll hear from you, giving an immediate feedback option and using conversational language. All great ideas. We’ve just updated the suggested text for the welcome emails in Campaign Monitor that embrace most of Mark’s suggestions. There are a few in there that you’ll need to add yourself though, like reminding them of the benefits of subscribing and rewarding them with some kind of treat. Check out the article and make the few simple changes to your welcome emails today.

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Free HTML Email Templates

We often get asked by new customers if we have any sample email templates they can check out to get started. We’re psyched to say, of course, we do! These email templates cover everything from a simple announcement email to an email newsletter and much more.   If you’re looking for some further inspiration to get the creative juices flowing, our design gallery has now grown to 100 awesome examples of emails from some of the best-known companies on the planet. Plus, we’ve got a helpful post on the 4 ways email templates make your email marketing better.

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Image Based Spam on the Rise

I’ve seen quite a few mentions about the growing problem of image based spam on the web and unfortunately in my inbox of late. I knew image-based spam was getting worse, but this statistic in a recent USA Today article blew me away: Image-based spam accounts for 21% of all spam, compared with just 1% in late 2005. It’s only a matter of time before spam content filters respond by coming down even harder on predominantly image based HTML emails. With the difficulties of coding a consistent design across all email environments, it’s little surprise that some designers are still opting for an image-heavy approach to their emails. With the continued popularity of email clients turning off remote images by default, and the continual tightening of content filtering rules, this just isn’t an option any more. This is another notch in the growing list of reasons why you should avoid heavy use of images in your HTML email designs.

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Tip: Should You Personalize Your Subject Lines?

Campaign Monitor makes it really easy to personalize the subject of your email with your subscriber’s name and email address. The big question is, should you do it? Here’s some nice research from MediaPost’s Melinda Krueger on some recent tests she performed on this very topic. The results were very positive. So positive in fact that every campaign that had a personalized subject achieved a better open rate and often click-though rate. But before you start personalizing every email you send, she also had these important words of advice: “Beware of forcing personalization. Gratuitous personalization can make you sound like a huckster and detract from your message and your brand. Even though these results are pretty impressive, this client did not use personalized subject lines 100 percent of the time.” Let’s also not forget that the option to even consider personalization depends on the quality of your list. There aren’t many bigger email marketing mistakes than to receive a personalized email with someone else’s name. Our recommendation. If you’re confident in the quality of your subscriber name data then try this for your next campaign. See if there was an improvement in your open and click-through rate and make a judgment call yourself.

Blog Post

Can I Include a Print Stylesheet in My Campaign?

We’ve published a follow-up post with more recent results – view it here. We recently had a few customers approach us about print stylesheet support and whether or not they can include them in their campaigns. We weren’t sure either, so we did some testing to get to the bottom of it once and for all. What is a print stylesheet? Quick background, print stylesheets basically allow you to set a different set of CSS rules when you print the page to the one you see when viewing it on screen. By specifying a print stylesheet for our newsletters, we could ensure when a subscriber prints our email they see a much more print friendly email that might use simpler formatting and even hide some elements of the email itself. The test Because most email environments won’t let us link to an external CSS file, we used the @media rule to specify our print only styles (more on this here). Here’s a quick sample of the code we used: <STYLE type="text/css"> @media print { p.printme { font-size: 10px; color: #f00; } } @media screen { p.printme { font-size: 40px; color: #000} } </STYLE&gt The results Email client @media print { … } media=”print” Apple Mail 4 Yes Yes Outlook Express/2003 Yes Yes Outlook 2007/2010 No No Thunderbird Yes Yes Yahoo! Mail No Yes Gmail No No Windows Live Hotmail Yes No As you can see, the results were quite varied. None of the web-based email environments supported the print-friendly version, but most of the desktop environments did. Ultimately, we can put this down to lack of support for the @media rule. Unfortunately, since none of the web-based environments support the use of the link element for embedding external stylesheets, the @media rule is the only option available. Conclusion From our quick tests it appears that including print styles via the @media rule doesn’t do any harm in email environments that don’t support it (as they are ignored completely). If you’re sending an email like an invitation with specific details or any other kind of email your recipients are likely to print, you may want to consider adding a few print specific styles if it will make your email easier to read. If any of you guys have had other experiences with print stylesheets and have anything to share, I’d love to hear it.

Blog Post

A Guide to CSS Support in Email

Update: This study has since been superceded by the new and improved 2008 Edition Since the rise of Internet Explorer, web designers have had to test their designs across multiple web browsers. No one likes it, but we’ve all copped it on the chin, written a few hacks and moved on with our lives. After all, 3 to 4 browsers aint that bad – and they finally seem to be getting their act together. If Internet Explorer is the schoolyard bully making our web design lives a little harder, then Hotmail, Lotus Notes and Eudora are serial killers making our email design lives hell. Yes, it’s really that bad. Inspired by the fantastic work of Xavier Frenette, we decided to put each of the popular email environments to the test and finalize once and for all what CSS is and isn’t supported out there. We’ll dig straight into our recommendations based on what we found, followed by the results themselves with a few more details about our findings. Recommendations Because of the huge variation of support across each email environment, there really isn’t any one design approach that will guarantee consistency. Instead, you should take a couple of things into account. 1. The consistency demands of your client If you have a client who understands the challenges you face and realizes that some email environments are just plain old broken (we can always dream), I recommend going for broke and following Mark Wyner’s recent article on CSS design in email (we even include a free template to get you started). This allows you to code your email using moderns standards based design that degrades gracefully for these “broken” email environments. On the other hand if your client demands consistency no matter what, or the CEO’s using Lotus Notes, you’ll have to dull down your design, stick with tables for layout and use only basic text formatting via CSS. You may even have to go down the inline CSS route. 2. The potential email environment of your recipients You’ll probably need to generalize a little here, because most of us have no idea what email environment each recipient is using. Business to Business If you’re sending Business to Business (B2B) emails, you’re definitely going to have to support Outlook and to a lesser extent Lotus Notes. In a recent survey of B2B readers, EmailLabs found that more than 75% use a version of Outlook and a further 9% use Lotus Notes. The good news is that Outlook’s support for CSS is quite good, but Notes’ certainly isn’t. You’ll need to weigh up the trade-offs yourself there. Business to Consumer If you’re sending Business to Consumer (B2C) campaigns, then you’ll definitely need to have Yahoo!, Hotmail and possibly AOL covered. Gmail’s still purring under 5% total penetration, but if you’re targeting early adopters then this percentage will likely be significantly higher. Yahoo and AOL offer very respectable CSS support. Hotmail isn’t too painful provided you include your <style> element in the <body> and not the <head>, while Gmail gives you no choice but to use inline styles only. Further to these concerns, there’s also the issue of image blocking and preview panes, but that’s a whole other article. Results Down to the nitty gritty. To cover each email environment, we’ve split our results up into web-based, PC and Mac email software. Use the links below to jump straight to the respective findings. Web-based results – Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and Windows Live Mail PC results – Outlook 2003 and Outlook Express, Lotus Notes, Thunderbird Mac results – Mac Mail, Entourage, Eudora Web-based Xavier covered the web-based email environments perfectly, but we decided to throw Microsoft’s new Windows Live Mail into the mix to gaze into the crystal ball and see if Hotmail may have a brighter future. The biggest improvement we found being support for the <style> element in the <head> of your page. The <style> element The standard place for the style element is in the <head> of the document, but to ensure the styles appear in Hotmail, you can also insert them within the <body>. We tested both, just to make sure. Web-based support for the <style> element Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail <style> element in the <head> No No Yes Yes <style> element in the <body> No Yes Yes Yes The <link> element The <link> element is used to reference a separate CSS file. Web based email environments offer no support for this element, so I recommend playing it safe and sticking with the <style> element for your CSS. Web-based support for the <link> element Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail <link> element in the <head> No No No No <link> element in the <body> No No No No CSS Selectors Selectors are used to “select” specific elements on a page so that they can be styled. Besides Gmail, most web-based email environments offer pretty good selector support. Web-based support for CSS Selectors Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail * No Yes Yes Yes e No Yes Yes Yes e > f No No Yes No e:link No Yes Yes Yes e:active, e:hover No Yes Yes Yes e:focus No No Yes No e+f No Yes Yes No e[foo] No Yes Yes No e.className No Yes Yes Yes e#id No Yes Yes Yes e:first-line No Yes Yes Yes e:first-letter No Yes Yes Yes CSS Properties CSS property support ranges from very good (Yahoo!) down to so-so (Gmail). If you want results in Gmail, you’ll need to do your styles inline (<p style="...">this is pretty now</p>) rather than via the <style> element. Web-based support for CSS Properties Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail background-color Yes Yes Yes Yes background-image No Yes Yes No background-position No No No No background-repeat No Yes Yes No border Yes Yes Yes Yes border-collapse Yes Yes Yes Yes border-spacing Yes No Yes No bottom No Yes Yes No caption-side Yes No Yes No clear No Yes Yes Yes clip No Yes Yes No color Yes Yes Yes Yes cursor No Yes Yes Yes direction Yes Yes Yes Yes display No Yes Yes Yes empty-cells Yes No Yes No filter No No Yes Yes float No Yes Yes Yes font-family No Yes Yes Yes font-size Yes Yes Yes Yes font-style Yes Yes Yes Yes font-variant Yes Yes Yes Yes font-weight Yes Yes Yes Yes height No Yes Yes Yes left No Yes Yes No letter-spacing Yes Yes Yes Yes line-height Yes Yes Yes Yes list-style-image No Yes Yes No list-style-position Yes No No Yes list-style-type Yes No Yes Yes margin Yes No Yes No opacity No No Yes Yes overflow Yes Yes Yes Yes padding Yes Yes Yes Yes position No No No No right No Yes Yes No table-layout Yes Yes Yes Yes text-align Yes Yes Yes Yes text-decoration Yes Yes Yes Yes text-indent Yes Yes Yes Yes text-transform Yes Yes Yes Yes top No Yes Yes No vertical-align Yes Yes Yes Yes visibility No Yes Yes Yes white-space Yes Yes Yes No width Yes Yes Yes Yes word-spacing Yes Yes Yes Yes z-index No Yes Yes No PC Aside from Lotus Notes, all our PC-based email clients behaved very well. All versions of Outlook, Outlook Express and AOL 9 use Internet Explorer to render their emails, so some selectors weren’t supported. This also means you’ll still need to allow for the range of CSS problems IE introduces. Thunderbird scored beautifully. The <style> element Perfect support except for Lotus Notes, which ignores the <style> element altogether. PC support for the <style> element Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird <style> element in the <head> Yes Yes No Yes <style> element in the <body> Yes Yes No Yes The <link> element The <link> element is very well supported on the PC, the only shortfall being that your remote CSS file will not be loaded if images are also disabled. Once images are enabled, your CSS will also load correctly. PC support for the <link> element Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird <link> element in the <head> Yes Yes Yes Yes <link> element in the <body> Yes Yes Yes Yes CSS Selectors Thunderbird scored highly, but because the majority use IE to render your email, selector support is limited. PC support for CSS Selectors Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird * Yes Yes No Yes e Yes Yes No Yes e > f No No No Yes e:link Yes Yes No Yes e:active, e:hover Yes Yes No Yes e:focus No No No Yes e+f No No No Yes e[foo] No No No Yes e.className Yes Yes No Yes e#id Yes Yes No Yes e:first-line Yes Yes No Yes e:first-letter Yes Yes No Yes CSS Properties You can have a field day as long as you’re not sending to Notes. It offers dismal property support that includes only very basic text manipulation. PC support for CSS Properties Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird background-color Yes Yes No Yes background-image Yes Yes No Yes background-position Yes Yes No Yes background-repeat Yes Yes No Yes border Yes Yes No Yes border-collapse Yes Yes No Yes border-spacing No No No Yes bottom Yes Yes No Yes caption-side No No No Yes clear Yes Yes No Yes clip Yes Yes No Yes color Yes Yes Yes Yes cursor Yes Yes No Yes direction Yes Yes Yes Yes display Yes Yes Yes Yes empty-cells No No No Yes filter No No No No float Yes Yes No Yes font-family Yes Yes Yes Yes font-size Yes Yes Yes Yes font-style Yes Yes Yes Yes font-variant Yes Yes No Yes font-weight Yes Yes Yes Yes height Yes Yes No Yes left Yes Yes No Yes letter-spacing Yes Yes No Yes line-height Yes Yes No Yes list-style-image Yes Yes No Yes list-style-position Yes Yes No Yes list-style-type Yes Yes Yes Yes margin Yes Yes No Yes opacity No No No Yes overflow Yes Yes No Yes padding Yes Yes No Yes position Yes Yes No Yes right Yes Yes No Yes table-layout Yes Yes No Yes text-align Yes Yes Yes Yes text-decoration Yes Yes Yes Yes text-indent Yes Yes No Yes text-transform Yes Yes No Yes top Yes Yes No Yes vertical-align Yes Yes No Yes visibility Yes Yes No Yes white-space No No No Yes width Yes Yes No Yes word-spacing Yes Yes No Yes z-index Yes Yes No Yes Mac While Mac Mail and Entourage offer fantastic support across the board, I wasn’t surprised to find that Eudora refused to come to the party. Basically, Eudora sucks. The <style> element Go for it, just ignore Eudora. Mac support for the <style> element Mac Mail Entourage Eudora <style> element in the <head> Yes Yes No <style> element in the <body> Yes Yes No The <link> element Same old story, no Eudora. Mac support for the <link> element Mac Mail Entourage Eudora <link> element in the <head> Yes Yes No <link> element in the <body> Yes Yes No CSS Selectors Mac Mail support was fantastic and Entourage was a close second. Mac support for CSS Selectors Mac Mail Entourage Eudora * Yes Yes No e Yes Yes No e > f Yes Yes No e:link Yes Yes No e:active, e:hover Yes Yes No e:focus Yes Yes No e+f Yes No No e[foo] Yes No No e.className Yes Yes No e#id Yes Yes No e:first-line Yes Yes No e:first-letter Yes Yes No CSS Properties Property support was also top notch, except for Eudora, with no property support whatsoever. Mac support for CSS Properties Mac Mail Entourage Eudora background-color Yes Yes No background-image Yes Yes No background-position Yes Yes No background-repeat Yes Yes No border Yes Yes No border-collapse Yes No No border-spacing Yes No No bottom Yes Yes No caption-side No No No clear Yes Yes No clip Yes Yes No color Yes Yes No cursor Yes No No direction Yes No No display Yes Yes No empty-cells Yes No No filter No No No float Yes Yes No font-family Yes Yes No font-size Yes Yes No font-style Yes Yes No font-variant Yes Yes No font-weight Yes Yes No height Yes Yes No left Yes Yes No letter-spacing Yes Yes No line-height Yes Yes No list-style-image Yes Yes No list-style-position Yes Yes No list-style-type Yes Yes No margin Yes Yes No opacity Yes No No overflow Yes No No padding Yes Yes No position Yes Yes No right Yes Yes No table-layout Yes Yes No text-align Yes Yes No text-decoration Yes Yes No text-indent Yes Yes No text-transform Yes Yes No top Yes Yes No vertical-align Yes Yes No visibility Yes Yes No white-space Yes Yes No width Yes Yes No word-spacing Yes Yes No z-index Yes Yes No   We hope you find these results helpful. Let’s hope that as browsers move forward, ISP’s and email client developers follow suit. It’s our sanity at stake here, right? UPDATE: After an oversight pointed out by Lachlan Hunt, we’ve scaled back Eudora’s CSS support to nil, zilch, zero.

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The Best Christmas Emails of 2005

Check out some of the coolest and most original Christmas emails we’ve ever seen delivered.

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What Does It Mean When a Subscriber Has Opened My Campaign Multiple Times?

There are several reasons why a subscriber may appear to have opened your email many times. It’s most often the case that your subscriber simply opened your campaign multiple times. If you’re sending interesting content, then more often than not your recient has come back to look at it multiple times. A subscriber could have a “Preview Pane” feature enabled in his or her email client. In this case, every time the campaign was clicked or scrolled to in the “Preview Pane”, the subscriber’s address displays as having opened the campaign. Find out more about how to design for preview panes. If the subscriber uses the email client to “forward” the email campaign instead of using Campaign Monitor’s Forward to a Friend feature, any subsequent opens by those recipients show as another “open” by your subscriber. The Unique HTML Opened count in your Campaign Snapshot indicates the total number of unique opens for that entire campaign and does not take multiple opens into account.

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